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
monkscafe.com

Notes:
PLACE STATS
Average:
4.44
Reviews:
372
Ratings:
571
pDev:
9.68%
View: Place Reviews
Reviews: 372 | Ratings: 571 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by TheLongBeachBum:
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TheLongBeachBum from California

4.2/5  rDev -5.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 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.

Sep 04, 2005
More User Reviews:
Photo of Knapp85
Knapp85 from Pennsylvania

4.66/5  rDev +5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Monk's is a staple visit when visiting inner city Philly. It's not the biggest place so sometimes seating is a bit tight or non-existent but I enjoy the vibe they have. The service it great and the selection is truly hard to beat. I highly recommend this place for anyone who's either just getting into beer or if they're a seasoned veteran in the craft world.

Jun 25, 2020
Photo of slasich
slasich from Pennsylvania

3.85/5  rDev -13.3%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4 | service: 3.75 | selection: 3.75 | food: 4

May 16, 2020
Photo of cratez
cratez from Canada

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

Jan 30, 2020
Photo of Sheppard
Sheppard from Virginia

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.

Jan 03, 2020
Photo of gordavidson
gordavidson from Maryland

4.56/5  rDev +2.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.5

Dec 27, 2019
Photo of sjones5045
sjones5045 from Pennsylvania

4.56/5  rDev +2.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 3.75 | selection: 5 | food: 4.25

Nov 19, 2019
Photo of Sabtos
Sabtos from Ohio

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.

Sep 24, 2019
Photo of TrojanRB
TrojanRB from California

4.84/5  rDev +9%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5 | food: 4.25

Sep 05, 2019
Photo of Samnem
Samnem from Georgia

4.73/5  rDev +6.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.75

Aug 11, 2019
Photo of Mikemcgrath4
Mikemcgrath4 from North Carolina

4.61/5  rDev +3.8%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Came to Philly just to come here. Different than expected, but did not disappoint.

Jul 15, 2019
Photo of Noelito76
Noelito76 from New York

4.98/5  rDev +12.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

Apr 05, 2019
Photo of hozersr
hozersr from Pennsylvania

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.

Apr 03, 2019
Photo of atlbravsrno1
atlbravsrno1 from New Hampshire

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

Mar 25, 2019
Photo of Ampman69
Ampman69 from New Jersey

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.

Mar 16, 2019
Photo of RollTide7
RollTide7 from New Jersey

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.

Mar 13, 2019
Photo of Evan93
Evan93 from Pennsylvania

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.

Feb 06, 2019
Photo of CanConPhilly
CanConPhilly from Pennsylvania

4.63/5  rDev +4.3%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

Jan 27, 2019
Photo of JamFuel
JamFuel from Sweden

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.

Jan 05, 2019
Photo of vfgccp
vfgccp from New York

4.63/5  rDev +4.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Dec 15, 2018
Photo of npolachek
npolachek from New York

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!

Oct 21, 2018
Photo of TTripp725
TTripp725 from Pennsylvania

4.48/5  rDev +0.9%
vibe: 3.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Oct 14, 2018
Photo of Bouleboubier
Bouleboubier from New Jersey

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.

Sep 25, 2018
Photo of brewme
brewme from Massachusetts

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!).

Aug 25, 2018
Photo of q33jeff
q33jeff from New Jersey

4.91/5  rDev +10.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75

Aug 03, 2018
Monk's Café in Philadelphia, PA
Place rating: 4.44 out of 5 with 571 ratings