Monkey House Cafe is one of those places you would drive right by and not notice it, except for the name of course. I always feel so smug when I find something unique to share with my friends. My friend Belinda had lived in Huntington Beach for years and never been, so I suggest we go try it out.
Its slogan reads “Where Monkey Business is All About Great Coffee, Good Food and a Jungle of Fun”, Monkey House Cafe plays homage to the monkey’s house, aka the jungle. You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but once inside you feel like you’ve entered a little oasis hidden in the middle of an enchanted forest.
A huge fabricated tree sits in the middle of the restaurant where ornaments are dangling from. But more than anything, it’s the monkey memorabilia that stands out through and through. Anything monkey related is found sitting on shelves, ranging from stuffed animals (there are other animals to choose from as well), lamps, coasters, and other knick knacks for sale.
You can either browse the merchandise in the cafe, or in the adjoining store tastefully situated in the corner, while you wait for your order to be ready, or make use of the wifi provided to customers free of charge.
I visited again recently and I recall why I like this place so much. The menu is simple! The cafe offers quality premium coffee — they use Illy — blended drinks, and freshly made gourmet sandwiches and salads, as well as an array of scrumptious desserts.
It doesn’t take long for me to make a choice! Chicken Breast sandwich ($6.95) served panini style on ciabatta bread with slices of chicken breast, sun dried tomato, provolone cheese and pesto.
The bread is not greasy, toasted perfectly and the right combo ratio of the slightly tart sun dried tomato with the pesto really make the flavors pop.
I’m not vegetarian but Jungle Fever ($6.95), a veggie sandwich is equally appealing. A hunking amount of cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, onions, sprouts and avocado is sandwiched between squaw bread with a schmear of mayo and mustard — vola, a tasty burst of color and flavor in one bite.
Although my favorites are always the savory options, I am slightly tempted by the beautiful desserts on display. A selection of “bars” make up the signature desserts — lemon, seven layer, brownie, carrot cake and pecan.
Seven layer is intriguing with peanut butter, nuts, chocolate, coconut and others I wasn’t able to detect. It is not overly sweet and tastes rather healthy. Of course, coconut is not my thing so obviously it wouldn’t be my first choice.
Although pecan and brownie both look like they could be heavy and sugary, they are less sweet than what you would find at a dessert shop. My choice is the carrot cake — very moist and the sweetness of the shredded carrots come to the fore.
Owner Angeli takes great care with the design, décor and retail merchandising side. Her passion is clearly evident and devotes herself in sourcing an eclectic collection of unique products of tableware, gifts, jewelry, home accessories, furniture as well as artwork and painstakingly displayed in the boutique “The Outpost”, which can be found to the right of the cafe.
A family owned business, Angeli runs the cafe with her daughter Rochelle, and son-in-law Daniel, both of whom have extensive restaurant backgrounds.
An avid tea and wine lover Angeli regularly host tastings of international wines, tea appreciation events, brew nights, as well as cooking and cake decorating demonstrations.
Therefore, it is hard to describe Monkey House Cafe in a nutshell. It is a compact space offering a wealth of surprises. For me, the sandwiches are the draw, and if I have time, a browse at The Outpost is just icing on the cake.
Monkey House Cafe
18862 Beach Blvd
Huntington Beach, CA 92648