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Monk's Café

Not Rated.
Monk's CaféMonk's Café

428 Ratings
Ratings: 428
Reviews: 328
rAvg: 4.42
pDev: 9.5%
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 

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Ratings: 428 | Reviews: 328 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of slander
4.28/5  rDev -3.2%

Our lunch destination pre-Firkinteenth, we found the place fairly dead on this Friday early afternoon. We moved past the small open area of the front bar and a handful of tables and were seated in the rear of the room. There's about a dozen tables and booths in the front room collectively, some forward near the front windows and some well beyond the bar, near the hallway that leads you to the back room, but I'll get to that. We were seated in a booth that looked to be of old church pews and ordered off the "Front Bar Draft List", all of 6 taps. I went with the Monk's Flemish Sour Ale, their own private label beer made for them by the Van Steenberge Brewery, Belgium. Sick!! Great Flemish sour, deep red color, medium body, just wonderful. Ordered a basket of frites and a Brussels burger and ventured into the corridor to see this "back room" people were talkin' about. It's a much better room, wish I'd been seated there. It's got a bar with about 8 stools and as many tables, and a different draft list, a larger draft list, a draft list twice the size of the front bar draft list. That's annoying. If you're seated up front, your choices are the Flemish Sour, and wah wah wah Leffe Brown, Chimay, Hoegaarden, La Chouffe and Piraat. You'd think these were your only draft choices. They have some of these in the back bar also, as well as Cantillion Lou Pepe Framboise, Celis' cave aged Grottenbiere, Triple Karmeliet, Lucifer, and locals Brooklyn Saison and Heavyweight Biere D'art. Back at the table, our lackluster, no fun, waiter arrives with lunch. Phil's eating something that very very recently lived in a shell. Hmmmmn.
Combing around the extensive bottle beer list, crazy Belgians sorted by style (Lambics, Trappist Ales, Biere De Garde & Saison, Flemish Sour Ales, Amber & Brown Ales, Cave Aged & Miscellaneous) and then English, German, U.S. and others. The list is nicely diverse but it doesn't look to have been updated as of late.
It's a solid joint with a great selection, an absolute must if you're in this town.

slander, Feb 27, 2004
Photo of DoubleSimcoe
3.73/5  rDev -15.6%

My second visit to Monks confirms what I had thought before: I don't get this place, and I don't really like it.

Ambience is cozy in the early morning/afternoon right after it opens, empty, nice jazz music playing. Too dark, though. Feels almost claustrophobic, and I'm alone in the room! Can't imagine how bad it'd be on a Saturday night.

Service is not this place's forte. When it's crowded, forget about getting a beer. If it's not crowded like during my visit, servers are still a little behind, like they can't keep up or don't want to keep up. And do they have an attitude, like the Monks' Beer Bible itself? Yeah, I think so. I asked the bartender about the beer offerings in the front room and he replied, "like it's not enough with the 15 taps here". Yeah? Fuck You.

They got 15 taps on the back bar and 6 on the front. Why is a bar with "only" 21 taps considered among the best in the world? I'm not too impressed. Chimay, Chouffe, Delirium, Lindemans, St Bernardus... I think I've seen this before.

Huge bottle list, with prices all over, some fair and some crazy. Rarities too (Rasputin XII, Russian River, Alesmith, aged stuff).

Didn't try food, as I'm not the biggest fan of Belgian bistro staples. Prices are out of control. Most beers are $8-$9, except for the few American taps they have, which are around $6. My small glass of De Dolle Dulle Teve was $9.90 including tax, $10.90 after tip. No, thanks.

Overall, I don't see the appeal of this place. There are better lists out there, better bars, better bartenders. Is Monks all hype? I hope not, but I won't return anytime soon...

DoubleSimcoe, Feb 04, 2011
Photo of Billolick
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%

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

Billolick, Jan 19, 2006
Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.2/5  rDev -5%

Monk’s Caf酅you’ve heard of it and you know where it is even if you have not been. ….”oh yeah Monk’s in Philly you simply have to go there”. Well finally I got a chance to spend several hours in here on my way back to Philadelphia International Airport and LAX. Fellow BA Erica offered me a lift to PHL via this establishment, parking was, well a fucking nightmare to say the least, several runs round the nearby streets offered zero street parking options, if I had known we would have circled Monk’s a few times I would have brought some weed & crack to sell to the local kids that waved at us as we passed and cruised by on a few occasions. Inevitably, as my thirst grew drier than Mahatma Gandhi’s Sandals we opted for the paid parking option, I was getting thirsty and picked up the tab, a minor quibble (the lack of street parking not me paying) but something worth thinking about if you are traveling here by Automobile also.

A short walk of a few blocks from the Parking Lot and we soon hit the front of Monk’s Café, shimmering in the early afternoon heat the tricolor canopy barely fluttered. A thin brick frontage has a “great Café in a run-down area” feel to it, similar to that of the Bier Circus in Brussels.

Once inside a small corridor opens up on your right to a door that takes you into the front room. As you open the door its acoustic deafening qualities are obvious and you are assaulted by a chitter-chattering mass sat at a variety of types of tables and chairs, the front windows let in some light but it is dark and cool, the AC is welcome. The front bar is to your left but Erica insisted that we sat in the back room, after a short walk via a wooden clad chicane we eventually got there. “The back room is much cooler” so said Erica…and she wasn’t kidding, it was fecking freezing, the AC and fans were on overload, once I chipped the ice off the stools and moved the family of Penguins we managed a couple of stools at the back bar no problem. Twenty or so taps had a great selection; I went straight for the Monk’s Flemish Sour Red Ale, a badged brew from Van Steenberge and a damn fine sour libation to boot. After that we shared a bottle of Panil Bariquée (awesome), ‘t Smijse Calva Reserva (uh!) and Proef K-O (so-so).

Here’s what I don’t get about Monk’s, the two bars, front & back, well they have two draft beer lists, two bottled beer lists…..they just taking the piss or is it some kind of competition!? Why can't they balance this somehow!?!?

Decor is Belgique, nice wood paneling, lots of Belgian breweriana which all sits nicely with the dark interior and classy looks. It’s nicely decked out for sure.

Service was barely above average and at times enthusiastic but not very attentive overall. We were in the back room and aside from the freezing effects of the A/C it was a pleasant enough experience, but the woman in here was patently overwhelmed at times and clearly “elsewhere” at others. At one point she brought in some food to eat behind the bar…..very strange, doesn’t the staff get food breaks?!?! There is something distinctly very amateurish about seeing someone eating behind a bar whilst trying to serve beer. At one point a nice quiet chap came and sat next to me, after 5 minutes of no service he just got up and moved to the front bar to get served. The woman serving had been chatting and realized this happened but sadly too late, it was not intended but still it happened. Service gets a 3.5, and I think I’m being a tad kind here.

Aside from the Service issues this really is a very cool place to hang out. The Beer list is why you come no doubt, well stocked and laid–out in a clear “by Style” fashion it makes for easy reading. The food that was served looked great, including the steamed Mussels, but I opted for beer only as I had but a few hours before my flight. I’ll eat next time though I think, assuming there is a next time.

Highly Recommended for the beer list and overall experience……but not for the parking woes or spotty service, they just come with the territory I guess.

Thanks to BA Erica for the ride here and the company, always a pleasure.

Last Visit: Sunday 28th August, 2005.

TheLongBeachBum, Sep 04, 2005
Photo of NeroFiddled
5/5  rDev +13.1%

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

NeroFiddled, Jul 16, 2002
Photo of Sammy
4.05/5  rDev -8.4%

Great beer on tap, but it's not for me. I was not impressed with the dark,smokey, tight crowding in the place. I gues they maximize profit this way, and there are a lot of regulars. It was so dark, I could not see the ber in front of me. Bartenders they look after the many people, and there is a certain oddness about them, reminding me of bartenders in heavy drinking bars that need to decide when the customer has had to much, as several here had. Yuppie crowd. Great Belgium taps, set the standard across the city.

Sammy, May 12, 2005
Photo of Gavage
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%

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

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

Gavage, Sep 19, 2003
Photo of John_M
3.9/5  rDev -11.8%

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.

John_M, Apr 11, 2006
Photo of TurdFurgison
4.9/5  rDev +10.9%

I was lucky to visit on an empty Monday night, in that I got a personal tour and several beers with Tom Peters (owner of Monk's). He was generous and friendly, with loads of entertaining background about each beer I tried. The beer selection is all top shelf, about 15-20 taps and 1 beer engine (which snorted out the last dregs of Cantillon Monk's Kriek for me). The bottled list is insane, strong with Belgians of course but also including many great USA craft beers. I saw Older Viscosity but couldn't afford it in addition to the other beers on my must-try list, Ne Goeien Saison + Cantillon Monk's Gueuze + Klokke Roeland, topped of with Beatification to go. I'm sure my review won't shed any new light on Monk's, it's just a must-see if you're in Philadelphia.

TurdFurgison, Mar 04, 2009
Photo of GJ40
4.43/5  rDev +0.2%

It just doesn't get much better than Monk's for Belgian beer. The atmosphere is exceptional. I especially enjoy the back room. The longer you stay, the more you think you're in Belgium instead of Philly.

The beer selection is pretty solid as well. They have quite a few on tap and tons in the bottle. Most are Belgians but they usually have a good IPA on tap such as RR Blind Pig or BR Racer 5. This place is all about the beer and nothing gets in the way.

I've eaten there on occasion and the food is good but it's not the reason you go. I have no complaints about the service. The crowds keep them pretty busy but they manage to keep your glass full. The prices are a bit high ($6 for a pint of Racer 5) but all things considered, it's worth it.

I always enjoy my visits to Monk's. It really is a must for Belgian beer fans.

GJ40, Jun 14, 2009
Photo of sholland119
3.28/5  rDev -25.8%

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 Yetiman420
4.94/5  rDev +11.8%

In early June ’07 I was in Philly on business and had the opportunity to visit Monk’s (second and third times), Triumph Brewing, Eulogy, and City Tavern. This order is how I rank the tour and I’ve provided reviews separate reviews in BA for each.

It was a Sunday and Monday evening that I found myself at Monk’s for a second and third time. On Sunday, I visited the back bar and enjoyed a couple of tap Belgian’s and a bottled Russian Imperial Stout from a Nordic country. The $20 6oz bottle of 1993 Courage Russian Imperial Stout was so tempting I returned the next evening to pull the trigger in the front bar. While both bars have the same bottle selection, the front bar has a more domestic focus on the taps.

I give Monk’s a high rating for the following reasons:

- Well organized “beer bible.” With a ton of beers to choose from, they organize it by brewery and style which I find helpful.

- Amazingly knowledgeable staff. The bar back (young guy cleaning glasses) was able to tell me Grand Cru is not a style but the premier beer from a brewery. I questioned him on Russian Imperial Stouts and he gave me solid answers. He also said it was very hard to get a job there. A very modest guy who was a pleasure to chat with.

- Off-the-beaten-path means that the majority of people are there for a reason – the great beer

- Unisex bathrooms

Yetiman420, Jun 25, 2007
Photo of InspectorBob
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%

InspectorBob, Feb 26, 2014
Photo of Rifugium
4.68/5  rDev +5.9%

Located on 16th & Spruce in Philly. Yum... Extremely dimly lit, European atmosphere, front and back bars... Very extensive and extremely good quality beer bible, with lots of rare and limited brews from all over the world. Seriously, there are beers here you won't find anywhere else. The beer menu isn't quite as extensive as Eulogy's, but Monk's gets a lot of stuff that Eulogy doesn't. On the other hand, how often would you pay $30-100 for a rare beer? Great menu. Mussels are orgasmic. There's really no way to say who has the better mussels between Eulogy and Monk's. They're both amazing.

I suppose there is a rivalry of sorts between Monk's and Eulogy, so I'll put it this way, from my experience.

Atmosphere ... Monk's > Eulogy
Beer list (quantity) ... Monk's < Eulogy
Beer list (quality) ... Monk's = Eulogy
Beer list (rarities) ... Monk's > Eulogy
Beer list (on tap) ... Monk's > Eulogy (though this varies)
Staff ... Monk's = Eulogy (for the most part)
Food ... Monk's < Eulogy (so far from what I've had)
Location / parking ... Monk's < Eulogy

And that last point is vital, considering that's probably the factor that gives Eulogy the edge over Monk's for being my favorite bar. Would you rather go to Eulogy in Olde City and easily find a parking spot within walking distance at any time of day, or would you rather go to Monk's in Center City and spend an hour of drinking time looking for a spot within a mile's walking distance? It might not be so much of a factor if you take public transportation. :D

Monk's also owns The Belgian Cafe, in the museum district.

Rifugium, Apr 29, 2011
Photo of yemenmocha
4.83/5  rDev +9.3%

Monk's is one of the original beer enthusiast location to visit in Philly. Keep in mind there's two bars inside, so if it is busy up front you might find a cozy chair in the back.

Monk's offers extremely rare offerings at times. For example, I was able to enjoy a pint of Victory Old Horizontal that was aged for several years, served on tap here at Monk's.

Top quality local craft and a wide range of Belgian imports are the norm. Atmosphere is intimate, comfortable, and somewhat upscale compared to some places that are more like a college frat boy bar atmosphere.

yemenmocha, Jul 04, 2008
Photo of akorsak
4.3/5  rDev -2.7%

After arriving in Philly, I detoured from 30th St. here, just to guage distance. It wasn't open yet (11AM), so I made a note to stop back later. Haven't been in in years. As luck would have it, I returned a few hours later.

Atmosphere: A homey, old-world cafe. Tables and a front bar greet you immediately. Past the bar, more tables and, after a longish hallway, a second back bar. Glassware is appropriate.

Quality: Several people were chowing down on mussels when we arrived, so I knew that authencity was a done deal. The normally surly (based on other reviews) waitstaff was very friendly. Restrooms are small though...

Service: We were greeted promptly and seated at the bar. Our bartender was prompt although easily distracted by the volume of business and glasses to fill - not a big deal by any stretch.

Selection: A+. Ever walked into a bar and saw that they had 4 Russian River beers on tap? Nope? Well it happened to me yesterday. That's right, Rejection, Erudition, Defenestration, and Symposium were all beckoning me. I, of course, obliged them all (thank goodness for the train ride home). The bottle list is impressive and both bars had another 10 or so Belgian style beers on tap. Hard not to be impressed here.

Food: A full menu, plenty of mussels included, is designed to compliment the beer. We ordered a charcuterie platter and noshed on cheese and sausages. The terrine was especially nice when paired with bread.

akorsak, Jun 11, 2011
Photo of francisweizen
4.33/5  rDev -2%

Monk's is a damn good Belgian beer bar in Philly. However, I do find two things wrong with it. It is very overcrowded, and very overrated. The atmosphere is nice, and "Belgian" in nature, I suppose. Although i've never drank in a bar like this in Belgium. The dark wood, and ancient breweriana make for a nice drinking environment. Quality of the beers and food is very good, with my selection being in tip-top shape. Service was nice. A bit slow and laid back, but knowledgable and nice. Beer and food selections are both very good with about 200 bottled beers spanning the whole realm of Belgian brews, and a nice draught list of 20 or so with the more mainstream Belgians, some small batch beers from family breweries, a cask brew, and some quality US micros as well. We had an aged 750 of Fantome on out last visit. Always a winning choice. The food here was good, but I found the "Belgian" fries a bit lame and not very Belgian in nature. They did taste good though, and I do like the bourbon mayo here. The sandwitch I had was great (Portabello) and the salad it came with was nice, as was Ericas Antwerpen vegan burger. All of the food items and beers are very reasonably priced as well. A solid place, that is somewaht worthy of its praise. One big tip: Come on a weekday afternoon when it is dead or else you will be waiting for a seat forever!

francisweizen, Jan 17, 2005
Photo of blackie
4.13/5  rDev -6.6%

stopped in for dinner our first night in Philadelphia

narrow row-house type building, bar up front with a few seats and some cramped standing room, further back is the dining room, a row of booths along the left wall and tables on the right with the kitchen up a few steps from the dining floor, never made it into the back room/bar

decor features wood, low lighting, and beer paraphernalia - neons, signs, emptied bottles; quite crowded and annoyingly loud at the time of my visit, decent atmosphere but doesn't really replicate the moody, old-world Belgian atmosphere as well as some other places

a little disappointed in the draft list given all I've heard about Monk's in the past - especially the front bar, three great IPAs had been stricken from the list, leaving Damnation and TenFidy as the only items generating any interest of the 6 or so total, the back bar had a slightly longer draft list to include an exclusive gueuze that was quite good, bottle selection was nice but drafts are king

went with the vegetarian seitan cheesesteak for dinner - full of flavor and really enjoyable, frites were good if a little limp

the hostess was nice, bar service very cold, and the waiter quick and generally friendly

blackie, Mar 15, 2010
Photo of seanchai
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%

seanchai, Dec 31, 2013
Photo of Slatetank
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%

Slatetank, Aug 22, 2014
Photo of spointon
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%

spointon, Jul 10, 2014
Photo of corby112
4.47/5  rDev +1.1%

One of the best beer bars I've ever been to. They have a constant rotating selection of Belgium and American craft beers. They have about 20 taps and a bottle lis of 300+. I've been able to get Isabelle Proximus, Older Viscosity, Cuvee de Tomme, Angel's Share, Russian River(Pliny the Elder, Blind Pig IPA, Supplication) as well as many other rare beers, especially for the east coast. Their focus is primarily on belgian beers offering rare Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen amongst others. The food again is focused primarily on Belgian cuisine. They have several Mussels options, Lapin a la Gueze, etc.. Their prices are a bit high and there is not a large enough focus on american craft beers. The service can be shaky at times but is always good at the bar. Nice atmosphere, excellent selection and amazing beer dinners make this the best bar in town.

corby112, Nov 23, 2008
Photo of jjboesen
3.43/5  rDev -22.4%

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 orangesol
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%

Stopped in here on Black Friday during our beer excursion. I have been to Monk's a bunch of times, figured it is time to sit down and finally write a review.

Not the biggest place in the world to begin with but they make good use of the space. Small bar right inside the door with a few stools, a few tables all around the bar area help to complete the front bar area. A few bigger tables make up the dining room directly behind the front bar. Lots of awards and old bottles help to show the history of the bar. As you walk through the dining room you go through a small hallway and end up at the back bar, my favorite place to hide. Larger bar area than the front with a few stools and a few tables to sit at. My service has always been good but not great. When they are busy they can be really hit or miss but when they are kinda slow they can be really good.

The quality was top notch, as you would expect. From the beers to the food, no expense is spared. The food was excellent. I had a burger on my most recent trip and it was cooked perfectly and tasted great. The beer selection is second to none. I saw quite a few things on the tap list I would have liked to try but I ended up splitting a bottle of '04 Cantillon Lou Pepe - Gueuze, I know poor me. Prices are a bit high but it is Philly so that is to be expected.

Overall one of my favorite bars to visit anywhere, let alone in the city. From the food to the beer, you really can't go wrong.

orangesol, Nov 29, 2011
Photo of msubulldog25
4.35/5  rDev -1.6%

Visited from around 1:30 until about 3:00pm, 9/13/10

A short stroll on a lovely late summer afternoon leads from pre-lunch pints at Nodding Head to a heartier sit-down at Monk's, the last of my 'must-visits' on my Ph-inal day in Philly. The last scars of a recent run-in between SEPTA bus and building remain - unfinished drywall down an awkward front entry, a facade stripped of its dark awning (shown above). The result, once inside, is actually a pleasant departure from prior reviews citing a gloomy interior; at my front room table the ricocheting sunlight brought a healthy glow to the space. Overall, it's a bit more weathered than I'd expected, or 'well-loved', shall we say: a dingy gray carpet, nicked furniture, a collection of dusty bottles in the front window. Warm yellow and adobe red wainscot add some vibrance, as does the requisite bounty of beer signage.

Slow on a Monday afternoon, as if people have to be at work instead of sightseeing and drinking beer all day...sheesh, priorities?!? Seconds after sitting, over came Betsy - smiling and sweet and beer-knowledgeable to boot, she once again bursts my stereotype of surliness that I'd guessed would be more common in this city. Thank god. My final installment of 'who does she remind me of?": Velma from Scooby Doo. Yeah, Velma - I always thought she was bookishly cool, approachable, fun to hang out with. Anyway, brunette and bespectacled Betsy rocked it, service-wise...

I asked for the fabled 'Beer Bible', a lengthy list of bottled beers, and was only slightly disappointed that it was less tome and more pamphlet, ale-spattered and dog-eared. TONS of Belgian breweries are listed inside (no surprise) and several pages more of US and others with more space devoted to rarer vintages (priced accordingly, I'd guess, though no prices are listed) and some 'educational' pieces, too: glossary, styles, ingredients. After gawking a while at the 250-300 bottles, I backed out and went with a favored mainstay, Houblon Chouffe, on draught to pair with my pot of 'Ghent' mussels (my third pot in as many days, this time with a mild blue cheese and bacon slivers!), frites (with delicious peppery sauce) and green salad, dressed with Monk's own vinaigrette. Ale was a golden gem, food was all good (although not quite as stellar as Eulogy from the previous evening - no offense). I picked and nibbled and slurped my way through an, when the time came, for a refill went local...well, not really: Van Steenberge's house Flemish Ale was what I was feeling and it proved just right - light, refreshing and not debilitating for the rest of the day's wanderings.

Prices were reasonable on the grub, but on the higher side for beer. Most pours were $7.50, several higher. Among them: Plin(e)y the Elder, Racer 5, Duvel Green, Hercule, Chimay, De Ranke XX, Lost Abbey, St. Bernardus 12, La Rulles, Chimay, Allagash, Lindeman's and (of course) Monks' Ale.

As he scurried about the room, both preparing for the next night's pre-GABF dinner and dealing with a strange billing issue, I noted a guy I suspected to be proprietor Tom Peters. Sure enough, when I inquired to my server she confirmed my hunch and asked her boss to stop by the table; he did, and we chatted a few minutes about the Portland beer scene and some mutual acquaintances. Nice of him to do that. And speaking of 'nice': since it was my first and likely only visit to Monk's (this trip), curiosity got the best of me on a bathroom break and I nosily continued down the darkened hallway to the well-known back bar. Closed on a Monday afternoon, Betsy caught me in the act, then proceeded to flip the lights on and explain what was on tap and hyped some recent and upcoming events hosted in the room. [sigh, next time...].

A world class pub with a reputation well-deserved...if only I had more time, or one of these back home. Or both.

msubulldog25, Sep 23, 2010
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Monk's Café in Philadelphia, PA
98 out of 100 based on 428 ratings.