The Monte Cristo sandwich is a throwback, a cheesy, sweet and savory structure you could once find on every casino coffee shop menu. It’s much less present these days, which is why I’ll usually order it when I see it—even at Zenaida’s Cafe, where it’s called the Sausage Monte Christo ($10) and bares zero resemblance to the sandwich I recall. This one is a breakfast beast that will keep you full all day—a soft baguette with a fried egg, jalapeño jack cheese, fried spicy house-made chicken sausage, a thick slab of ham and zesty aioli.
Zenaida’s Cafe is a throwback, with its own unique style. This eastside diner with a rainbow-tiled floor, art-for-sale on the walls and a funky jazz soundtrack is dishing up some truly hearty food in the mornings and afternoons, like baked-daily cinnamon rolls with fresh berries ($6), country biscuits and sausage gravy ($9) and a recent steak and eggs special featuring tri-tip medallions, crispy hash browns and Swedish gravy ($15).
Lunch is just as satisfying, from nacho fries ($9) to a mighty BLT with avocado on a toasted Italian roll ($10). Even the lighter stuff is big and bold, like a cilantro ranch cobb salad with tons of chicken and slab bacon ($12) or a quinoa burger on naan bread with vegan cheese and greens tossed in lime vinaigrette ($11). Zenaida’s food has character to spare, and that’s what you want from your neighborhood diner. The old-school charm comes compliments of the house.
Zenaida’s Cafe 3430 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-476-3117. Wednesday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.