I have on occasion enjoyed an evening at Cheers in the Heights. But I have missed out on two things -- the Cheers location in Maumelle, and lunch at the local eatery. I combined both needs on an opportunity Thursday afternoon to sample lunch at Cheers in Maumelle.
But even with the decision to try one of their plentiful non-Louisiana-inspired sandwiches, I still couldn't resist the lure of crab cakes. After all, why skip out on such a great dish?
At $7.95 they may seem a bit extravagant, but you're not getting your run-of-the-mill silver-dollar sized ovoid patty. Cheers serves up its crab cakes a half to three quarters of an inch thick and three to four inches across, more moisture than dryness, a decent amount of crab meat in the breading. The cake comes nicely crusted, that dark brown on top and bottom like a decent hamburger patty. The cake is evenly sweet and savory, not erring in either direction. The aoili has notes of dill to it, though I'm not certain if it's actually there, it's light and it complements the savory bits well. I could just dine on this and be happy.
But then I'd be skipping the assignment -- to try a lunch at the place. And at random I decided before I went in that I'd try the first sandwich on the menu. I'm glad it wasn't ham. Nope, it was the Albuquerque Turkey ($6.99), a hodgepodge of a sandwich that should, by no means, work. It looks like a cross between Jimmy's Serious Sandwich's Garden Sandwich and the Big Nasty from McAlisters, minus the gravy. The improbable ingredients just don't look that appealing.
But Cheers did something right here. Take one bite and you first taste the barbecue sauce, then the cheese and the somehow meatier turkey. The tomato provides enough moisture on its own, but past that there's a layer of mayo and of guacamole. The lettuce seems all right, but the mouthfeel of the bean sprouts is almost alarming, giving you the sensation of having accidentally bitten into a paper wrapper for a moment. But then it all meshes together under the slightly buttery wheatberry bread. It is the bread that's the saving grace of the sandwich... well toasted on the outside, that toasting and the accompanying toothpicks are all that hold this wet mess of a sandwich together.
That all being said, it's delicious. Every point is counterpointed so well, the sandwich is truly inspired. My only question is, why's the name "Albuquerque" invoked? It doesn't taste all that Southwestern to me... then again, maybe it's the barbecue sauce.
The chips deserve special mention. Cheers makes its own and dusts them with a liberal application of salt and seasoning. They're potato chips with heft, cut just thick enough for there to be some substance between the fried bits. They're crunchy without being hard, and they're unusually filling.
Still amazed I was able to make it out of there without some cheese dip or a Shrimp Po'Boy. I guess my willpower was strong... or my stomach too full.
You'll find Cheers in Maumelle at 1901 Club Manor Drive, a couple blocks off Maumelle Boulevard, (501) 851-6200. Of course, there's always Cheers in the Heights as well, in the big curve on Kavanaugh just north of Cantrell -- (501) 663-5937.