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Monk's Café

Not Rated.
Monk's CaféMonk's Café

Taps: 20 / Bottles: 218
Cask: N / Beer-to-Go: N
BA SCORE
98
world-class

399 Ratings
Ratings: 399
Reviews: 323
rAvg: 4.42
pDev: 9.28%
$$$ - a bit pricey
[ Bar, Eatery ]

264 S 16th St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19102-3357
United States
phone: (215) 545-7005

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap 

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 399 | Reviews: 323 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of ricodewey
ricodewey

Delaware

4.5/5  rDev +1.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4 | $$

Monks is the best! What else can I say. I make at least 3 pilgrimages a year to Philly just to go to Monks. Is it crowded? You bet. Can you expect to wait a good hour for a table for four on the weekend? No doubt. Is it worth it? Yes. The beer selection is exquisite ( esp. if you are a Belgian junkie) the food top-notch, the servers are really good. Just watching them manuever through the 8 inch aisles that are extremely congested is worth going. Any beer pairing questions are answered and everytime I order a gueze they warn me how bitter and earthy it will taste. ( of course I know this but appreciate their honesty and love gueze anyway)

If you are in Philly and love beer, you are doing yourself a huge disfavor by not visiting Monks. If only they had an equivalent cafe in every town!

04-20-2006 23:46:35 | More by ricodewey
Photo of John_M
John_M

Oregon

3.9/5  rDev -11.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5 | $$$

I'm with Chimayman on this. I haven't been to Monk's in a bit, but the place is so awesome, I'm not likely to forget the experience any time soon. So I feel well qualified to review the place.

When I lived in Baltimore my work required me to trek up to Philly every now and again on business. Every time I went there Monk's was at the top of my list of places to visit. Yeah, my friends and I enjoy bashing Monk's as much as everyone else, but I have to tell you there was never a time we failed to include it in our travel plans. Still, let me get the negative parts out first before I extoll its many qualities.

The service at Monk's flat out sucks much of the time. My buddy and I like to joke that one of the reasons we like going there is because suddenly we have super powers. In the case of the staff there, I've noticed more then once that upon entering the premises I've become invisable. I swear I've sat at the back bar for 10 to 15 minutes at a time waiting for service, and I'll be damned if the bartender(s) doesn't look right through me.

Admittedly, another problem is how small and cramped the place is, and there's no getting around the fact that the place is pretty tiny. Still, the reason this is such a problem is because the place is so popular. Why is it so popular? Take one guess. To this day I've yet to find another place that has anything like the Belgium bottle and draft selection you can find at Monk's.

The beer and food at Monk's are flat out excellent, and the service very friendly (if not particularly attentative). Also, while the prices are not exactly cheap, a recent trip to Brouwer's Cafe in Seattle made me stop and take a another look at Monk's prices. Frankly, as my buddies and I are quick to concede, considering the incrdible selection of Beligums available, the prices seem very, very fair.

So the service be damned I'll continue to come here as often as I can (which is not nearly often enough any more). Truly, this is one of the best beer bars in the country, and well worth a special trip whenever you are in town.

Update from 3/08. Recently visited Monk's and after thinking about the experience, realized I should revise my score... downward. The fact is that while the bar has been raised considerably when it comes to Philly beer bars, Monk's continues to sit on its laurels, which really make its numerous flaws all the more apparent and annoying. Finding parking around Monk's is a nightmare and the service is as terrible as ever. I guess they got tired of customers taking the old "beer bible," so they created a new updated version and now charge $3 for it. I can't think of any other place I've been to that charges customers for a copy of their menu. Prices are very high here, and it's no longer for beers I can't find any place else. On the contrary, the last time I was there everything on the draft menu was something I could find just as readily back at Max's in Baltimore.... and unlike at Max's, the staff at Monk's will not allow you to taste anything before you decide to purchase it.

This is still a worthwhile establishment in my opinion, but I cannot say that it's a destination I will seek out any more whenever I'm in Philly.

04-10-2006 23:13:24 | More by John_M
Photo of chimayman
chimayman

Pennsylvania

4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 5 | $$

Over the past several months, especially since going on the Golden Age of Beer Tour in Philadelphia this March, I’ve noticed quite a bit of Monk’s “hating.” People complain, myself included, that it is too crowded or the service is slow. I even read a review stating that the “fries were nothing special” and that the burgers were awful. This I can’t tolerate.

Monks food is great. The bartenders are knowledgeable. The selection of beers is unparalleled. The only bar that comes close to their selection is Eulogy in Old City, but that is even smaller than Monk’s and their food isn’t nearly as good.

Monk’s is not only the best beer bar in the city, but one of the best you’ll ever see.

04-10-2006 21:56:14 | More by chimayman
Photo of jwm232
jwm232

Washington

4.18/5  rDev -5.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$

I like Monks because it's a cozy little establishment in the heart of Philadelphia. The atmosphere is great, abeit crowded when I was there during a mid-afternoon Saturday. It's dark, inviting, and has an older feel to it. However, there are often lines that spill from wall to wall making it difficult to get to the bathroom if you are seated by the window. I had a veggie burger, Brugges style (cheese and onions). It was tasty and was served with a little green salad on the side. The pommes frites with their homemade mayonaisse is amazing.

As for the beer: I always heard of Monk's for its exceptional Belgian selection. While the bottle selection is quite extensive, the tap selection (at least for the front bar was a little disaapointing). There was a Victory, Hoegaarden, and three others on tap. I was expecting some exotics. I had the tripel karmaliet which was delicious. There were many to choose but if you don't know the beers, be weary, there is no explanation. The waitstaff seemed knowledgeable when it came to the food and beer. Beers were served in appropriate glasses which is always a nice touch.

I could spend a whole afternoon (and a whole lot money) in Monks. Aside from being somewhat expensive, the beer is delicious, the food is good, and the atmosphere ties it all together. If you are in Center City Philly it would be a shame to pass it up.

Prost!

03-28-2006 20:07:42 | More by jwm232
Photo of dogfooddog
dogfooddog

Panama

4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $$

visited 08-15MAR06.

While there may be better belgian selections in other bars in the US, this bar is without a doubt the best belgian beer bar I have been to, possibly including the bruges beertje.

Oddities on tap at the time of my visits included unblended cantillon lambic, as well as a flemish red house ale. The beer list must have 200 bottled beers on it, over a third being belgian. Special items include many of the dolle brewers special vintage bottlings from 2002 and 2005, 'tsmisje calva reserve, several rare cantillon bottles, a de proef series of beers i had never even heard of. They also have the excellent Courage 1993 Imperial Russian Stout (room temperature)

Food is excellent, including octopus, a filet with roquefort cheese, and good burgers.

Service varies from usually indifferent to rarely friendly. Overall I was not too impressed, maybe this is a snob-job in the realm of restaurant workers?

My *only* beer complaint with this bar is the temperature the belgians are kept at. Their flourescent-lit coolers must be 40F or lower, meaning many of these beers are far colder than they should be. I found this a problem for the 'tsmisje calva reserve (too cold) and for subsequent bottles of stronger beers (de dolle extra stout, 2005 dulle teve reserve) actually ordered the beer early and let it sit 30-60 minutes to get to a reasonable temperature. I was even shown a cantillon st. lamvinous from the same cooler, ice cold as well. I will note that even some prestigious beer bars in belgium have the temperature problem. I personally do not understand the difficulty in serving at the proper temperature when you have coolers full of 45-50F recc. temp. beers but clearly it is a challenge - but so is a Cantillon Lou Pepe 2001 Framboise served at or below 40F.

My non-beer complaint is the dearth of restrooms - 2 unisex toilets in the whole place!? Atmosphere is marked down as standing in line to urinate is not a positive contribution. Even a male-only pissoir would relieve some of this.

This bar is a must-visit if you are even in or even near philadelphia, or can plausibly invent an excuse to go there. if you are going to try the rarer or now-unavailable bottles they have, they are expensive, but you will probably never see some of these things avaiable anywhere ever again in the US.

03-09-2006 20:08:10 | More by dogfooddog
Photo of BillyB
BillyB

New Jersey

4.6/5  rDev +4.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $$

The atmosphere of the place is great when it isn't crowded. When it is crowded it's hard to move around and kind of claustrophobic. The quality of the food and beer is exceptional. The mussels are excellent and I like the mayo/sauce that comes with the fries. Try the venison pot pie.
The service is pretty good but the place is so busy you're gonna do some waiting no matter what.
As far as food selection the menu is very eclectic with good ol' american burgers and fries and some tradtional belgian dishes.
Beer selection is basically as good as I've ever seen. Just outstanding. Try to come on a weekday afternoon. If it wasn't crowded i'd stay there all day.

02-06-2006 20:27:29 | More by BillyB
Photo of petemoss14
petemoss14

Germany

4.33/5  rDev -2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$$

I had never been to Philly before, but my father-in-law's parents, bronther, and sister live there. My wife and her family go down there every Thanksgiving, but this past one was our first as a married couple. Thus, it was my first visit to the City of Brotherly Love.

Well, I knew of Monk's even though I had never been to Philly, and if I was going to spend a long weekend with the in-laws, I was determined to at least get to Monk's.

Managed to get there at around 1 pm the day after Thanksgiving, with my wife, father-in-law, and brother-in-law in tow for lunch and a couple beers.

The selection here is excellent. Some nice selections on tap (I started with a DeKoninck) and a wealth of great stuff by bottle, including a superb selection of Belgians.

I love the atmosphere here -- dim lighting, lots of dark wood. It makes you feel cozy. You feel even more cozy because this place gets packed. We just beat the rush it seemed, and still had to wait about an hour for a booth (it's the type of place where people sit and stay for awhile, which I like, despite the wait). Not a lot of standing room here though, and staying out of the waitresses' way was excedingly difficult.

The food was actually pretty good, and I give them credit for attempting, with fair success, some finer cuisine. I got braised veal cheeks, which were pretty good. The fries are not to be missed.

Other than the crowd, my only other gripe would be that the prices were kinda high. But overall a great place. Can't wait to get down there and visit the in-laws again!

01-27-2006 15:08:06 | More by petemoss14
Photo of Billolick
Billolick

New York

4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $$

What can be added about this world class beer destination? Beer list is outstanding, they even have a special Belgian sour ale named after and brewed especially for them! And it's a great beer, they have on tap, it goes great with mussels. Food that I've tried is limited to the several varities of mussels they serve in the expected metel pots, outstanding, tasty and of course terrific with fine Belgian ales. Go to Monks. Drink great beer, enjoy Belgian cuisine de la Biere. If you want to eat get there early in the evening. This is a very popular place that fills up quickly and stays crowded all night.

01-19-2006 17:22:08 | More by Billolick
Photo of Jredner
Jredner

Florida

4.4/5  rDev -0.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5 | $$$

One of the best beer experiences I have ever had. Bar none. Co-owner Tom Peters drank and chatted with me all night opening vintage beer after vintage beer. We talked about beer and the state of beer and brewing and he was genuinely happy to rap with another beer geek. He is genuinely passionate about beer and food and you can see how his staff follows his lead..

The food (I had the veal cheeks) was so good I asked for a second order. The beer menu is very sophisticated with great emphasis placed on quality over quantity...though there are still plenty of beers to choose from. The place definitely attracts a huge dinner crowd, but the beer draws equally as well and the staff is one of the most passionate and knowledgeable I have personally met.

I consider this place a can’t miss and worth dealing with any size crowd in order to experience it.

01-18-2006 11:33:23 | More by Jredner
Photo of JulieRFoster
JulieRFoster

Pennsylvania

4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $$$

A very fun atmosphere with knowlegdable staff (our waitress recommended an Urthel Samaranth, as she personally knew this only female brewer in Belguim). They have around 2000 bottles and about half of the beer menu is belgiums (my personal favorites, so I enjoyed it immensely) with quite a variety on tap. Very few places are highly touted for both their beern and food, but this is certainly one of them. A bit pricey with all the fancy beer and food - expect to pay at least 6 or 7 bucks for a brew and 15 for an entree at lunch - but definitely a spot to hit.

01-02-2006 00:51:30 | More by JulieRFoster
Monk's Café in Philadelphia, PA
98 out of 100 based on 399 ratings.