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Monk's Café

Not Rated.
Monk's CaféMonk's Café

458 Ratings
Ratings: 458
Reviews: 336
rAvg: 4.42
pDev: n/a
Taps: 20
Bottles: 218
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: 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 

Place added by: BeerAdvocate

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Ratings: 458 | Reviews: 336 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Foxman
4.65/5  rDev +5.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

The fact that Monk's is located pretty much around the corner from Nodding Head makes this stop #1 in an evening of one-two beer punches. Though after stopping both places, driving is the last thing anyone should even remotely consider doing, so the proximity to the PATCO station is a real plus for a Jersey-dweller such as myself.

You walk in, and from the get-go, you're snug as a bug in a rug in this narrow, crowded, warmly appointed Belgian-esque café. Well, I'm assuming Belgian, but having never been to Belgium, I think I can say safely at least Western European. The people expect to be packed in, and they're most all content with that. The front bar is kind of awkwardly placed in the flow of traffic, but who cares? Past the booths (my favorites) and then a left and a right past the kitchen and unisex bathrooms, down a short hall, and you're in the back bar, a genuine beer-geeks dream locale. The tables are even tighter here, and the bar too small, but no matter where you end up, you have an eclectic soundtrack in play, and you're never more than a few steps from some incredible beer. Crowded or not, if you can't find a comfort level here, then you're likely better suited to some off-the-path corner taproom with two or three bleary-eyed regulars and Coors Light the big seller. Oh, and the new non-smoking policy, my civil libertarian twinges aside, make what has always been tremendous even better.

As far as the quality, it gets no better. Beer is religion here, as noted perhaps by the Beer Bible, and it's served clean, correctly, at good temperatures, and in a variety of always damned-close if not dead-on glassware choices.

Now, I know some folks are fond of trashing Monk's for what they perceive to be poor service. I am not about to debate that, because perception at least tempers reality, but I'll say I have never had a negative service experience here. Are they hurried, harried, and in perpetual motion? Well, yeah, because they have to be, but no one has ever been anything short of, at the least, professional, and I usually get some cheerful thrown in as well. And they all know what they're serving, with very few exceptions. Oh, and one of my favorite things is, they have a very low tolerance level for drunks, obnoxious or nodding off at the bar. These folks are escorted onward, either with a driving friend or a cab. It's smart from a liability angle, and it makes for a greater experience for those who prefer to respect their beer.

Ah, and now to the true draw of Monk's, the selection. First, to echo the previous reviews, the American craft selection in bottles is second to none in the city, and I'm not sure who, anywhere, can beat, though I'll assume someone can. Still, there are even a few on tap at any one time, so it's truly special in that regard. But the real strength is, of course, the Belgians. Start with the Monk's Flemish Sour Red, a proprietary genuine Belgian, and go from there. You'll always find Chimay Triple, and even Hoegaarden for the faint of heart, but it's the others that make return trips not only fun, but mandatory in order to sample whatever's newest in the never-ending rotation. Various Duponts, not just the Saison, Lucifer, Piraat, Cantillon, Delirium Tremons, Chouffe- one could go on for hours reciting what has been on tap. Come thirsty, my friends, and try your damnedest to find a designated driver, because you'll want much, and they have much to give.

And the food...well, start with the pommes frites, for my money the best in the city, consistently, and with the wonderful bourbon mayonnaise in tow it's starchy bliss. And the starters, not a one not wonderfully done, from my experience. The mussels are simply stellar, with my favorite the Ghent and my wife's the Thai curry. The duck salad's a winner, as are both lamb dishes, the trout, both filets, and the venison pot pie. The one thing that did not impress me as much was the burger, which, while quite tasty, was a bit dry even though it was cooked medium as requested.

You'll walk out of here feeling as though you've found an experiential bargain, having immersed yourself in another culture, hip-deep, for well less than you'll think you should have spent. But, realize that it's not free.

So what else can I say? Maybe I sound like I'm worshiping at the altar, and maybe I am, but all I know is that when my wife and I are planning a night out and she suggests Monk's, I'm about as happy as a husband can be. I don't care about the crowds, because there's always someplace to grab another beer, and that's what it's about. As I said, if you don't like crowds and waiting, then stay away. But if you can look past such petty matters to focus on a riveting beer experience. come along, little doggie, and enjoy the ride.

Photo of Gasp100
4.65/5  rDev +5.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

To start off, I'm still just getting my feet wet with Belgian's but I know good beer when I see it (and people who appreciate good beer as well). I was in Philly working on Thursday night and my boss took me out for my 6 month review when we were done (pretty cool). I had Chimay (triple?) on draft served in a Chimay goblet and it was fucking fantastic. We also tried the Monk's Madness (tasted like a nice APA to me) and went crazy with some Cantillion Gueze (Monk's version?). He offered to buy some Rochefort 10 which I thought was too over the top at $12/bottle... (should have took him up on that) but we also had La Chouffe and a lot of other brews.
I was really happy to see their beer list went well beyond Belgians and the Sly Fox Pale Ale on draught was a welcome change from being Belgian'd out. They had South Hampton Special Ale Alt and one guy got some Aventinus for dinner.
The place was fucking packed and standing room only to the obnoxious level so I don't know when I'll go back... but overall it was worth it for one night of Belgian flavored fun (for free!!!)
In any case I bought 2 bottles of Chimay today at the store so it has left a lasting impression. Oh yeah, the food and the prices were very reasonable for what you are asking for and what you get as well. Good times... next time I want to hit something like Ludwig's which I'm hoping is the German version of this with better seating and way more room.

Photo of Poppypitbull
4.9/5  rDev +10.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Just a great all around place.
a really well informed waiter who knew his stuff guided us through the evening for selections when we wanted to experiment. A cool atmosphere, great tunes on the system, food was good but not awesome (it's bar food, just better cooked). A little pricey though, but it's to be expected with what they serve there. We got down to PA just in time since they banned smoking only 2 weeks prior and it made the evening that much more enjoyable.
Got to try a variety of things I'd never had before and even got a free bottle to take back to NJ the next day!

Photo of Phatz
4.95/5  rDev +12%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

What an absolute slice of heaven. This was a truly *remarkable* experience!!! Never in my life have I seen a selection of Belgian Beers like this before. Even the collection of American micros is absolutely unparallel! The closest thing I have ever seen is Zeno’s in State College but this atmosphere is much more classy. This place has the seating spread out and a front bar and back bar so everything feels cozy but it’s capacity is larger than the eye would suggest. Still, it is not a large place and the homebrew club nearly filled the back bar.
What you see: Lots of wood. The floor and walls it is all rustic dark wood and paneling and lots of Belgian Breweriana. The real thing you want to see is their "Beer Bible" or the beer menu. Goodness! I had to bow my head and pray. It is ridiculous. AWESOME! But ridiculous! Bottles must number well over a hundred and a dozen taps, many Belgian. If only I lived close by …
This is my second experience with Monk’s though my first rip there. I met Tom Peters at the seminar in State College and sampled several of their dishes that are cooked with beer. The food may cost a little more than some other places but it is the best you’ll find, so it is still very reasonable. Try many dishes prepared with beer. The staff seemed incredibly knowledgeable and the helpful. So the service the selection and the food are all perfect reasons to visit. Not to mention everything is of the utmost quality. We had a cellared Old Engine Oil Special Reserve (Aged In Malt Whiskey Casks) a beer that you can’t even find anymore. Not to mention the Russian River “Temptation!” There is not one reason, not to make it to Monk’s Café!

Hope this is helpful.

Photo of n0rmann
4.74/5  rDev +7.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Quite simply, Monk's Cafe is the best place I've ever been for Belgian ales. They have almost everything I could think of -- Chimay, Abbaye, Corsendonk, De Dolle, Dupont, Duvel, Regenboog and Rochefort.

But, it doesn't stop there. The selection for almost every country is fantastic. From the U.S., there's a large selection of Dogfish Head, Heaveyweight, Rogue, Stoudts and Flying Dog.

From England, they have Thomas Hardy's from 1991, '92 and '94 (for $30 a bottle).

They have Aventinus from Germany, Thiriez from France, and they even have three beers from the Swiss trappist monks.

Some of the ber is expensive, but they have many of reasonable price.

There's a back bar within monks that has extra beers on draught.

Definitely a must if you stop in philly.

Photo of VegasBill
4.4/5  rDev -0.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5

Went two days in a row for a late lunch and was lucky, it was busy but not packed. The food is some of the best I have ever had in a pub, simply wonderfull. The beer selection is also outstanding, when I was there they even had some Russian River offerings, in Philly!!! wow.
The only downside is in the evening one better like a really mobbed place and even have a second choice in mind in case the wait is too long and Philly is a smoking OK city so cigarette smoke with your meal is the norm. Even with the increased competition Monk's is still worth a visit for a really enjoyable time.

Photo of MuddyFeet
4.28/5  rDev -3.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

Went to Monk's for dinner after Happy Hour drinks at the Nodding Head during my recent trip to Philadelphia. Perhaps the best thing about Philly I saw on my short trip.

Atmosphere was very dark and cave-like. Long and narrow. Made me think it was dirty too without it actually being dirty. My mind was playing tricks on me and made me think that there was an abundance of moisture in the air. Lots of beer placards and beer trays along the walls. I just hung out at the front bar and never ventured toward the back bar because the bartender offered to run to the back bar if I wanted anything on the back bar taps.

Service was great. In addition to running to the back the bartender answered all my questions and when I wasn;t sure which Russian River bottle I wanted she let me handle both bottles before I decided on which one was the bottle for me.

For dinner I had the venison pot pie. Very, very good. I was afraid it might be dry but it was very moist and hit the spot just right.

Now for what everyone is interested in reading about. Very impressive tap list. About a dozen taps and all with something that made me drool a bit. A couple of "available only here" selections from Belgium too. The bottle selection was superb too. Wonderful place for the selection of beer.

Photo of Hollister
4.65/5  rDev +5.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

I've only been to Philly a half dozen times, but each time I'm in town I try to go to Monk's Cafe. It's awesome! It's located just a couple blocks from the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts which is home to the Philadelphia Orchestra - which makes for a great evening... Monk's for dinner and a pre-concert Belgian, a symphony concert, and then right back to Monk's to finish off the night.

They've got the best Belgian beer list that I've ever seen. The food is excellent, and the atmosphere is great minus the smoke. If only restaurants were smoke-free in PA... Anyways, so far I haven't had a bad experience there, and have enjoyed everything that I've tried. It's a little expensive, but that's city life. The Belgian beer selection is out of this world -- Monk's Cafe is a must in Philly!

Photo of dirtyfab
3.95/5  rDev -10.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

i've been here four times and i probably won't ever go back. don't get me wrong the place looks great. the food is fantastic. the beer selection is very good. but there are a couple of things that i don't like about the place. i guess they may be a victim of there own success. what i mean is there is a sort " we're great and we know it" anybody who has been there knows what i'm talking about. the two things that stand out are the puny generic glasses they serve many of the draft beers. i'm paying a premium for the beer, please use authentic glasses. (they use the proper glasses for bottled beer). lastly they don't let you sample a small taste of the beer. considering the fact that if you don't like beer your stuck with it is amazing. i've never been to a beer bar ( even expesive beligians) that did not let you taste the stuff first.

Photo of guzzle211
4.58/5  rDev +3.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

This was my first trip to Monk’s and I typically like to visit a place a few times, at different times of day, before I review it but I think Monk’s pretty much speaks for itself. I might actually be able to see getting jaded by the immense selection, the guaranteed constant stream of newcomers, and the crowd, but I am still in the honeymoon phase with Monk’s, so we’re still in love.

I was in town for the Steely Dan concert, and this was a perfect spot for some pre-concert food and beverage. We arrived at 5:15pm this past Saturday 8/19 naively thinking it might be early enough for it not only to not be completely packed, but we even expected an empty seat or two – wrong! The place was already packed (but not nearly as packed as when we left a little after 6:30 – I was honestly shocked) but we got very very lucky and got the last little two-top right beside the back bar. It was a very tight, extremely hot and smoky fit, but considering there were parties of 4 already waiting 20 mins, we were thankful. One glance at the beer bible, available for purchase $3 and also on their website, lets you know why its worth the wait (if you have the time.)

Since we were at the back bar, I concentrated strictly on those offerings (see website for full list.) They were out of the Sly Fox Pale Ale and one or two others, but I had my sights set: I started with a Lucifer ($6.50) to drink with the frites (see below,) then had my first of two St. Bernadus 12 ($7) (I won’t go into a review of the beer here – I typically don’t like to review beers on tap like this because of all the smoke, but the complexity that emerges in this beer as it warms to temp is amazing, a truly incredible transformation.) It was only after I got home and checked the website did I realize I missed RR Pliny Elder and Benediction at the front bar (but at the same time, the Lucifer was perfect for the frites and the St. B. 12 was my mission. I am already dying to go back.) Simply put, think kid in candy shop.

Our server, (I sincerely apologize; it was so loud when we asked her name I couldn’t make it out – Karissa? Klarissa?) was in the eye of a hurricane (and we’re talking about it only being 530pm) but she never missed a beat and always had a smile when she came to the table. She had to repeat several things she said but didn’t mind at all. Despite juggling so many people neither my glass of water nor glass of brew was ever empty.

We had the frites, and I gotta say, they were firm, crunchy and tasty, not soggy as I expected from the previous reviews. Also, the sauce is authentic; it might seem yucky to some, but ever have frites in Belgium? You ask for BBQ sauce and they put a little dab in a dish and then fill the dish with mayo. So I gotta say its what I expected. We kept it simple since there was a long night of Steely Dan ahead of us and chose burgers - not the biggest or fanciest, but a real tasty quality-meat burger for less than $8 in one of the hottest beer spots in a major city is nothing to complain about. Mine was mushroom / swiss (delicious!) and my buddy ordered a topping combination that wasn’t on the menu, and they didn’t even bat an eyelash (that can be sacrilege some places.) Total bill for 5 uber-quality brews, frites and two quality-meat burgers? Not quite $50 – I was completely satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, there are some bottle beer prices that you might initially shake your head at, but I knew where I was going and what I was in for. I had a tough time giving Monk’s $$$ (instead of only $$) because of this, but at the same time I am taking into account what I normally do and where I normally go for craft beer (even though where I frequent has nowhere near this expansive of a selection.)

When we left after 630pm, it was mobbed. The front bar was 4 people deep. It was tough to walk out of a place with so many offerings this early on a Saturday night, but I had a Steely Dan ticket in my pocket. Needless to say, I am already trying to figure out when I can work in my next visit to Monk’s.

Photo of mjc410
4.8/5  rDev +8.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

This was a primary goal of mine on my day trip to Philly, and I was quite happy. Parking is a near impossibility on the one way streets, although this is not the of Monk's.
The restaurant is located in a short, skinny building. It advertises itself quite garishly with neon lights, which takes away perhaps a bit from the atmoshphere. However, coming here in the late afternoon afforded my girlfriend and I a seat at a long table along the front window. Another party was seated at the opposite end of the table, which made things interesting. There were certainly no smoking problems, although that might just have been chance. We drank Monk's Sour, Urthel Bock, and Saison de erpe-mere, all of which were wonderful. The beer prices are absurdly high, especially for the bottles, but draft is more reasonable. Food is more easily priced, and the Saison paired well with the Saison Dupont trout. A fun beer/food experience, and something that I hope to repeat!

Photo of Abita45
4.58/5  rDev +3.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Possibly the best beer bar in town. I'm probably not breaking any ground with that statement, but it continues to impress me.

I stopped by last night around 10 for a beer and some food. I ordered a Gulden Draak, while my girlfriend, with the help of our waiter, found a beer with an apple flavor to it. The beer's name escapes me, but I've run across it periodically (it was Lindeman's Pomme).

In any respect, we ordered mussels and a trout dish appatizer. Both were excellent. They make several styles of mussels, and we had ours done in a white sauce with basic seasoning. They were very good. The trout was grilled with a horseradish sauce on top, in a bed of greens and capers. Also, very good.

There was a nice crowd, but we got a table immediately. The service was very good. While I had a good idea of what I wanted, our waiter did a nice job sheparding my girlfriend through the beer menu.

I mention it being "a bit pricey," but that's only because the beers can be expensive. However, you get what you pay for, and those beers will be expensive under any circumstance. I certainly believe Monk's pricing is appropriate and very reasonable.

The interior is a little small, but nice. There's always a good vibe in Monk's and I've never had a bad time. The staff is knowledgable and helpful, and beer selection is second to none.

A true beer bar.

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

We entered Monk's early on a Saturday afternoon and headed through the front room (fairly bright from natural light, lots of dark, old world style furniture) to be seated near the back bar. This room had no windows and lots of dark wood paneling. There's a cool tapestry on one wall too. It has more of a cozy vibe than confining. The had their house sour on tap (very good), along with a great selection of other beers (Chimay White, Chouffe Houblon, Delirium Tremens, Hoegaarden, Kwak, Lindeman's Framboise, Lucifer, Oerbier, Ephemere Apple, St. Bernardus 12, Grottenbier, and Flying Fish Big Fish. The bottle selection was huge, with tons of Belgians and plenty of US beers from the East Coast/PA, California, and Michigan (including Russian River, Bell's, New Holland, and Stone). The English selection was also quite good, with things like Lee's Harvest Ale, Thomas Hardy's, and Young's available, and there was a decent line up of German and Scottish offerings. Overall, somewhere around 200 bottles - and not really a dud among them. The service was good and our server/bartender was quite knowledgable - she'd obviously sampled a lot of beers that come through the place. My wife and I both had burgers (very good) and shared the frites (a little too soggy). An excellent experience and we'll definitely be back.

Photo of Metalmonk
4.38/5  rDev -0.9%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

This happened: A guy walks into Monk's and asks the bartender for a Yuengling. She responds "We don't have it." He gets righteous: "I came to Philly hoping to get a Yuengling, I can't believe you don't serve Yuengling!" She says, "We serve better beers."

That about sums it up. Their selection cannot be beat.

Monk's was a bit of a mecca for me, considering its concentration on Belgian beers. And the beer list did not disappoint, offering several Belgians I didn't know, and many other rare beers from Netherlands, Finland and even lots of US microbrews. The tap list was ridiculous: St. Bernardus 12, Delerium Tremens, La Chouffe Houblon IPA, their own infamous Flemish Sour Ale, lots more. Obviously a cut above your typical bar.

My host in Philly said the only way to really enjoy the place is to get there early, as it gets really crowded after 5. (and since I can't stand smoke in bars, or anywhere else, it was a good thing we went early.) So we sat there from 4 to 6:30, imbibing and enjoying. The space is narrow but long, and even though it wasn't super-crowded, it still felt a little cramped. The service was excellent (despite how busy they became after 5), extremely knowledgable as well. Some of the glasses they used for the taps were a little smaller than I expected, and this underlines my only real gripe about the place: it's a bit pricey. No wonder it was an almost exclusively yuppie, upwardly-mobile crowd. My friend and I didn't seem to be typical of the clientele. And that's just fine by me.

There's a bar in the back, and in between bars is a seating area for diners. Didn't have the food. Loved the beer, and even though one of those was a disappointing bock by Urthel (an otherwise ace brewer), the experience made up for it, and this is a destination I recommend to ANY enthusiast of great beer, which is almost everyone lurking and taking part in this site.

Photo of nlmartin
4.3/5  rDev -2.7%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

This was the first beer bar I took my wife to in Philly. It was a Wednesday night at 10pm. The place was packed almost to bursting. We got seated in the back bar area. The place was almost closterphobically packed with smoking people. Dam is this place very loud! The beer list was well populated by expensive and great selections. Saint Lamvinous was $50 a bottle. I opted for something else. We drank the house Flemish ale a dam tasty offering. We also had Russian Rivers Damnation and Smuttynose IPA. The wait staff was both knowledgeable about the beer and attentive to a bursting crowd. We had a late dinner. My wife had Mussels ala Monks. I had the rabbit. Both meals arrived hot and had fairly large portions. We both enjoyed our meals from monks. Over all this is a very good beer bar. Some items are dam expensive and others not so. The place thined out and quieted down around 11:30 pm.

Photo of Hautacam
2.76/5  rDev -37.6%
vibe: 2 | quality: 3.5 | service: 1 | selection: 4

Expected a great experience here...did not happen. Went on a Sunday evening....not crowded....went to the back bar...very small and very smoky...yes , they do still smoke in Pa. bars.
We decided to go back to the front bar...less smoky, but people smoking there too....and, if there was ventilation....it wasn't working. Got a seat at the bar. I ordered a Goliath Tripel, as did my buddy...$7.00 for a very small tulip glass. My girlfriend ordered the Monk's sour ale. All good. Bartender polite.
Here's where it really sucked....my girlfriend's sister, not knowing what she wanted , asked if she could taste a few...the bartender's reply.." we're not supposed to do that "...and he walks away. I have never experienced that in a beer bar....ever. So we sit there and try to enjoy our beers...more people come in and light up smokes...when we left after one beer each...we all reeked of smoke.
I know that all bars used to be smoky....I used to smoke years ago...but in CT,MA, RI. NYC...I have been enjoying the smell and taste of good beer w/o cigarette smoke for a few years....and can't stand it now. Could not smell my beer with that much smoke...and it wasn't even crowded....must be awful when it is crowded.
If you don't mind a lot of smoke with your dinner or beer, then Monk's is a good place...if you know what all the beers taste like ...it's a good place.
We'll never go back.

Photo of sacfly
4.03/5  rDev -8.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Monks sits in a typical center city Philly row house. Long and narrow on the inside. They have a front and back bar, with different items on tap at each. We went for the back, since they had St. Bernardus Abt 12 on tap. I ordered one and the bartender yelled back “Were out”. OK. How about the Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel that is on tap… The response was “That’s out. What the hell do you expect on a busy Saturday.” Well then. Boy do I miss living in center city and dealing with that patient, respectful Philly attitude. I didn’t think asking for a beer that was listed on the menu would warrant that kind of response. I would think they would at least cover the tap handle if they were out, but whatever. The hostess that seated us was no better. Very rude and short.

Once we were seated, our waiter was great and that is the only person we needed to deal with the rest of the time we were there. Nice beer list. I came expecting to clean up on Belgians, but they had plenty of other offerings as well. Had my first Bell’s Two Hearted and Péché Mortel that night. I also had Russian River Temptation that I have been unable to find in MD. Even the Brickskeller was out the last time I was there. The beer was great. I could drink the Monk's Flemish Sour Red Ale forever. Solid sour red. The food was good. We had a generous portion of mussels simmered in the sour ale and garlic. (there were many other choices of beer and spices to have the mussels). We also had the wings. They were whole wings with an interesting glaze of pepper spices. Lots of cool beer signs decorate the wooden décor. Great place to go if you can tolerate a little attitude for no reason. If you are in Philly, you are most likely used to it by now.

Photo of gbarron
4.28/5  rDev -3.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Was in Philadelphia on business and on the recommendation of fellow BA's went to Monk's.

Very small, hole-in-the-wall type joint with a front bar that was loud and crowded when I got there at around 6pm on a Wednesday night. Some dining tables line the wall down a narrow hallway that lead to the backbar area that is much quieter and doesn't have any TVs, so I sit back there.

Menu is largely belgian, some sandwiches, salads, entrees, and of course mussels and belgian fries. I had the Monk's version of the mussels along with some fries, where were excellent and fairly priced.

The draft selection is excellent, several rare belgians I've never heard of and couple of local beers. They have a hand pump for cask, but unfortunately right now nothing is on it. The bar staff is extremely knowledgable and friendly. They have about a dozen or so beers on draft, and then a 'menu' of about a hundred or more in bottles, including a substantial selection of belgians and American micros. Prices were very fair.

Photo of elmocoso
4.36/5  rDev -1.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5

What a place. Very deceiving from the outside, but when we walked in, this place was jumping. It was Friday night, so not much room to even stand. We found a half-bar against the wall and I shoved my way up to the bar. It was a beautiful thing. There were about 5 beers on tap and a bunch of coolers stocked to the gills with all the beer you wanted to try. The first waitress kind of gave me attitude. When we finally got up to the real bar, the service was much better with the new waitress. We both got another beer and perused the impressive beer-list. I would have like to check out this place when it wasn't so busy, but I'm glad we went.

Photo of ricodewey
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!

Photo of John_M
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.

Photo of chimayman
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.

Photo of jwm232
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.


Photo of dogfooddog
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.

Photo of BillyB
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.

Monk's Café in Philadelphia, PA
98 out of 100 based on 458 ratings.