Maple-Whiskey Lemonade and a Cup of Noodles to-go from the Monkey House
The Monkey House opened back up Thursday with drinks to-go — and a disclaimer. The Winooski bar's website
, which is now set up for online ordering, states that every order with one or more alcoholic beverage "must include at least 1 Hot Dog or 1 Cup of Noodle."
Bar snacks were a pretty random category to begin with, but Gov. Phil Scott's directive
allowing delivery and takeout of alcoholic beverages from restaurants and bars during the COVID-19 pandemic — as long as they're purchased with a meal — has brought the land of popcorn and peanuts to a whole new level.
The meal stipulation is easily met at restaurants, where the food is the draw. Other bars, including Burlington's Deli 126
, are bringing in pop-up-style food. (You'd better believe I'll be picking up a chocolate-dipped frozen banana from Christie's Gone Bananas
along with my cocktails to-go.)
The Monkey House doesn't have a kitchen, though, and the snacks it had on hand in the past didn't satisfy the Vermont Division of Liquor Control's definition of a "meal."
"We didn't have enough food for the DLC, so we needed to think creatively," Ali Nagle, general manager of the Monkey House, told Seven Days
To-go service was appealing, Nagle said, as a way to keep the bar active and prepare for when things start to open up again — which is happening soon, as the state issued guidelines
on Wednesday to allow outdoor dining beginning on May 22.
Window service at the Monkey House
The Monkey House has offered panini in the past, with the sandwiches coming from neighboring Sneakers Bistro
— whose owners are part owners of the Monkey. But the breakfast spot is too busy right now with to-go orders of its own to bring those back, Nagle said.
Thankfully, she randomly had a hot dog roller in her basement. Problem solved.
The roller holds eight hot dogs at a time, and the bar offers them with a variety of toppings. A plain dog will set you back $3, and a veggie dog is $4. For $2 more, you can order a Michigan Dog with tangy beef sauce, onions and mustard or a Chicago Dog with pickles, tomato, mustard, onion and peperoncino.
Perusing the online menu, though, it was the Cup of Noodles that caught my attention. Just seeing the logo sends me into a fever dream of Costco bulk buys, not to mention lunches spent finessing peas out of the styrofoam packaging with a fork — trying desperately not to stab holes in the side and squirt myself with scalding soup.
From the Monkey's perspective, the instant ramen is an ideal solution because it can be served hot or cold as a meal to-go, and it's only $2.
"People aren't normally looking at us as a place to grab food," Nagle said. "This is great because it is at least some sustenance, and it's affordable."
The hot dogs and Cup of Noodles are just a starting point, as the bar figures out its to-go system this weekend. "Nothing fancy," Nagle said. Customers can go online
, call or walk up to the bar's garage-door-like windows to order.
The Monkey House will serve canned beer, cider and hard seltzer, bottles of wine and non-alcoholic drinks as well as cocktails, the last of which come packaged in compostable cups, with or without ice.
When I asked Nagle what she'd pair with a Cup of Noodles, she said a cold Budweiser or a hard seltzer would do the trick. I was in a cocktail mood, though, so I decided on a Maple-Whiskey Lemonade.
"That's sort of a play on a kid's lemonade drink," Nagle said with a laugh. "It's like school lunch for adults."
When I pulled up in front of the Monkey House to pick up my order, the windows were open and the music was spilling out, as it always has. If it weren't for the masks we were all wearing and the pandemic-era signs — "Enjoy your drink, but please don't open it here" — it could have been a normal night on the traffic circle.
Since normal isn't real anymore, I asked Nagle how I could recreate the vibe of the Monkey while I drink my cocktail (and slurp my noodles) at home.
Her advice? Grab close friends — from a trusted household, of course — put on some tunes and enjoy the drinks out in the yard.
"Sometimes in the summertime we don't even have one customer inside; everyone's just hanging out outside," she said.
On a nearly 80 degree day in May? I think I can handle that. I might save the Cup of Noodles for another time, though.