1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Monk's Café

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

439 Ratings
Ratings: 439
Reviews: 330
rAvg: 4.43
pDev: 9.48%
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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Ratings: 439 | Reviews: 330 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of ChicagoNick
2.5/5  rDev -43.6%

Monk's Cafe has some decent bottles, but I don't get the hype. Unless you're a local that can stop in anytime for special tappings, this place is extremely mediocre. Food is okay. Service is okay.

My recommendation: go during the day (dimly lit at night and loud) and don't bother reading the online menu. Expect them to be out of at least one thing that you ask for. Also, they like to leave certain high-demand bottles on their list that are long gone. Fair warning to those interested in one of the 5 Cantillon bottles which have been sold out since September 20th. (Today is Oct. 13)

ChicagoNick, Oct 13, 2014
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
Photo of Antonion10
3.3/5  rDev -25.5%

I have been to monks a few times, a great beer list and bible you can't go wrong even if you don't know a lot about beer. That said I think the place is a little to dark and table service is not all that great. Good bar staff when they are not goofing around but I guess you need some of that in the bar.
Dupont Avec les bons Voeux has to be one of my favs it feels light at 9.5%. Maybe the the next time I go back I will get there earlyer and be able to get to eat some mussels, I hear they are decent.

Antonion10, Jan 26, 2012
Photo of burquedout
3.33/5  rDev -24.8%

Let me preface this by saying that prior to the pliny the younger event I had been here a couple times and it's generally awful, that said I will NEVER attend monks cafe for an event of any kind.

Nothing was organized whatsoever, a line halfway down the block rushing into the bar at once and nobody to help organize the sea of people. They only had one bartender working and the order in which she took drink orders was insane, having nothing to do with how long you waited, instead she seemed to take orders from the first person she saw when she looked up. This resulted in people walking in and getting a younger within a minute while others who were among the first in line couldn't get a younger at all. When I went to order a second beer (I wanted a supplication) I stood at the bar for 45 minutes before she took my order, and by this time the supplication had kicked. During that wait three people came up next to me and were all served supplications before she even looked at me, that's three people who I know for a fact hadn't been waiting as long as me. The person next to me was there before me and after half an hour gave up and left, something I would have done if I hadn't started a tab. While I ordered my second round (temptation instead of supplication) I asked to close my tab (no way in hell I was going to stay any longer) which she agreed to do when she handed me my beer. For the next 25 minutes I waited to sign my receipt and get my card back. During that 25 minutes in one of my futile attempts to grab the bartenders attention to hand me my card a waitress waiting for her order told me not to blame her and be patient and that I should have payed cash.

This was the most disappointing bar experience of my life, and to make matters worse I took my brother with me and had been hyping up how awesome this place was. I doubt he will ever go to monks again after that horrible first experience. They should have limited the people allowed into the bar if you can only serve x number of people you should only let x number of people into the bar. I would have been a lot less angry had they told me at the door that the bar was full instead of this fiasco. I'll be back to monks again but there is no way I'll go if they claim to have any sort of event because it's obvious nobody there knows how to run one.

burquedout, Mar 01, 2010
Photo of BrianMChi
3.35/5  rDev -24.4%

I had very high expectations given the hype for this place and I was very disappointed. Only one Belgian beer on draft, expected more. Ok bottle list but nothing hard to find. Food was good and service was ok given the mob of people in the place for the aha conference.

BrianMChi, Jun 27, 2013
Photo of DaveHS
3.4/5  rDev -23.3%

When I first moved to Philly, I thought this place was the last word on Belgian beer bars on the east coast. I have changed my mind since then.
Sure, the selection is pretty good, even great sometimes, but you will pay through your ass for it. The most recent outrage was a Bris Bon Bons from Fantome for $32.00 a 750. It was $20 at the Foodery. The draught list is often impressive, but Monk's is starting to face some touch competition from some of the better suburban beer bars. They don't get too many exclusives anymore.
And then there's the food. Many people have told me how much they love the food at Monk's, but I just don't get it. For an establishment that specializes in all things Belgian, they sure do have some lousy frites. I think it's because they have such a busy kitchen staff. Either they're overcooked, or they're salty, or soggy, or greasy...they're never consistent. The bourbon mayonnaise is alright, but it gets old fast, and the food menu never seems to change. The mussels are okay, nothing special. Again, I think this is because of volume.
Monk's is still a fun place to go on a Sunday night, when it's not busy, and you can actually sit at the bar.
The problem lately is the beer dinners. They will kick you out if they're going to have a dinner. They won't just partition it, or put it in a different room. The past few times I've gone in to have a beer, I have been immediately kicked out, because they were setting up for an event. I'm not usually the self-righteous bitchy customer, but if you spend alot of money in a place, as I have at Monk's, and then they kick you out in the middle of your beer with no warning, it's disrespectful, and shows no devotion at all to their customers. It's rude.
I don't think I will be going to Monk's again any time soon.

DaveHS, Mar 28, 2008
Photo of Wolfhausen
3.4/5  rDev -23.3%

Visited Monk's on a Saturday night with my girlfriend. Upon entering the place the host made it very clear that tables were for only if you were eating and since I was there for the beer were directed to the back bar. It was very small in the back bar and way overcrowded, so I had to order at the end of the bar. While browsing the beer menu I was approached by a waitress who yelled at me that I would have to move out of her way. I was very put off the overcrowded atmosphere and unfriendly staff. I only had a couple brews and decided that this is not the beer bar I want to patronage. Unfortunately, the beer selection is world class but with such a poor staff I will ensure that I will not return to Monk's.

Wolfhausen, May 17, 2010
Photo of ranchik
3.4/5  rDev -23.3%

Bad service is a theme in the last reviews. We arrived with 4 out of 6 in our party. We asked for a table, and we are told we can't sit until the other 2 arrive. We mention they are 15 minutes away.

While I can understand this policy, think of the nonsense from a business perspective! At Monk's prices, we could have easily spent $75 in beer BEFORE the food order.

As we approached a 45 minute wait (with the other two in the party) we decided to talk to the uppity staff. At least 40 people have passed us by in smaller parties.

They tell we are "at the top of the list", and when we say we are willing to split into two groups--- to make it easier to seat us---one girl says "yes", and the other says "no".

We have a person in our party with a neck brace, who is experiencing severe pain due to the now one hour plus hour wait.

The entire evening was ruined by the treatment we received. I will never return, and will certainly stick with the recent reviews, and tell you to pass on by. Spend your money more wisely elsewhere.

ranchik, Mar 29, 2008
Photo of bpfishback
3.41/5  rDev -23%

Monk's is one of the last of the east coast old guard beer bars and it shows. The bar itself is very dark and narrow. I would call it too dark, as it was impossible to read the label on the back of a bottle of beer, but some will probably disagree. The bar area is decorated with old beer bottles and breweriana.

The draft and bottle lists are fairly crudely printed and selections are signified as being out by being scratched out with a pen - that is on the draft list at least. The look of the bottle list makes you wonder if it has been updated recently but surprisingly all but one of the beers I ordered was in stock. The beer selection is good but definitely Belgian centered which of course is to be expected. I was expecting, perhaps wrongly, to find more American oddities but they did have plenty of russian river, lost abbey and some alesmith.

Service was friendly and efficient but indifferent which was fine with me.

Beers seemed to be poured correctly meaning the yeast was always left at the bottom of the bottle where appropriate but this could have been luck. They had a nice selection of glassware, however most of it seemed pretty hazy and not entirely clean.

Monks is worth a trip but it is definitely an older style of beer bar and so it can be a bit lacking in some areas.

bpfishback, Jul 09, 2011
Photo of jjboesen
3.43/5  rDev -22.6%

Having read so many glowing reviews for this much-lauded purveyor of Belgian beer, and being in town to experience Philadelphia Beer Week, what better place to start? So, I chose a quiet Friday afternoon and settled in at the front bar.

In the front, there is a small, L-shaped bar seating about 10; additionally, the area has several tables with two prize locations at the windows overlooking 16th Street. If you pass the hallway and head to the left, you come to the larger back bar - also with different beers on tap. (I recommend checking this first.)

Of course, Monk's Beer Bible is an amazing read - and can be purchased for $3.00. And to describe the diversity of fermented culture would be just repetition; Monk's has many, many beers. However, being the beer perfectionist, I didn't find the available taps (a paltry 7) very impressive - the one that did intrigue me, Urthel Hop-It, was not available. Settling down with a bottle of Val Dieu brown, I enjoyed the Pulled Pork Sandwich and frites (with mayonnaise, of course). When the bartender wasn't busy chatting with her gay friend, I was able to induce her to serve me a bottle of Alvinne Gaspar, a hop monster possessing a head that took 10 minutes to settle! Therein lies the rub with Monk's: the service just sucks - on a quiet afternoon at that!

There are flaws in even the most valuable gems; with Monk's it was the indifferent service. What a shame, since I had really anticipated coming here. While, Monk's is a first-rate beer bar, it leaves a lot to be desired in the realm of hospitality, and since Philadelphia has so many similarly fine establishments from which to choose, why even bother. A great bar is more than a massive beer list; a great bar is one where a beer drinker feels welcome, one where he or she could just stay and never leave. Unfortunately, the "much-lauded" Monk's is not one of these. Great beer bar and a great disappointment.

jjboesen, Mar 18, 2008
Photo of AndyAvalanche
3.48/5  rDev -21.4%

Was pretty excited about making the trip over here, it was walking distance from our hotel. This review is based off 2 separate visits during my stay in Philly. At first it looks like a cool little bar, it's very long and narrow. The bar takes up most of the area of the front room with a few tables in the front and another few sets of tables in the back. There was a hostess at the front who doesn't really say much. A lot of Belgian beer paraphenalia all over the bar. Cool tin posters and plenty of empty bottles of rare gem beers. The place itself was very dark (dimly lit). When we went during the afternoon and sat at the bar it wasn't too bad, the lighting was ok and the crowd was people meeting up for a drink after work mostly. I got a couple of beers, my wife got a beer and we split an order of frites. The second time we went we had dinner, the music was so loud, we no exageration, literally had to yell to each other across the table just to have a conversation. The music was atleast decent music, but the volume was quite excessive.

The quality of the food and beer seemed pretty good. From what I could see they took care of their tap system pretty well. The beer was also usually pretty fresh for what we got. They aslo seemed to use quality ingredients in their food from atleast what was listed.

I really tried to look at this obectivly, but overall the service wasn't good, in fact, it was just bad. The first time we went it was ok I guess. Like I said we sat at the bar, but the bartender wasn't really that friendly. She was informative when we asked questions about the menu, but wouldn't go out of the way to elaborate and we really had to be specific. The only time she actually seemed friendly was when I left the tip and started to leave. The second visit was by far worse, we almost just left. As I mentioned before it was dark and very loud. There were a few open tables but I wanted to check with staff before just sitting down. The hostess wasn't in the front, so I kept trying to get the bar tender to look up, but she was a bit busy. I finally found a bus boy and I asked him if we could just sit at one of the tables. He said, "there's a hostess up front, go check with her" I said "no there's not" He just looked at me and walked away. We started to make our way towards the front just to leave but the hostess finally came to the front and caught up to us. She did apologize then seated us. The waitress was pretty much exactly like the bartender on our first visit. She would wasn't rude, but just wasn't pleasant either. But when we were leaving she went out of her way to thank us for leaving her a tip. So all in all I was extreamly dissapointed with the service.

The selection was certainly the best part of the visit. They have an expansive bottle list and a very carefully selected Tap list. Mostly Belgian style but a few IPAs and big stouts to keep everyone happy. I got to have some Abyss, their own special Sour, La Rulles Estivale, and some other Belgians since I was there. Very good selection, but the glasses weren't very big for each beer we got.

The food was pretty good, I wasn't blown away, but it was pretty tastey overall. We got some Frites the first visit, I got a chicken/apple sausage and my wife got a salad. Portions weren't really very big, but adaquate.

Value wasn't that great, not really big portions on food or beer. Which suprised me based on how many diffeent sized glasses they had. All the big ones were just upside down hanging from the bar. Also my wife asked for some goat cheese to put on her salad, they charged like $3 for a piece of cheese about the size of a sugar cube.

I'm glad I finally got to goto a place like this, but it really didn't live up to the hype. I wouldn't go back until I knew the tap list and there was something I knew I wanted (which is very possible). With so many great places to go in Philly to get a beer, I'd go somewhere else, but that's just me.

AndyAvalanche, Jul 22, 2011
Photo of Nay
3.58/5  rDev -19.2%

Best Belgian beer bar outside of Europe. European indeed: crowded, smoky, with long waits for dinner. But where else can you get Cantillion and your choice of gueze. Looking for a good stout or American pale ale? Try Nodding Head a few blocks away.

Food is very good and can be inexpensive. If you like wings, look elsewhere. The wings are not Buffalo wings but full size chicken wings with a nasty, chunky, overcooked, tomato paste devoid of Tabasco, but peppery hot.

And there is a back bar with different beer on tap. This is sometimes overlooked by first-timers due to the crowds.

Nay, Oct 09, 2003
Photo of Philby11111
3.59/5  rDev -19%

I am from out of town but stop into Monks every time I'm in Philly on business. I have always loved this place as their Belgian beer selection is awesome, many drafts and an incredible number of bottles.

Typically service is good. Today service was poor. With an empty bar at 4pm, back bar tables were "for food service only." I guess my 5 belgian drafts don't equal a basket of frites. Oh well. Also, after my 4th glass I asked for a small sample to decide on my 5th. I was told "we don't offer samples." This must be a change in policy as I have always been offered samples before. I'd like to think it was just the attitude of the bartender (Mullet man with black hair) and that Tom the owner has not let overall service slip.

I will be back, but certainly only because of the selection, not the service.

Philby11111, Dec 14, 2006
Photo of assurbanipaul
3.6/5  rDev -18.7%

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?

assurbanipaul, Aug 17, 2003
Photo of GeoffFromSJ
3.6/5  rDev -18.7%

First of all, you are going here regardless of how I rank this. Let's be honest. I loved going here, but, as a local, I picked an off-hour (around 6:00 on a Tuesday) because it get's insanely crowded. It has a back bar in a small room which was insanely crowded due to a Ommegang event. My wife and I had dinner in the front and it did not disappoint either of us. The food was really good. I had the burger with brocoli rabe. Really moist on a really nice bread. The beer selection isn't incredible, but it is really good. They have a beer bible which helps explain styles and tells you what they have. It is an incredibly helpful resource and would be great for a non-beer lover.

If you are coming with a non-beer lover, be warned. Long waits may test their patience and/or love for you. At the very least, warn them about what awaits them.

Update: Monk's is starting to put on cask ale from Great Britain. Now that's cool. Very good tap selection, including a beer made just for them.

Update: Well, it is time to seriously downgrade my review of Monk's. After coming here after work at 2:15 on the Friday before Memorial Day, 4 of us went to the back bar. We were told that we couldn't sit at the largely empty tables (not enough room at the bar for us). They were reserved for people ordering meals. And after some time standing by the bar, we weren't even acknowledged by the bar tender. We left and went to Jose Pistola's and had a fun time. The bartender there here's people left Monk's for them all the time. I don't want to go back to Monk's unless someone I'm with wants to go there. Bad service affects the vibe and it affects the perceived quality of the place.

Complaints about the service are not some aberration of a few malcontents. This problem is real.

GeoffFromSJ, May 05, 2004
Photo of Shaon94
3.68/5  rDev -16.9%

This place is tiny, and by tiny I mean that if you stood in a bathroom stall you would have more room. The place is very long with two bar sections and both were mobbed. I could not even get to the back bar it was so crowded, and with that...

I found it very annoying that I could not find out what they had out at the back bar without going back there. The servers and waitresses were to busy to care and bring me a list for the back room and wading through the crowd was just not worth it. I recommend having both the front and back room tap selections at both bars instead of making the customer go to both.

Beer selection is the best that I have seen so far. So many bottles it makes your head spin with rare beers that you can get no where else that I have been so far. Monks Sour Flemish on tap was delicious. Other than that I had a couple of Belgians that I have not found anywhere else and they were VERY good. Our waitress seemed very knowledgeable about what beers were what and had recommendations which I love.

Service otherwise was about what I would expect considering how packed it was so no complaints.

The food was no where near as good as people had lead me to believe. I mean it was tasty enough, but average at best, the mussels were very tough but had a good taste. Their fries were soggy with oil.

This place is a great place to go and get really rare and hard to find beers. Other than that I will not be rushing back any time soon.

Shaon94, Jan 09, 2009
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Monk's Café in Philadelphia, PA
98 out of 100 based on 439 ratings.