Smile Politely

The best sandwich in town: Croque Monsieur at Luna

The best sandwich in town.

It’s at Luna. It’s their version of a ham and cheese sandwich, and it’s truly unbelievable. They call it a Croque Monsieur, but if you know traditional French cuisine, it’s actually a Croque Madam, because they serve it with a fried egg on top, served sunny side up.

It’s perfect.

It is deeply rich in flavor; the ham is cut with the grain, and sliced thin so the flavor has nowhere to hide. The gruyere cheese that they use to pair it with is mild, but has just enough nutty goodness to cut through the flavor of the salty meat. They cover it in a Mornay sauce, and bake it in the oven for just enough time for everything to crisp up nicely. It’s served with frites, and my friends, I must say — it’s dynamite.

No, it’s beyond dynamite. It’s the best in all of Champaign-Urbana.

The only problem.

I have only been to Luna three times, and each of these times, I have ordered this particular item. It would be hard for me to order anything else. It’s just that good.

But here is something that truly baffles the mind: with a sandwich this good, how can the service at the restaurant be this poor?

I had heard rumors about the service at Luna, and read comments on Smile Politely about it as well. But, I brushed it off with a simple, and familiar thought: “These people obviously don’t know the service industry.”

And all truth be told, most people do not. It’s hard. Damn hard. And when your food comes out a little late, or the waiter is being rushed on a busy day, you should shut your mouth and be thankful that someone — anyone — is working to serve your lazy ass a meal.

But what I can’t understand is pure neglect, time and time again. Each of the three times I have been to Luna, I have been greeted warmly, with smiles and menus. I was seated promptly and given ample time to look it over.

And by ample, I mean almost ten minutes.

Seriously, each time I have been there, the server didn’t come back to see what was what for five to ten minutes. That means, no water, no coffee, no chance to ask questions. Just nothing. We just sat there, looking. And here, I can see my waiter, standing across the room, doing all sorts of things. Checking on other tables? Not really. Just doing other jobs associated with being a waiter.

The only problem is that he was forgetting to actually be a waiter. I was the waiter, literally.

When he finally did come over, he offered us coffee, and I told him, “Yes, please!” and he failed to bring me a cup. When I asked him for more water, he said, “No problem!” and I had to ask again. When it came time to get the check, it took him almost five minutes to return with it, and another five for me to get the bill to sign.

This is, of course, was the worst experience I had of the three, but each time, the service was truly slow. Painfully slow.

And the room was barely a quarter filled. In fact, my waiter had just two other tables aside from ours. I’ve waited tables. Believe me, it’s hard, but it’s not that hard.

Don’t let it stop you.

It’s still the best sandwich in town. And Luna is a really lovely place. the decor is excellent, and while it’s definitely on the upscale side of things, it doesn’t feel forced at all.

And the food, of course, is awesome. And this sandwich, this Croque Monsieur — I would put it up against any one at any restaurant, anywhere in Champaign-Urbana. It’s splendid.

It costs $9.95 plus tax. Tipping is optional, of course, and while I highly recommend a standard 20% + bonus for exceptional service, I must say, these particular experiences made me second guess my belief in high tipping without pause for consideration.

Needless to say, it’s that good. It’s so good that I am willing to put up with willfully slow service to eat it again.

And I will. Perhaps this Sunday.

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