Monk's Café

Monk's CaféMonk's Café
Monk's CaféMonk's Café
Bar, Eatery

264 S 16th St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19102-3357
United States

(215) 545-7005 | map

View: Place Reviews
Reviews: 371 | Ratings: 570 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of cratez
5/5  rDev +12.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

What I had: Russian River Blind Pig IPA, Monks Café Flemish Sour Red Ale, Russian River Pliny the Elder, and Dogfish Head Ta Henket on tap, Pan Seared Rainbow Trout for me, Caesar Salad, Roasted Chicken, and several glasses of sauvignon blanc for my fiancé.

What I liked: Wonderfully low key atmosphere in the front of the restaurant, no trouble finding seats on a Thursday night, extensive and carefully selected draft list, was elated to find two of Russian River’s best beers on tap, our waitress was warm, attentive and knowledgeable, we enjoyed all of our food and my partner liked her wine, couldn’t have chosen a better spot to celebrate our engagement.

What I disliked: I probably wouldn’t come here on a busy night if I just wanted to drink, since they reserve all tables for diners. Thankfully, though, that wasn’t an issue for us.

Would I go back? Absolutely. We had a flawless experience here and it’s clear that The Monk’s Café is a must-visit when in Philly.

Overall Rating: 100

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Photo of Sheppard
3.75/5  rDev -15.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.25 | service: 3.75 | selection: 3.5

I've been to Monk's a few times now, every time I've been in Philly lately actually, and the primary reason to go is the Russian River bottles and draft. The two bars are awkward and tight. The fact that there are two of them and if you order a beer from the other, your bartender has to go back and forth is a little awkward. The service can be a little slow in general and because of this. Monk's also relies on the old European style handwashing, but doesn't seem to have bar backs so that is also on the bartender. The place does get some rare out of town beers, but I would also say that there was a stark lack of local beers the most recent time I went. Nothing from the Philly area, which has a pretty good beer scene.

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Photo of Sabtos
3.03/5  rDev -31.8%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 1 | selection: 4.5

Good lord is this place legendarily overhyped or what! I understand, they brought a lot of hard to access beers into a big city that not many places in the country even cared to get a hold of at the time, but much of that is now old hat and they really haven't changed a thing since.

Monk's Café is a very quaint, excessively cozy, elbow to elbow "restaurant" that tries to be a bar, while both of the bars themselves are extremely short and tiny. The place smells of mussels and butter without end, which in and of itself isn't terrible, but it's also kind of weird and actually turns me off from ordering food in an unusual way, and I'm a big fan of mussels usually.

The draft list is still surprisingly small, and while the bottle list is pretty extensive, I can get almost all of it at local bottle shops these days. There's very little that's exciting, while the prices are pretty outrageous. Having Cantillon on the menu might be a big luxury in a voraciously consuming city like Philly, but there was nothing that I couldn't order online for cheaper, or get at the numerous special events hosted in Akron and Cleveland each year, (or in my cellar for that matter).

That aside, it really comes off like they have no idea what they are doing anymore. If they ever did in the past, that's gone by the wayside now. Clearly, they've had a strong love and passion for beer, particularly Belgian beer, but their hospitality and service has all but disappeared. It really wasn't that busy, but it gives the impression that it is due to the claustrophobic nature of the space. I mean, the place has like, what, 20 tables? So we had a 15 or so minute wait. Our wait turned in to 30 minutes, so what, okay I get it, it's popular. Here's the problem, as the wait drew on, I decided on a brew to order and stood at the bar, which had a few open spots but not enough for us both, so I didn't sit. After 10 minutes of leaning in and giving numerous glances and nods at the single bartender who wasn't actually very busy, our table was ready, so I said fuck it. We sat down and I placed my beer order there instead. 10 minutes later it was delivered, warm from sitting at the bar presumably that whole time, while our other beer was originally delivered to the wrong table. Does any of this sound like the service you'd expect at a place as renowned and revered as Monk's Café? Either way, $20 for two draft pours and you should practically be getting a massage with that.

Here's my problem with Monk's Café. We have bars in Akron that turn over 3x the amount of tables they do at Monk's Café, with the same amount of staff, and they do it faster and with better service. This is a landmark bar AND restaurant, in a major metropolitan area--wouldn't there be more competition in the area, and at least between servers, to do better? Don't they have a little pride in their work, or their business? This was a Saturday night, you'd think they'd be prepared to be slammed. And I wouldn't in any way call what I saw this evening as slammed. It was a pretty typical after dinner crowd to be honest, and a lighter one than I'd expected for Philadelphia. And they really couldn't handle it.

I can't for the life of me figure out why so many people fawn over or even patronize this place anymore. Just because you were told you are supposed to by the ghosts of beer past? No thanks. I'm not fan of tradition in general, but especially if whatever's good about something has faded to an unrecognizable degree. It's time to move on.

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Photo of hozersr
4.69/5  rDev +5.6%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.25 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

The look of this place gives you a feeling like you are eating in your home. Not a huge draft menu,but, what they have on tap is world class, Russian River, Hills Farmstead, just to name a few. Their bottled beer is well into the hundreds.
Food is amazing, best mussels I have very had. A must visit place when in Philly.

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Photo of Ampman69
4.45/5  rDev +0.2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.25

I'm in Philly almost every weekend. There's so many places to go. I try and hit a different spot each time. Came across Monk's this past weekend. They have a huge selection of beers from around the world, mostly Belgian. I was disappointed they didn't have my favorite, Nostradamus, but there was plenty to choose from there. It was quite busy, one spot open at the front bar so my girl sat there and I stood. Didn't venture to the back bar. We ordered a burger and it was really good plus some dessert. Definitely a good spot to hit if you like Belgian beer.

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Photo of RollTide7
4.69/5  rDev +5.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 5 | food: 4.25

My go to place in Philly. Monks has an incredible selection with Russian River (particularly Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder) regularly on tap. Also great selection of hard to find bottles like Cantillon, 3F, and others though obviously you will pay up for them, they are for onsite only though.

Note there are 2 bars, one in the front and another if you walk all the way back then down the long hallway tot he very back of the the place, frequently its much easier to find a place at the back bar and its also much nicer in ambiance too. Food is good not great, I typically get a burger and frites. Full disclosure though this place can also be very crowded and difficult to get seating even at the bars, as others note they only give you a table if you are ordering food.

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Photo of Evan93
4.55/5  rDev +2.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Vibe- Nothing special. The bar was full and they wouldn't let us sit at a table without ordering food. Kind of crappy considering our table of 4 spent almost $100 on beer and weren't there longer than an hour.
Quality- The beer quality was great and the cheese board we got was very good.
Service- The server was good. Nothing special of note.
Selection- This is off the charts. This is where this place really shines. Not very many taps but what they have tapped is usually great. The bottle list is out of this world. Lots of Cantillon, Russian River, Tilquin, etc. Lots of hard to find items.
Food- Only got the cheese board, but the food we saw looked good.
Overall- good experience, great selection. I had a good time. My only 2 negatives were the having to order food to sit at a table, and they won't let you buy any of the rarer bottles to go. I don't live close and they have things i can't get close to home, so I would have spent quite a bit on bottles to go if they allowed it.

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Photo of JamFuel
4.6/5  rDev +3.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.25

One of the most Belgian places I've ever been to outside of Belgium. Narrow room with a bar at the fron ant one at the back, with tables in between. Not a huge place, and apparently gets pretty packed. Fairly quiet when I was here.

Tap list is about 20-24 strong with a lot of European beers, especially Belgians, which makes sense. Since I live in Europe, I came for something else, namely Pliny the Elder. The list is very varied, and noone should feel unable to get something they like. Bartenders are very helpful if needed. They are also very friendly and laid back. The overall vibe at the bar was very upbeat and inviting.

Food was very nice, a take on European pub grub with a twist here and there. The pulled pork sandwich was excellent and worked well with the house Flemish sour.

Overall, a great spot that I will happily visit again when in town.

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Photo of npolachek
4.75/5  rDev +7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.25

This is likely the best beer bar I've ever been to. Tom is terrific, and every time I've gone, the bartenders have been able to recommend a beer a haven't tried that is fantastic. I love this place!

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Photo of Bouleboubier
4.35/5  rDev -2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.25

Best Belgian bar in Philly, hands down. Very consistent. First visited back in 2003/04, before I knew all that much. Had my first Rasputin upon that first visit (got it take-out, all I could afford off the bottle list at the time). Been coming back periodically ever since. Sat at both front and back bar and have eaten in each of the three sections many times over. Not really a bad seat in the house, unless you can't get a seat. Prices have jumped considerably over the years, some favorite dishes now gone (trout saison, rabbit), but it's hard to stay away for too long. Frites are usually fantastic, and the mussels are more often on point than not. The main draw - the beer - is of course the constant lure. Despite prices, I do sometimes get a bottle, but the draft list is ever-changing and usually has more tempting beers on it than I could drink in one sitting. I have been to a few events here and they're great, usually bringing out an eclectic crowd, and often offering an eclectic, can't-miss tap list. Last visited a week ago. Great beer, great company. Always on my radar. Imitators abound, can't match.

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Photo of brewme
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

Went here recently while vacationing in the area. It has a legendary reputation. Somewhat small, cramped space. Epic beer selection (Lunch & Pliny on tap when I went!).

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Photo of Summer_Swelter_Beer_Fest
5/5  rDev +12.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

Try the mac and cheese with ham and asparagus. Pairs really well with a nice Pliny the Elder. In Philly. Pliny in Philly. That alone has to get this place some major points. The staff knows beer and are really helpful with trying new styles. Really cool old school vibe that makes you feel like you're in a pub in Europe instead of a block away from the NJ train station.

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Photo of pioneer13
4.35/5  rDev -2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4

Loved the vibe here. Cozy on a chilly winter evening. Sat at the bar. Bar tender real pleasant and friendly. Had to try Pliny the Elder for the first time. Really enjoyed it. Only had one though as my bartender steered me to some other quality stuff that was overshadowed by Pliny. Glad he did. Food was excellent for what you’d expect at a bar known more for its beer selection. Loved the location on a relatively quiet block still only a few blocks from City Hall.

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Photo of VABA
4.75/5  rDev +7%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

I went there for the Pliny the Younger day, and I was very impressed with the selection of beers on tap (7 Russian River beers!) as well as a decent selection of food. The place was packed and rocking! Well worth it!

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Photo of Brianh427
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.75

Popped in on a quiet Saturday afternoon and to my delight there was a bar seat open and Russian River on tap. It was a great experience to have their beer for the first time. Could stay long but will definitely be back.

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Photo of oldn00b
4/5  rDev -9.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

Went here for the first time on a visit to Philly. They did have a fantastic selection of things I have never been able to have on tap before - specifically Russian River sours. It really was a treat. I wanted to try a couple other things (Fou Foune) but at $60 for the bottle had to pass. Selection is great, but there are certainly some high prices on the menu. Worthy of a treat or celebration but I couldn't justify it this go.

It's a nice, old school dive bar vibe. It is definitely cramped and there is very limited space if you are only drinking. I understand that tables are reserved for people eating, at the same time if you're spending enough and there are open tables without people waiting that should be an option.

Service was efficient and not unfriendly. We didn't eat so can't comment on food. I would definitely go here again though. The location is very convenient and within walking distance of quite a lot.

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Photo of daeds_714
4.41/5  rDev -0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.25

Love the atmosphere of this place. Delicious food, knowledgeable staff, great selection of sours. Also, the only place in Philly I've found that has Russian River brews on tap. Just moved to the philly area, will be visiting again.

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Photo of DuaneL
2.75/5  rDev -38.1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 2 | selection: 3 | food: 3

My boyfriend and I went here with great expectations after all we've heard/read for years. However, when we asked the waitress to bring a few samples of various beers, she looked down her nose at us and said "We don't do free samples". When we asked if there was a flight option to purchase, she said there was none, and snootily recommended we make "an informed choice" about what pint to order! We left. I have been going to beer pubs and breweries about 5 years now, and they always give you a free taste, and most are happy to do it! This was the height of snobbery; boy, they have really let their great reputation go to their heads! What a turnoff. Really too bad. I know everyone else here loves this place, but we won't be going back, that's for sure.

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Photo of cambabeer
4.94/5  rDev +11.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

I'd go here daily if I had the budget. Great vibe, really cool bartender, amazing selection (belgian rarities, russian river etc). Everyone says the food is good, but I just had beer. Like I said, I don't really like spending $9+ for a pint, but it's the right price for what they're selling and right in downtown.

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Photo of Gajo74
4.49/5  rDev +1.1%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

What a pleasure it was to visit this place. Dark but colorful, cozy, inviting; European/Belgian decor.
Friendly service, decent Belgian food and very good beer selection. I'm happy to report that you can find Russian River brews at this establishment; a rarity for the East Coast. I had a Pliny the Elder and a Blind Pig! I will definitely go back!

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Photo of WunderLlama
4.73/5  rDev +6.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 5

Drove three times around the block and finally landed a spot right in front

Belgian colors adorne the outside

Dark, word paneled interior

Very impressive beer bible , I had a de Molen / yards collaboration, delicious

I got to go back, I recommend you visit it as well

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Photo of owenwood
4.95/5  rDev +11.5%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

Two words come to mind: "as advertised"
We got there about 4:30pm on a Saturday and luckily got a table for 2 immediately. I started off with the RR Blind Pig, then the Monk's Flemish Sour and wrapped up with the Tired Hands saison. The Brussels burger & fries were above average and our waiter was outstanding. We've never had faster and more attentive service anywhere. The experience that we had at Monk's reaches far beyond the "check the box" mentality that so many folks have when they visit this place. We will certainly be back again.

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Photo of Biggiekrock627
4.97/5  rDev +11.9%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

AMAZING BEER SELECTION!! When I was there this weekend they had Hill Farmstead, Russian River, Lost Abbey(amongst many others) on tap. This is a great place to enjoy a great beer with others that like a wide selection of beer choices and rotating schedule of what is on tap.

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Photo of gholmes
4.88/5  rDev +9.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

To say that Monks is world-class is an understatement. They have an untouchable bottle list of mostly belgian beer. They also have consistent access to Russian River and others. There is a brewery in Belgium that makes a beer just for them which you can find on shelves in several cities. The atmosphere is beer focused, with no TVs, and the food is excellent. It is worth traveling to Philly just for this bar.

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Photo of KVNBGRY
4.26/5  rDev -4.1%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25

Was there for craft brewers conference. It was way too crowded. I feel like there could've been either another bartender in the front (albeit small bar) or maybe a door guy with a limit on the number of patrons. May not the best tim to visit and rate on a normal night. But this is a huge event that could've been prepared for a little better. The menu had a few solid and really interesting beers on tap. Would like to try on a normal day and also the food.

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Monk's Café in Philadelphia, PA
Place rating: 4.44 out of 5 with 570 ratings