La Trappe Cafe
Taps: 15 / Bottles: 250
Cask: N / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 55 | Reviews: 49 | Show All Ratings:
5/5 rDev +12.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5 | $$
It pains me to write this review.
Yes, I use sites like Beer Advocate, and I scour the web for details about bars and breweries in places that I am traveling to. But I've also seen how a lot of the great places become overwhelmed with crowds and become a less appealing destination.
I don't want that to happen to La Trappe.
I want them to be successful, so that they are around for me to enjoy for a long time ... but not too successful, if you know what I mean.
That said, La Trappe is simply one of the best Belgian beer bars in the world. And I've been to a lot of them. Bruges t' Biertje. Kulminator. In de Vrede. Beer Circus Croydon (RIP). Belgo Zuid (RIP ... the only Belgo that ever really mattered). Brewer's Art in Baltimore. The Trappist in Oakland. In de Wildeman. The Gollem. Academie de la Biere (Paris), Delirium Cafe and Tap Room. I could go on, but off the top of my head that's a good top 10 list. And not to mention countless others with vast beer selections that were not necessarily Belgian focused.
La Trappe in San Francisco is less than a year old, but it is well on its way to establishing itself as one of the best Belgian bars in the United States ... or for that matter, the world.
Indeed, it is almost as if Belgium has annexed 800 Greenwich Street.
Why do I give La Trappe such high marks?
Well, of course, the beer comes first. Their growing beer list has over 200 beers ... mostly Belgian, with a few interesting Belgian inspired American offerings, such as Jolly Pumpkin La Roja. 15 rotating taps, including my new favorite, Zoetzuur.
Second, there's the atmosphere. When you first walk into La Trappe, it doesn't impress you all that much. You're going to think that you're in the wrong place, a simple neighborhood eatery. Look for the steps leading downstairs if the kitchen staff doesn't point you in that direction. The steps take you down into the beer cave ... a.k.a., the Trappist Lounge ... where beer nirvana awaits.
If you're there with a group ... or a date ... what a great place to hang out.
If you're flying solo ... definitely hang at the bar. I've met some really interesting people there, and some very bizarre people as well. The Irish guy whose job is transporting federal prisoners was a real hoot ... I don't know how much of what he said was real, and how much was delusional, but it doesn't really matter.
This should be enough information to get you to pay a visit to La Trappe ... but wait, there's more.
How about some authentic Belgian food?
Yeah, it's a restaurant too. The moules and frites over coconut jalapeno rice rocks. I have a hard time ordering anything else. There are other traditional moule pots as well ... waterzooi ... oysters on the half shell.
And their fish soup is the best that you'll find west of Bruges. Well, it will be. That is the only thing missing. So when you visit, be sure to ask Michael about the fish soup. Once that's added to the menu, the perfect Belgian bar and restaurant will finally exist.
It pains me to know that the next time I visit La Trappe, it'll probably be hard to get a seat at the bar. But on the other hand, if fish soup is on the menu, that's a small price to pay.
06-14-2008 19:18:33 | More by skippythelizard
5/5 rDev +12.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5 | $$$
My sister-in-law took my wife and I here when we stopped in SF as part of our honeymoon trek across California in September. I am so glad that she did.
The is by far the best beer bar that I have ever been too. Located in the lower area of a restaurant, once you walk down the stairs you are entering belgian beer heaven! There is a small bar with I think about 8 seats and in front of you is a vast collection of coolers and taps that consist of pretty much all belgian or belgianesque beer. Of course all of their beer is served with appropriate glassware. I recall having a DT, La Chouffe, Affligem Tripel and Piraat, all on tap. They had pretty much anything you could want in bottles and a good selection of American micro beers too. There was absolutely nothing I would change about the selection options.
The atmosphere is dark and mellow which is perfect for beer drinking and conversation.
We went here two straight days and got there when it opened at 6. Both days we were fortunate enough to find seats at the bar. The first day we were served by one of the owners, Mike, and we chatted with him for hours about beer, food and life. He shared about 4 beers with us too. The next day we were served by the other owner who had returned the night before from Belgium. It was busier that day so his attention was divided between us and some of the other customers, but we ended up sharing a couple of beers with him and some of the other patrons. He had some interesting stories about the trappist breweries he visited on his trip. You couldn't ask for better bartenders/owners.
We had some belgian fries on the first day which were excellent and came served with about 4 different dipping sauces. I think they served dinner's too but we had already eaten both days we went.
They also had a wonderful beer book that I spent hours reading in my quest to decide just what my mind and belly wanted to drink. I thought about taking one with me but decided that it must be left and shared with the masses.
The only down side is that you are going to pay a lot of $ to drink here. As I recall, the beers on tap about $7-10 a pop, and some were ever more. But its money well spent.
A must see if you are in SF and enjoy Belgian beer. We will definitely go back when we visit.
01-24-2009 20:47:43 | More by wieserjd
5/5 rDev +12.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | $$$
Visited multiple times during SFO beer tour 2010.
One thing a number of Beervana residents know is there are no good Belgian Beer bars in PDX. While I haven't ventured north to Brouwer's in Seattle, and haven't done the full tour of SoCal Belgian establishments, I can say without equivocation that for those with Belgian/Trappist leanings, this place is an absolutely essential visit when in San Francisco.
While the beer prices are a bit on the high side, they are certainly more reasonable than the other Belgian establishments in the city. I was able to taste a wide variety of Belgian(style) beers, RR Consecration, Lost Abbey Red Barn, and some hard to find Belgians, Kapittel Pater, and the usual suspects, Affilgem, etc. There was an extensive list of Bottles, while priced a bit on the high side, were all of high quality. The beer list is quite informative for those new to the Belgian beer scene.
The help was outstanding, the owner quick to converse about the intricacies and character of the beers I was enjoying, and his head female bartender extremely knowledgeable and nice, especially the evening when I had to endure beer newbies who decided to use one of the the ten stools at the bar as a coat rack.
Don't waste time in the dining room upstairs, all the action is downstairs where the bar is located, dark, dank, cool beat era jazz music, a pretty loud and boisterous crowd. Table service is available for those eating, with a comfy lounge with couches in the back corner for those looking to chill. A really cool vibe.
While I didn't eat the food (I was tres bummed that the carbonnade had been pulled off the menu a couple of weeks before my visit, they featured really authentic Belgian food, the special the night I was there was a roasted beet and blood orange salad. Frites were flying out the kitchen, very generous portions. This would certainly be a good place to do a full fledged beer and business dinner if your clients are that cool.
Overall, this is one of the best bars I've been in. If I had the money and the location I'd try and replicate this place. Hey, are you looking for a business partner?? World Class. Highly Recommended.
04-04-2010 00:13:30 | More by jdense
5/5 rDev +12.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | $$
When the economy was flipped on its head in late 2008, I was laid off from my first job while living in San Francsico, CA. I ended up discovering La Trappe during my FUNemployment and spent a nice chunk of my unemployment benefits relieving my sorrows with the finest beer selection I've encountered in Northern California.
Walking into La Trappe it looks like a typical open kitchen dining establishment, walk down the winding staircase and then you will arrive to the famous beer cave at La Trappe. Mike took great care in redesigning his family's old Italian restaurant into a very relaxing and beautiful bar. The building itself was built in the early parts of the 20th century and the original bricks go very well with the new bar.
I spent at least 2 or 3 days a week for a 3 month period at La Trappe and got to know the two owners Mike and Mike. They are very knowledgeable and helpful and love to talk shop when it comes to beer, especially Belgian and European style beers.
They're very good about rotating in new beers on there tap and have usually have 1-2 rare Belgian beers on tap that you won't see anywhere.
Their bottle list is also exceptional and if you decide to come here make sure to give yourself plenty of time to sit down and go through their extensive "beer bible" which breaks down all the bottles they carry in their store. They have the book availble online in PDF format and it is HUGE so take a look before you come in, for the non-web savvy you can find it here:
The best time to go to La Trappe is on a weekday or weekend afternoon. Evenings from Thurs-Sun are a bit hectic in their and you won't get a chance to talk shop with Mike and Mike. Check out La Trappe, you won't be sorry!
07-23-2010 18:34:07 | More by manthedan
4.95/5 rDev +11.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5 | $$
I came here for dinner with my wife. As others have mentioned, the downstairs area has great atmosphere with all of the exposed brick and arched ceilings. There were a few people eating upstairs, but in terms of atmosphere it was totally different. It's too bad they haven't been able to recreate this upstairs as that would double their space.
The bottled beer list is extensive, 40+ pages, dominated by belgian or belgian-style beers. There were also about 20 beers on tap. I had a draft Koningshoeven Quadruple, which was delicious. Between the two of us we had 6-7 beers and they were all served in the matching glassware as well.
All of the food we had was great. We start with some oysters and a plate of belgian cheeses. My wife had mussels ($16) and I had a rabbit stew ($21) both of which were excellent.
While this isn't the cheapest place to eat or spend the night drinking, considering the quality of the food and beer you are getting, I though it was a pretty good value.
08-11-2009 18:18:14 | More by belgianbeerlover
4.93/5 rDev +11.3%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $$$
Visited both lower bar and upper restaurant. Got there shortly after the bar was opened at 5, and later went upstairs for dinner.
Atmosphere: Cozy little joint downstairs. Plenty of tables, but it fills up fast. The bar chairs were already filled up when I got there 15 minutes after it opened. All wood and brick downstairs, with booths and small tables for parties anywhere from 1 (myself) to 8. Impressive layout of Belgian beer signs and glassware behind the bar suggesting this is Belgian beer heaven outside of Belgium. Upstairs (well, ground floor really, it's where you enter) is equally cozy - not many tables, but well lit and airy with a high ceiling and kitchen nearby. The downstairs is a place to have several beers and dwell upon them. Upstairs is just what you want when you get hungry after those beers - food is emphasized but you still get the great beer.
Quality: I don't think I can do this place justice on the quality of the beers available. Rare and great Belgian beers and Belgian style beers from around the world here. "No crap on tap" would be an accurate statement to make here. The only trappist ale they didn't have was Westvleteren.
Service: Very friendly given the small staff (2 behind the bar, 1 roaming) versus the large clientele (every table and chair filled downstairs). I watched the servers listen to the orders, look for the right glass, pour it, and if it spilled over, they even got out the knife to level off the foam from the top and then wipe down the glass. I watched another bartender open a corked bottle for a party of four and then proceed to serve them at the bar leaving the sediment behind. Later when I went up for dinner upstairs the waiter was equally friendly and made sure I got everything I needed without being too hovering.
Selection: 15 different beers on tap - way too much selection. It was hard to pick what to have on tap. The bottle menu was even longer - broken down alphabetically by country with the Belgian selection alone taking up probably 15-16 pages in the huge beer menu. Far and away the most extensive beer menu I've ever seen.
Food: Good and tasty. I wasn't very hungry so I ended up having the beer and cheese soup and the sliders as they were out of the puff-pastry chicken. The food went very well with the beer I was having at the time (Petrus Winterbier) and the portion sizes were just right.
For value....The beer prices were high for a 25cl or 33cl glass, but....if you're paying for this selection imported all the way from Belgium you're going to need to be willing to pay. Food prices I would say are quite reasonable, but beer prices - this is a place you save up for a treat, not an every night experience. Well....I would love to drink here every night but I know I would quickly wreck my banking account on this place.
01-27-2013 03:58:18 | More by damndirtyape
4.9/5 rDev +10.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4 | $$$
Normally I wouldn't start a review with the atmosphere. I'll put up with a lot for a great beer list but... La Trappe is way cool. You walk in upstairs and there's the kitchen and some dining tables. You could stay upstairs if you want, but take the spiral staircase into the cellar. That's where the bar is and it's all exposed brick and dark paint colors and dim lighting. It felt to me like drinking a catacomb or the basement of some cathedral somewhere. Loved it.
Then there's the binder sized beer list that is of course 85-90% Belgian with a handfull of other European and a few outsanding U.S. Belgian styles plus Unibroue. There's plenty of rare beer on the list to keep you interested but the really rare is very pricey. Not a complaint at all but there were a few things that I really wanted that were out of my league price wise.
For the service, we were told when we sat down that service in the Lounge area (dark, brooding and even romantic) was self service at the bar. But after ordering beers and a snack and chatting with the servers and bartenders for a bit at the bar they did table service for us. (I had one of those, "They know I'm a beer guy and they love beer too so we have a mutual respect" type of vibe.)
My price rating is more for the rarities. The taps and most bottles are reasonably priced. But they also have some really great lambics, limitted releases and large format bottles that are expnsive but not out of line for the rarity.
I only get to S.F. once a year or so but this is now (with the Toranado) on my must visit list. Great Place.
12-28-2008 08:52:36 | More by czechsaaz
4.9/5 rDev +10.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5 | $$$
Downstairs is reminiscent of a cozy local European bar. I was there early on a Friday to enjoy happy hour and have some nice Belgian beers. The service is spectacular, if you are looking for a bartender whom knows something about the beers he/she is pouring. He poured several Flemish sours before I made a choice on a beer. Throughout my session, he poured up several Belgian style IPAs to try. Selection of Belgian beers is great. They don't offer as many American style Belgian beers as they could (I spoke to the owner about this and he said it is because "It doesn't sell and it ends up sticking around to long"). The hamburger and fries that I had were tasteful. I appreciated the different dipping sauces for the fries. The food overall looked flavorful, but most meal are above $20. The prices on the beers from draft ranged from $6 to $9 Overall, one of my favorite bars for Belgian beers (Just for a reference, others include The Trappist in Oakland and Brouwers in Seattle).
02-25-2009 03:53:53 | More by mfinster21
4.86/5 rDev +9.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | $$$
The high reviews for this place did not disappoint. When I saw that La Trappe had displaced City Beer, Monk's Kettle, Toronado, and The Trappist as the #1 beer bar for San Francisco in BeerFly, I was quite skeptical. How could this new Belgian beer bar be better than all those great bars? Well, I'm here to tell you that it is. This is a first-rate, top of the line, beer bar. It should now be the first beer destination for anyone visiting this fine city.
La Trappe is located in North Beach, on the corner of Columbus and Greenwich. When you walk in there is a small restaurant serving Belgian cuisine such as mussels. After you descend the spiral staircase, you realize that you are in pure beer heaven. Belgian beer memorabilia covers the walls. It is a dark and cozy lounge atmosphere. There are comfortable booths everywhere to relax and enjoy their fine beers. The tap selection is first rate. 18 beers on-tap, mostly Belgian. Check their website as they update their tap list frequently. They also have a bottle list that is encased in a thick book. The selection is easily approaching 200 bottles. The book is very well organized. Most beers are served in the appropriate glass.
This place is highly recommended. Stop in and check out this new bar which can now proudly hold the title of best beer bar in the Bay Area.
03-10-2009 16:04:05 | More by willjschmidt
4.8/5 rDev +8.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | $$$$
When I first walked in I noticed a large open kitchen with some servers standing around and a few tables with no one eating. Then I spotted the staircase and heard a bit of crowd in the basement. So I headed down and saw a cool little area, plenty of brick loads of tables, and a very tiny bar. Very laid back and comfortable.
I took the last bar stool and was handed a large book from the bartender. This beer list covers a large quantity of belgian beers that you can't find in other areas of San Francisco (based on my 8 days here). There were over 10 beers on draft, mostly belgians like Val Dieu, Affligem, and LaChouffe, but some others from Victory, Ommegang, and Sierra Nevada's Life and Limb 2. There is no liquor served here which was a problem for my friend that didn't drink beer. The beers I had were super fresh but expensive which I didn't mind for the one time visit.
I did not have an opportunity to eat any food, but what I saw coming out looked very good. The service was prompt and extremely knowledgable which made the experience better. I could see this place getting very crowded on the weekends, but mid-week it was not too crowded.
Luckily a cable car stop is right outside the building, allowing me to jump on to get back to my hotel on the other side of the city.
10-21-2011 11:43:44 | More by Gavage
La Trappe Cafe in San Francisco, CA
97 out of 100 based on 55 ratings.