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Monk's Café

Not Rated.
Monk's CaféMonk's Café

339 Reviews
Reviews: 339
Visits: 495
Avg: 4.38
pDev: n/a
Taps: 20
Bottles: 218
Cask: N
[ Bar, Eatery ]

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

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap 

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Reviews: 339 | Visits: 495
Photo of saltydog
4.72/5  rDev +7.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

An incredibly devoted and excessive bar, dedicated to the best in Belgian beer. Always a great selection on the taps in the back room, and a very substantial bottle selection as well. I still remember the day I went there and saw 3 Cantillon's on draft! I don't get to Philly as much as I'd like, but it's probably just as well, as I don't think I could afford to have this as my local!

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Photo of Gavage
4.45/5  rDev +1.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

It was my birthday, so I told my wife we were going to Monk's for dinner. I've visited several times, and there is just something about the place that gets the blood pumping. As usual it was packed, but I thought getting there at 6:00 the wait wouldn't be too long. I was wrong as we didn't get a table until 7:30 ! But as with other trips I did not fret as the beer selection is phenominal. We walked to the back bar (less crowded) and I reviewed the menu for my first selection. They had Prescription Pils on tap, so even though I wanted belgian beer, I couldn't pass this one up.

The tap menu always surprises me with things I never see, like Hommelbier, Tripel Karmeliet, and Freeminer Deep Shaft Stout. The menu states 200 World Class beers, but there were to be no bottles for us that night. I also had a great filet mignon with a LaTrappe Quadrupel steak sauce. It was out of this world. We started with the Rodenbach Mussels and they were also great. The only setback is the huge crowds - but it is nice to see so many people like this place. Can't wait to return.

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Photo of thefireman
4.28/5  rDev -2.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Hard to add to what others have posted here about Monk's. The beer list is terrific, the prices reasonable, and the food is good. I've been there many times with and without our 9 year old daughter, with no problems. The key to that is that people should realize that children are ok in the mid afternoon at the latest, and should never be at a bar in the evening. Also glad to avoid the twenty somethings that can ruin a place in a hurry.

No, this place is for adults, and can be ok for families if done approprietly. A little common sense, maybe?

The service is fine, but not exceptional, but I can see how difficult it is because of the shape of the place. Don't change it, though. Gives the bar character.

Monk's Update 4-1-05

Still the flagship kickass bar in Philly. We get there at least twice a month, so the staff knows us. I have Never been let down.

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Photo of assurbanipaul
3.6/5  rDev -17.8%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 2 | selection: 5

THE GOOD: Monk's certainly lives up to its reputation. With at least 100 Belgian brews listed, they carried brands that I have never even read about. Their sour house beer is quite good, brewed especially for this place. There truly is no equal of Monk's and it is definitely worth a pilgrimage just to reassure yourself that places like this do indeed exist.

THE BAD: Sorry to say it, but size does matter. There's not even enough room in this place to change your opinion. Service is slow and grumpy (I had to retrieve my own menu from the hostess stand) and I didn't get to try the food. It is a wall-to-wall, shoulder-to-shoulder, can't-even-sit-down, muscle-your-elbow-up-to-take-a-sip kinda place. And this was all before 6pm.

After enjoying only a single beer, I had to step outside for a few minutes to take a phonecall. Honestly, I physically could not get back into the establishment and had to move on. A great place in concept and well worth a visit but what good is seeing the Gates of Beer Heaven if you can't reach it?

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Photo of PopeDX
4.6/5  rDev +5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 3

The service was great, and of course the selection of beer was incredible. Treats like Chimay Cinq Cents on tap and their own specially-brewed sour ale (great!) put a big smile on my face. Our server made sure our glasses were never empty long, although they were having tap problems at the time and couldn't serve all the beers on their tap list.

The only real problem I had was with the food. We started with the mussels, Monk's style. It was about $15-$16 for a "large pot" which couldn't have been much more than a pound of mussels ($2). I was really looking forward to the mussels. They were okay, but nowhere near the best mussels ever. I've had better mussels at half the price for the same amount. They came with a small basket of fries, which were good but there were too few given the price of the pot.
My date had the Blood orange chicken for dinner and I had the rack of lamb. Both were good, but nothing special. They really showed no sign of being cooked with the beers they were supposed to have been cooked with. They both were smallish portions, especially the lamb at $18. The potato and veggie "pancake" that came with it was exquisite though. We both ended up getting dessert even after each having eaten a platter and split a "large pot" of mussels, because we were still hungry. She got this chocolate thing filled with crème brulée, which was really good and I got a blueberry and peach tart which was not quite as good.

Overall I'd go back again, but probably just stay at the bar, or maybe sit down and just get a sandwich. The beer is great, nay, amazing, but the food is nothing special and overpriced for the portions (of the mussels and platters at least).

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Photo of dmarch
4.85/5  rDev +10.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

If it wasn't for the 250 character minimum, my review would simply be "beer heaven." It's very cramped and dark, but it still gets a 4.5 for atmosphere. For some reason it just feels right being there. The service is exceptional. A server who knows as much about beer as you do, and they like to talk about it. They pour it correctly and serve it in the proper glasswear. The selection is fantastic. Not as many micros as I'd like to see, but face it, if you've come here you've come to drink belgians. Come early because it get's crowded quickly.

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Photo of vitesse
4.33/5  rDev -1.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 5

just a great beer bar. huge selection of beers. everyone knows that, right? if you do plan on hanging out there and having more than a beer or two, make sure you eat something. i made the mistake of ordering like five beers and didn't order any food. anyway, those belgians will sneak up on you and then kick your ass inside out. don't get torn up, order the mussells. they looked good.
anyway, it's real small and the service isn't super efficient, but they obviously love beer and serve each one in the perfect glassware.
this one is worth making a seperate trip to.

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Photo of nomad
4.33/5  rDev -1.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

It's hard not to address the many problems those below have had with the place, so i'll be the Monk apologist. Call me Ricoeur...

Yes, it ain't a kid's place. In philly, this bar is for adults, not families or twentysomethings out to glare at each other's chests, and so it is full of beer, adults, and a tiny bit of second-hand smoke. I will say that they have a pretty good air system, so good that I couldn't smell the guy next to me at the front bar with a cigarette in his hand.

Yes, service can be tough but that's cause the layout of this place is ridiculously bad. I hope the management gets a break on rent because the property is shaped like a squirming snake that's 5 feet wide. Saturday nights are gonzo here, and even Monday nights can be a little packed. Let's just say that the bartenders and bar backs work their butts off trying to take proper care of all the massive amounts of quality and quantity beers and their glasses in a timely fashion. They can also throw some serious attitude at you, too. Eh, you learn the unwritten rules eventually.

I think the food is very good, not too Americanized. I highly suggest getting one or two of the appetizers if you stop by for a drink with a couple of friends but don't want to go all out. Eat at the bar, because the service there is fast, and you don't have to endure the long seating list. Burgers are way better than you'd ever expect.

Big cheers for carrying hard to get Imports on top. Yes, there are bars in your hometown that have more micros, but does your bar carry Cantillon, Old Crustacean '99, or Popperings Hommel on tap? It's hard to even find those in a bottle sometimes. Lastly, when you pay 5 bucks for a pint here you know you're getting your money's worth. The bottle selection is stupendously low-priced, too. It ain't a 5 spot for bud light at Rouge on Rittenhouse Square... So, come find me at Monk's, I'll be at the back bar on Fridays.

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Photo of ElGuapo
4.3/5  rDev -1.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

You must make it here if you are in Philly or anywhere near Philly. There was quite a good selection of taps and bottles including many things I have not been able to try yet. It was a bit crowded when I went, but it did not take much away from this place. The service is quick and polite as well as helpful. I shall return here without a doubt.

Very nicely decorated. It has very dim lighting which I thought added a nice relaxing feeling to the place. I sure wish I had spent more time here, but it provided a great end to a long night.

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Photo of Marty
4.55/5  rDev +3.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4

I was very excited to visit Monk's. I had very high expectations, and I expected that those expectations would be met as expected.

My friends and I drove into Philly on Sunday afternoon, and after spending a few hours at the art museum, we arrived at Monk's very thirsty. The one and only Michael Jackson was hosting a beer tasting dinner that evening, so we were hoping to sneak in before they closed their doors. Unfortunately, although it was still only 5pm, they were already prepping for the big show. You're probably thinking that I'm just blabbering right now, but there's a point to all this. The point is that, instead of simply turning us away, the nice people at Monk's were offering a free limousine shuttle to their sister establishment, The Nodding Head, located four blocks north and owned by the wife of the guy who own's Monk's. I thought that was mighty nice of Monk's!

The next day we came back around 3pm, so HERE at long last is my review:

The atmosphere was pretty much what I expected. Monk's isn't necessarily known for its decor. It was pretty dark, so the few lights around the bar gave it a warm, welcoming feel. But apart from a bunch of old-school beer signs on the walls, the place was pretty spartan. I can't speak for the back bar, though, because I never made it back there.

The quality of the beers I tasted was exceptional. I had three draught beers: Victory's Storm King Stout, Chimay White, and a Leffe Brune (Brown). The two Belgians were served in their own trademark drinking vessels, and the Victory came in a standard tall pint glass. Sooo goooood.

As far as service goes, the bartender was very well informed and friendly. When I initially sat down at a table, I had a waiter that was not very friendly. Maybe he was peeved at us for ordering *just* beer and french fries with maynaise (which, by the way, was delicious).

The selection at Monk's was rediculous. I really don't feel a need to elaborate on that. Rediculous.

If you're ever visiting Philly, do yourself a favor and get down to Monk's Cafe on 16th and Spruce. Battle the crowds for a parking space on the street, go drink several beers at Monk's, then walk north a few blocks and up to the top of City Hall while you sober up. It'll be fun!

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Photo of Erix
4.53/5  rDev +3.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

Finally got to check out this bar. Went on a Saturday for lunch at around 1pm. A nice little place, small and narrow, but big enough for the afternoon crowd we faced. I can't imagine how packed it gets for dinner though. Selection was great with a huge number of Belgian bottles available, and a nice number on tap as well. They were unfortunately out of many of the things I asked for, but I did get to try the Froach ale for the first time, as well as several abbey ales. The main thing that took off points in my book was the service. The staff was quite knowledgable and helpful; when you could get their attention. And if you go in with a group while one person parks the car, dont expect to get a table. You will not be seated until the entire group is there, regardless of it you are a large group just waiting for one last member. Foodwise, the mussles were incredible, but I wasnt blown away by the Rodenbach marinated octopus appetizer. I would definitely highly recommend this place, and cant wait to go back again.

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Photo of pubscout
4.65/5  rDev +6.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

This review will probably raise the ire of those Monk's Cafe purists who believe that the place is a solid five all the way around, but they shouldn't fret.

In terms of beer--which is what this site is all about--it's a five for sure.

A couple of beer geeks and I hit the cafe one summer afternoon about 3 PM, which, judging from the other posts, was a good time to get there. We were escorted directly into the back room. That convoluted separation was one of the things I didn't like about the place, even though I was immediately delighted and impressed with the big Lucifer's Tap Handle that dominated the bar.

A place can't be held accountable for limits on its physical configuration, but I like my pubs to be view-inclusive if possible. The setup made me envision some interesting body contortions when the place gets busy, which might be great if you have to squeeze by Brittany Spears holding a Nodding Head Ich bin Ein Berliner Weisse. But God forbid if NY's 500 lb. Congressman Jerry Nachman wants egress or ingress.

Apart from that, I found the food to be adequate, nothing more, and certainly nothing to gush about.

But I didn't visit Monk's for food; I visited it because my beer life would have been incomplete without doing so, and it was another necessary notch in my pen.

Great beers on tap, an incredible selection of others, and the sense that one is quaffing on Sacred Ground makes the Monk's Cafe a bona fide beer destination.

Don't miss it.

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Photo of jmatthew
4.72/5  rDev +7.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

From a Philly native, Monk's is the best. It deserves in every right its prestigous reputation. The beer menu is just large enough to not be ridiculous and the selection is well thought out, featuring not only premier Belgians but also well chosen Americans. The atmosphere is appropriately appointed, particularly in the back room where the best taps are. And the Belgian fare is excellent: great burgers, mussels and pommes frites. Hands down, this is the place to go in Philly. And if the crowds annoy you, try going there for lunch when it's quieter.

(Remember, crowds are a sign that you're in the right place)

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Photo of jrancan
5/5  rDev +14.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

Prior reviewers have pretty much said it all, but I thought I might as well throw my 2 cents in. Of the countless times I've been here, I have never had a problem with either the exceptional food or outstanding beer. Although the taps are usually reserved for hard to find Belgian's, July brought about the tapping of 7 or 8 great American selections, Arrogant Bastard, J.W. Lee's Brooklyn Best Bitter (cask), Rogue Double Incinerator, Tupper's Hop Pocket etc. Outstanding!!
The one small issue I have is the crowds, but I guess that's what happens when a place this good comes along.

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Photo of frank4sail
5/5  rDev +14.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

What can I say... this place is my church. I have never had a bad time here. The food is always consistant and good.. you must get the mussles and fries and a burger.. The burger is on a LaBus roll (awesome). The beer selection is second to none.. When entering put your name in at the podium and then go to the back ber... very quaint and the staff is knowledgable.

Tom will go out of his way to help a customer and to get a beer to the US just for you. If you like Belgian Beer this place will knock your socks off. It is not cheap... but for the city it is a great value. I know for a fact the beer engine is clean as a whistle. It is a "beer advocate" kind of place.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
5/5  rDev +14.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

What establishment can possibly score a 5.0 on every point - only Monk's! And that's pretty much all that needs to be said, but let me also interject that it's not just Monk's - it's Tom Peters! Chimay on draft! Their own house beer! Where else? Belgium? This guy does it all - I'd say he breaks his balls but I think he enjoys it WAY TOO MUCH for that. It's what he's about. That should be enough to get your ass over there. Even if you have to drive from Maine... plan to show up during the week and enjoy some of the finest Belgian cuisine and the biggest selection of Belgian beers in the area!

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Photo of WilliamPhilaPa
4.83/5  rDev +10.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

Simply amazing place as far as Belgian beers goes. The look and feel… I think is somewhat gothic, but whatever it is, it’s cool in my book. The seats in the back area appear to be old church pews. There are over 200 bottled beers to choose from!There is approx 20 taps, if you only notice four, ask the BT where the back bar is...I was lucky to have some of the Chimay White that was tapped for the first time ever in North America! It was excellent! The food is excellent also! If you ever come to Philly, Monk’s is a must stop for Belgian beers, they also have a good selection of beers from Germany, England, US, Austria, Chech Rep, and a few other countries. Overall a must stop when coming to Philly…

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Photo of QXSTER1
4.83/5  rDev +10.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

Everything I have read and heard about this stellar establishment was proven correct after my recent Belgian beer pilgrimage to Monk's. This was not the sole reason for a my trip to Philly, but it was near the top. The night we were there it was crowded, but after putting our name in for a table we headed to the back bar and sampled the Belgian taps. Three drafts of beer to die for and we were seated and ordered the mussels and pomme frites along with a rack of lamb. Everything came together for one of the most memorable meals I've had in a long time. The food was complemented by the superlative beers providing an experience any Belgian beer lover would savor.

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Photo of jreitman
4.95/5  rDev +13%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

A great bar in the center of Philadelphia. Monk's specializes in Belgium brews and will not dissappoint with their selection. Their beer "bible" is pretty sizable and the staff very knowledgeable. If you go, you must try their french fries... some of the best I have ever had. The back bar is definitely more cozy and inviting than the front, but if you are with friends and want a table, the front section is your best bet. Bottom line...if you are in Philadelphia and like belgium brews (or want to experiment with them), you MUST stop at Monk's.

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Monk's Café in Philadelphia, PA
97 out of 100 based on 339 ratings.