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Monk's Café

Not Rated.
Monk's CaféMonk's Café
BA SCORE
98
world-class

420 Ratings
Ratings: 420
Reviews: 326
rAvg: 4.43
pDev: 9.26%
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 

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 420 | Reviews: 326 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Hautacam
2.76/5  rDev -37.7%

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.

Hautacam, Jun 14, 2006
Photo of pennatale
2.76/5  rDev -37.7%

I really do not have many positive things to say about Monks. My boyfriend and I went here because many beer sites recommended it, but I was turned off within a minute of walking in the door. The hostess who greeted us was extrememly rude and we were told we could not have a table unless we were eating dinner and our original plan was have some drinks then appetizers after a while. So he told us to go to one of the bars where there wasn't really standing room and no available stools. When I asked him how to get to the back room bar he gave me a huge attitude like I was some idiot because I didn't know where it was. When we were at the bar we had to originally stand and one waitress gave us attitude becuase we were standing at the bar trying to order a drink. The bartender was the only nice person there but would rather engage with off the clock employees than her customers. The beer was a bit pricey. After 1 or 2 beers we decided we'd rather not order food and just go home and drink while watching t.v. It would be a better atmosphere. I highly do not recommend going to monks. There are plenty of better quality and better service beer bars in Philadelphia.

pennatale, May 25, 2010
Photo of MsRogueRed
2.85/5  rDev -35.7%

After hearing about Monk's for a few years, we finally made the two hour trip. We got there around 12 noon on a Saturday and the door was locked. After waiting outside for about 10 minutes, we were let in along with two other patrons that were waiting. Normal opening time is 11:30.

Although he was the one to let us in, the bartender was no where to be found for almost 10 minutes after we sat down at the bar. When he got back, he wasn't the most friendly guy. I asked him about the Monk's sour (how sour it was and he replied, sour). I was hoping for a bit more description. I ordered it and my husband got Chimay (can't go wrong with that). Mine was VERY sour, but I drank it since it wasn't awful tasting, but I would've liked to have been offered a small taste instead of getting 16oz of it.

I ordered fries since I read so many great reviews of them. I love fries and was expecting some great belgian style fries. I have had better fries at local carnivals/fairs, so I was a bit let down. I had a Hoegaarden for my next beer. My husband ordered the Ghent mussels and they smelled excellent and he said they tasted great.

There were glasses from the night before left on the bar and the place reeked of old lemons and just seemed sorta dirty. I guess I had higher expectations about the atmosphere. It wasn't a horrible experience, but it was a one and done trip for me. Pricing was a bit high, but not necessarily for Phila.

I would've had a better time if the bartender had been a little more friendly and would've explained the beer more. I've tried over 100 beers in the past few years, so I'm ok with having a beer that isn't my preferred style, but I also like a bartender who can give you a good description of beer.

MsRogueRed, Aug 01, 2005
Photo of marcpal
2.95/5  rDev -33.4%

As great as the selection of beer is, that is how poor the service is. This place is legendary from what I have heard and when I got there, the beer list did not fail the hype. Second to only a few, particularly Brick Store and Publick House Mass in bottle and tap selection, Monk's is far inferior in terms of atmosphere and quality service. Not sure if it was the expectations, but they fell short.

The list of Belgian bottles was very tight and those offered on tap were very good as well. Prices were a little on the high side but for some of the rarities that they had, it has to be said that it was fair and worth it.

It was nice to get some of the hard to find US craft brews here but the selection wasnt mind blowing. On tap was Hopslam in preparation for beer week which was impressive.

The food was so-so. The mussels were not bad but not all that substantial and came with a small piece of soaking bread. Not all that impressed. The burgers, both what I had and what I saw others having were awfully weak. Another point to Eulogy on that one.

It was a weekday, fairly busy and they just completely understaffed would be the only excusee for such bad service. What typified it all was a patron who asked for a beer that was on tap in the back bar and was sitting at the front and the bartender said she would have to wait a while if she really wanted it or to get herself- whats the deal.

I echo the account of previous reviewer in that I myself and others there also asked for a small taste and they refused and not kindly either. Just "our policy and Im too busy". Funny, Eulogy's stuff was just as good and expensive but that made the effort. Barleywine on tap served in a Hoegaarden glass, are you kidding me.

Also, for a place like this that prides itself on the beer, they do an absolutely horrific job of pairing beers. I was given an Urthel Hop-It with a pint glass when I am sure they had some Urthel goblets. I guess just lazy, pretty weak.

There are too many other great options in this city to choose this place. In terms of being taken out to Brussels, Ill take Eulogy for one.

All in all, reminiscent of an establishment that has gotten cocky in terms of staff and a little big for their britches.

marcpal, Feb 23, 2008
Photo of kimmiekim
3.14/5  rDev -29.1%

Pliny the younger event
NO ORGANIZATION WHATSOEVER. Eighth in line and first to sit at a table. When the server came over, who was very nice and the only good thing about this experience, we somehow were the last table to be helped, which again was not her fault.(no organization ) Waited 40 minutes for a beer. Ordered two rounds, received second round first which did not include younger, which obviously was in the first round. When we did get younger we received two 3oz pours...WHY DID WE SHOW UP EARLY? not pleased and will not return.

Displeased in Philadelphia,
Anthony & Kim

kimmiekim, Mar 01, 2010
Photo of monkeybutler
3.18/5  rDev -28.2%

Monk's to me is like an ugly smelly older relative who pinches your cheeks, kisses you with terrible smoker's breath and too much perfume, but you put up with it because they will give you money when you leave.

Except that Monk's has an extremely rude waitstaff, cramped quarters (even by center city standards) and a clientele that makes you want to go back in time and make abortion mandatory for those who might give birth to snobby yuppie types. The reason I keep going back? An absolutely mind-blowing beer selection. Every time I go, I do two things: wait for the abuse to pile on at the hands of disgruntled and snooty waiters, and salivate at the beer menu. The tap list is ever changing and just incredible. The bottle list is equally incredible and filled with hard to find belgians.

The food is okay, but it might as well be non-existent because I'm only there for the beer. So the selection can't be beat, but let me get back to the servers, who should be beaten, preferably with baseball bats.

I probably don't fit the demographic of the type of people that the Monk's folks want to see in their downtown high rent swank location. I'm not an uber rich 50 something schmuck from the main line with tons of cash to burn. But I am a 20 something, clean, well dressed, well mannered beer aficionado with cash enough to burn.

But here's a short list of the abuse that has been handed down to me from the Monk's waitstaff, or as I like to call them: hellspawn incarnate.

A hostess once asked me if I was leaving, and when I responded affirmatively, she looked me in the eye and said, "Good".

After ordering many beers in addition to our appetizers, my party was told by the hostess that my appetizer did not really constitute a meal, and so I should be at the bar. Meanwhile, all of the other tables in the back were empty, so I wasn't holding up the dinner people. Also, my party probably spent $50 a person that night.

Another time, I was alone in the back bar with the barkeeper. She poured me the wrong beer, and I brought it to her attention. She argued with me, and then noticed that the lines were crossed. So she poured the right beer for me, and didn't apologize, or make any amends at all.

Once, when I was at the back bar during a busy night, I paused in my order for a few seconds at most, and the barkeeper walked away and didn't come back for 10 minutes, out of spite, it seemed. The same barkeeper scoffed at one of my questions about a beer, rolling her eyes and attending to someone else before offering a curt obligatory answer.

The beer brings me back, so try as they might, Monk's can't get rid of me.

monkeybutler, Mar 15, 2005
Photo of bctdi
3.2/5  rDev -27.8%

Came in here with my brother after reading about all the great reviews. Ordered a lost abbey damnation which came in a standard pint glass ... Really expected a challice style glass for this beer , but not really a biggie. My brother asked for a taste of the Allagash white , but the bartender poured him a full one in a kitchen style glass , and after she served it to him she said we don't do samples.At that moment, I wondered why she would wait until after she served the beer to mention that they do not give samples. Also wondered why on earth they don't give samples. This was the first beer bar I have ever been to that would not give a sample. We paid our tab and left immediately. We went over to Khyber pass and Eulogy where we were treated much better. Overall I would say their selection was great, but the service was pretty bad, so I have no choice but to give Monk's a bad review regardless of the good press they have received. They have apparenly started to believe their own press. Not good.

bctdi, Jul 03, 2012
Photo of TrojanMan
3.23/5  rDev -27.1%

If you will only be in Philly for a short time, feel free to skip Monk's. Your time and money are better spent elsewhere.

I won't bother to describe the decor and tap selection, that has been done by other BAs. I write this review to detail a few problems I see with this establishment and to encourage others to ignore the marketing and hype surrounding this largely mediocre bar.

The first issue I have is the price. I don't mind paying extra for a good beer and I don't mind a small pour for a high-ABV beer but I very much mind paying a high price for a small beer. Cost works out to about a dollar an ounce for most beers which I find to be very high, even for a major city. When I can go to a store and buy a 750ml bottle for what you're charging me for an 8-ounce pour, I start to question whether I'm really getting my money's worth.

The second issue I have is with service. Bartenders absent or inattentive, even when the place isn't crowded. Bartenders not knowledgable with the beers they're serving. My brother asked for an opinion and our bartender regurgitated the tasting notes from the tap list. Thanks, we can read. So he asked for a sample and...

This brings me to my third point - arrogant, pretentious and haughty atmosphere and policies. They will not give you a taste. Not even for sale. You must pull the trigger on an $8.50 (plus tax) pour with minimal tasting information and little help from the bartenders. Their condolence is that you can chalk it up to the 'cost of education' - from their "beer bible."

Speaking of the "beer bible," it is just one of many features that project a patronizing, holier-than-thou atmosphere of the joint. You get the impression that they are somehow doing you a favor by allowing you to purchase their beer. Nevermind that much of the information in their "bible" is flatly incorrect, especially the sections on brewing. Also, the haughtiness is present throughout. And they charge you $3 for the honor of walking out with a Xeroxed copy of of what is a glorified bottle list? No thanks.

The proverbial last straw was when the bartender finished telling us that they can't spare any beer for a sample, then not two minutes later grabbed a glass and poured a drink for herself. You can't spare half an ounce for a sample that will likely sell beer for you but you can spare an entire beer so your bartender can drink on the job? I have other complaints but there's a 5000-character limit here.

I can't get my money back but you can be smart and save yours.
If you want a Belgian beer bar, go to Eulogy instead.

TrojanMan, Mar 24, 2008
Photo of cypherus
3.25/5  rDev -26.6%

My girlfriend and I decided to take a trip to the city yesterday and I had a couple places in mind to choose from to have dinner. We chose Monk's.

After searching the BA boards for a good place to have a beer and meal, Monk's came highly recommended. While my thoughts aren't set in stone, I can give my first impressions of Monk's.

We walked in around 4:30pm and were seated quickly in the back. The place was already pretty packed, but more people filtered in as we sat. I asked the waitress for a recommendation of what to drink from the tap and she asked what I liked to drink. I was eyeing the Caracole Saxo and Delirium Tremens. The waitress recommended the Caracole Saxo. It came over in a tulip glass and wasn't anything like I was used to. It had little to no carbination, which I guess was normal, and had a sweet taste and good mouthfeel. I drank this with the Pommes Frites, which were kind of limp and greasy. The sauce that was served with them was good though.

The next beer I ordered was the Spatz Franziskaner, which turned out to be a beer I had tried before, which was the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse. I drank this with my Rack of Lamb that I ordered, which was delicious, but portions were small. My girlfriend ordered the Duck Ragout and she loved it.

The last thing that we ordered was dessert. We ordered the Chocolate Hazelnut Tart, which was kind of dry. I ordered my final beer, which was Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale. It was a little too harsh for me to drink with the dessert, but I didn't know how it was going to taste before I ordered it so that's on me. Dinner, drinks, and dessert all together was $99 with tax and tip.

Altogether, we had a good time, but I just wanted to point out a few things that I think could be improved upon. The waitress was running around from the front to the back and was hard to get ahold of. I must have sat seven or eight minutes with an empty glass before the waitress came over and asked if I wanted something else. For a bar that touts itself as having such a big selection, I would prefer more of a knowledge of beers and recommendations. The prices were a little high and I agree with others that think there should be samples prior to ordering. I didn't ask for one because I read that there were none prior to ordering.

I will definitely check this place out again because they have a large selection, but not before hitting up Eulogy and McGillin's first.

cypherus, May 25, 2008
Photo of sholland119
3.28/5  rDev -26%

Monk's introduced Belgian beers to Philadelphia, and was instrumental in creating a demand for fine craft beer establishments. Sadly, Monk's has rested on its laurels on the beer side, and taken a step backwards in the quality of its food. Other establishments have improved on the formula and, for me, Monk's is no longer the best place to go in Philadelphia.

What's good:
The Belgian bottle and tap list is quite extensive. Without doing an exhaustive count, the lists at Eulogy and Teresa's Next Door seem comparable. No other place I have been around here comes close.

The atmosphere is pretty cool, esp. when you make your way to the back bar.

The fries are good.

What's just ok:
The American craft brew list was a massive disappointment. Due to the owners' close relationships with the brewers at Russian River and Lost Abbey/Port Brewing, you could always expect to see something you could not find elsewhere. This was not the case last week. No RR except Temptation, nothing from the Port Brewing side of the house. Nothing from Bear Republic, Moylan's or Hoppin' Frog, which are all new to eastern PA and popping up all over. One choice each from Bell's, North Coast, Southampton, Avery.

The food other than the fries. Burgers and mussels used to be standouts here but not anymore.

What's not good:
Surly, inattentive service. We used to get good service here, possibly because we came often enough to be known by the day bartenders. But on Friday we got an up close and personal dose of the rudeness mentioned in so many other reviews. Also, i don't really get hung up on proper glassware but I was served Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout in a small pilsner glass and a Monk's Sour Ale in a small Hoegaarden style tumbler, firsts on both accounts.

This is the only beer bar I know of that will not give you a taste of a beer before ordering. Our bartender's rap was "our beer is too expensive to give a taste". Which probably also means it's too expensive to order blindly. Obviously, we all buy beers from recommendations on BA and other places. But if Teresa's Next Door or Eulogy will let me try Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek 2005 before buying and Monk's won't, where do you think I am going to go?

In the future, we will be happy to spend our money at Tria or Eulogy or North Third or Standard Tap or Johnny Brenda's or Teresa's Next Door or TJ's or the Drafting Room or the Grey Lodge or, well, you get the idea.

sholland119, Jan 28, 2008
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Monk's Café in Philadelphia, PA
98 out of 100 based on 420 ratings.