By Kara Elder, Special To The Washington Post

If the French croque monsieur and the American grilled cheese had a child, it would be the Monte Cristo: a sandwich filled with cheese and sliced meat, battered and often deep-fried. (It is American, after all.)

The retro dish pops up now and then at diners, taverns and such chains as the Cheesecake Factory and Bennigan’s, where in March it was possible to win its “World Famous Monte Cristos” for a year.

According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, the sandwich was first mentioned in 1923, in an American restaurant industry publication. Its origin and the source of the name are unknown, but historians generally agree it comes from California, and the hefty sandwich continues to be popular, especially for brunch.

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