Saturday, December 16, 2017
Restaurant News

On April 20, Munchies 420 Cafe is Sarasota's most smokin' spot

With only one booth and perhaps a dozen stools, it's hard to know if you're going to be able to grab a table at Munchies 420 Cafe and enjoy the heart attack in a bag they've just sold you.

Despite its name, everything's low-key inside the Sarasota restaurant. One Jamaican Flag hangs on a rear wall. Only the chicken nuggets bear the pot-referential moniker ­"Dankalicious." There aren't any hookahs, bongs or customers sparking up in the parking lot. Just gigantic sandwiches, deep-fried everything and a crowd of inebriated people trying to make decisions.

On Saturday, this place will be a mad house, says Amber Garcia, manager of the 10 p.m. to 4:20 a.m. shift. Every year on April 20, the unofficial pot holiday, people of all stripes descend on Munchies hoping to tell their friends about that cool thing they did for 4/20.

"The line usually goes out the door and down the block," Garcia said. "The stoners love this place."

As well they should.

Though the ownership makes no overtures about marijuana usage, the shop's hours are 4:20 p.m. to 4:20 a.m. No children after 10 p.m. A quick scan of the menu reveals a mix of American fare and some Mexican food — most everything heavy on the cheese and breading. One "Fat Sandwich" is enough for four normal people and two hungry ones.

While wolfing down their food, customers are treated to two TV screens playing whatever's on Comedy Central.

If that's not entertaining enough, they can walk around and look at the photos of customers vomiting up the "Fire in Your Hole Wings" popularized by the epic failure of Adam Richman of the Travel Channel's Man v. Food to eat more than two of 10 of the super-hot wings. He's the biggest picture on their Wall of Shame.

Garcia said that challenge opened up a whole world of customers to the small restaurant founded in 2002 on this premise: "You Mama doesn't cook after midnight."

Now people come from all over the world to visit Munchies, and a few take the challenge. It's caused restaurant policy to change.

"We don't let anyone take the challenge after 10 p.m., because you have to sign a waiver and intoxicated people can't consent," Garcia said. "We also have a rule that if you vomit in the store, you must clean it up or be banned for life." Stricter than IHOP for certain.

At 1 a.m. on a recent Thursday, the stream of customers was constant. Munchies sits on the edge of a bar district on Superior Avenue and its hours make it a great referral for bartenders.

Iylias Sayeg of St. Louis, Mo., came with three friends after a crawl through nine bars. "I heard about it on Man v. Food," he explained.

He sat on a picnic table in the restaurant's parking lot, tipsy, and marveling at the tastiness of the plain footlong hotdog he ordered.

Most every diner was in awe of their fourth meal options.

Most popular is the Fat Sandy, said Garcia, who has been working at Munchies for six years.

The sub sandwich roll is packed to the top with two burgers, potato wedges, onion rings, mozzarella sticks and macaroni and cheese. It's impossible to hold together, keep off your face or taste all the flavors in a single bite. To try and ease the burden, the cook slightly overcooks the burgers — drying them out — to decrease the greasefest on the bun.

The Fat Daddy, another popular offering, combines its surprisingly accurate Philly Cheesesteak with cheeseburger/potato wedge/mozzarella stick/chicken finger insanity. With knife and fork, the Fat Daddy is fulfilling — a smorgasbord of great tasting bad for you foods.

Not everything on the menu is destined to frighten your cardiologist.

The Dankalicious chicken nugs were a pleasant surprise, bites of teriyaki and barbecue sauce flavored fried morsels covered in sesame seeds. And the Fried macaroni and cheese rivals the Cheesecake Factory's creation with the added bonus of dipping cheese.

Nick Noble, 24, a retail employee from Riverview, took the long ride with three friends to Munchies after a Lightning game because the driver swore fealty to Munchies six years prior.

He ordered a Fat Daddy.

"It feels like my mouth was talking shit and the whole refrigerator just kicked my ass," he explained. "My tongue just got jumped."

Munchers beware.

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