The Muppets and Fozzie's Sandwich Emporium

And I want, and I need, and I lust, (Fozzie's) Animal. - KRISTIE MCCLANAHAN
Kristie McClanahan
And I want, and I need, and I lust, (Fozzie's) Animal.
Walter grew up in Smalltown, USA, the kind of place whose population number (literally) flips every time a vehicle rolls into or out of town. He's the adorable felt brother and best friend of Gary (Jason Segel) who, after stumbling across old episodes of The Muppet Show, becomes enchanted with those creatures big and small who look curiously like him. His biggest dream is to meet Kermit and Co. After all, growing up not-quite-human presents its own challenges in Smallville. But "as long as there are Muppets," Walter says, "there's still hope."

In Gary, fans of How I Met Your Mother will recognize Segel's aw-shucks personality, frequent use of the words "buddy" and "awesome," and penchant for dating red-headed schoolteachers. Mary is his sugary-sweet (yet practical and put-upon) girlfriend who wants nothing more than their ten-year anniversary trip to Los Angeles to include a one-on-one (erm, Muppet-free) romantic dinner.

And so Gary, Mary and Walter depart for LA, where their cause quickly becomes saving the old Muppet studio from demolition at the hands of Tex Richman by putting on a show and raising $10 million. But first Gary, Mary, Kermit and Walter set about rounding up the old crew a la fantastic '80s montage for one last money-raising hurrah: Fozzie's been working a nightclub in Reno with a knockoff backup band called the Moopets; Animal's been in anger-management classes; Sam the Eagle's a talking head at a FOX News-type organization; Miss Piggy's in France, the plus-size editor of Vogue; Rowlf's been snoozing the years away in a hammock.

Pulling a show together finds the Muppets doing what they do best, and it's nice to see Kermit in his tux, Scooter clutching his clipboard backstage and the rest hatching a madcap scheme to kidnap a celebrity (Jack Black) to host their telethon fundraiser. (And we even get to see this guy!) As it's always been, The Muppets is more about friendship than it is about romantic love, but the Kermit and Piggy/Gary and Mary subplots provide sweet enough endpoints. 

In the film much is made of wondering if the Muppets are relevant in today's world, and the film itself makes a strong case that they are. There's lots of self-referencing humor here, songs break out at every opportunity, and if you don't get a little teary eyed seeing the banjos collecting dust, the autographed picture of Linda Ronstadt or, Heaven help you, the inevitable singing of "Rainbow Connection," well, maybe you need this movie -- and the Muppets -- more than you recognize.

No joke: Fozzie's Foz-O-Licious shake, with apples, caramel and goat cheese. - KRISTIE MCCLANAHAN
Kristie McClanahan
No joke: Fozzie's Foz-O-Licious shake, with apples, caramel and goat cheese.
Heart lightened and stomach empty, we hightailed it to -- where else? -- Fozzie's Sandwich Emporium (1170 South Big Bend Boulevard, Richmond Heights; 314-932-5414). Fozzie's claim to fame is the Juicy Lucy, an upper-Midwest staple which is relatively unknown here: a burger that's stuffed with cheese rather than topped with it. A onetime Minneapolis resident assured us via groaning noises that Fozzie's version is a faithful rendition. The burger was beautifully seasoned, the veggies were fresh, the pepper-jack cheese fittingly oozy, the bun perfectly toasted.

And despite its scary-sounding name, the Animal sandwich is tame but not boring, and, in comparison to the Juicy Lucy, seems downright healthy. The animal here is chicken (sorry, Camilla), and it's topped with a portabella mushroom, roasted-red-pepper cream cheese and arugula on toasted sourdough, which could have used just a couple more seconds on the grill. The portion of chicken is generous, and even if you happen to not end up with a piece of it in a bite, you'd still be left with what's essentially a veggie portabella sandwich -- and a pretty good one at that.

But perhaps most memorable is the Foz-O-Licious shake, a kooky mix of roasted apples, caramel and goat cheese. We'd lobby for this, even over the Juicy Lucy, to be the year-and-a-half-old place's trademark. It's astonishingly good: The creamy goat cheese seems a natural counterpoint to the chunks of tart apples and sweet caramel. If you tried to make this at home, it'd likely be an inedible disaster, but here the combination goes together like a pig and a frog whose best friend is a bear dressed like a hobo. Makes perfect sense to us.

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