Monk's Café

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Monk's CaféMonk's Café
542 Ratings
Monk's CaféMonk's Café

Type: Bar, Eatery

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

(215) 545-7005 | map

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Ratings: 542 |  Reviews: 358
Photo of DoubleSimcoe
4.2/5  rDev -5.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

**re-reviewing Monk's, almost six years later**

I was sharing some beers with one of my better friends here in Philly and he told me, "I read your review of Monk's- so harsh...". He is right. I met him and his lovely wife-to-be there, one random night after work drinking 2007 Avery Mephistopheles and some rare goodies from Lost Abbey at the back bar. I've only had good times at Monk's ever since I moved to Philadelphia a handful of years ago.

The thing is, Monk's can be the worst beer jawn in the world if you're an out-of-town beer aficionado who is hopping to drink all the Russian River and buy as many Cantillon bottles as you can in your one-hour visit.

The space is dark and dirty and crowded. Bartenders will frown upon you and ignore you. Tables are only for dining. They may have a shitty draft list the day you happen to be visiting.

But if you are a local, things change. It is not fair, but it is how it works. You'll come here four of five times a year (no more than that to avoid the risk of being disappointed) when the taps are on fire or there is a special event. The bartender will respect you, because now you are neighbors and you abide by the Monk's rules. You'll flip through the worn-out and beer-spilled Beer Bible and feel like dropping stacks on stacks on a rare bottle and play like a baller...

Then you'll appreciate Monks and re-review it for what it is, a Philadelphia treasure (just like Independence Hall) we are proud to have even though we don't visit that often.


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...

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Photo of slander
4.28/5  rDev -3.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

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.

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

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.

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

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!

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Photo of Sammy
4.05/5  rDev -8.8%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

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.

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

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.

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Photo of InspectorBob
4.75/5  rDev +7%

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
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.

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Photo of WillieThreebiers
4.25/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of jmdrpi
3.7/5  rDev -16.7%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4.5

stopped by Monk's Cafe again for the first time in probably five years. Hasn't changed much.

The positives:

Great beer selection, high quality taps and bottles. Some stuff you can't get anywhere else.

The negatives:

Small, the place is the width of a row home. So if you don't have a seat at a table or at the bar, there is no place to stand without constantly being in the way of servers or other patrons walking by. The hipster bartenders seemed annoyed to have to serve you. Draft prices weren't too bad, but the bottle prices can be crazy. Double the price I can pay at a bar in the suburbs.

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Photo of Rifugium
4.68/5  rDev +5.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

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. Service is typically on the ball, and usually events are handled with expert precision. Jodi is my favorite bartender of all time. 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. Regardless, Monk's is a Philly MUST, and a true slice of craft beer history. Most of what made/makes Philly great for craft beer is due to the influence of Monk's back in the day.

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

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Photo of John_M
3.9/5  rDev -12.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

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.

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Photo of sholland119
3.28/5  rDev -26.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 1.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3

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.

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Photo of dbrauneis
4.79/5  rDev +7.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 5

Photo of GJ40
4.43/5  rDev -0.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

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.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
4.9/5  rDev +10.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

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.

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Photo of BeerForMuscle
4.36/5  rDev -1.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.25

After attending Monk's many times I decided to review the place. This place hold up to its reputation. It is certainly one of the greatest places to find and enjoy beer. From beer enthusiasts to first timers, there is a beer for anyone. The beer selection is vast. Tons of bottles and superb draughts. You can find anything from mild session beers to rare vintage gems. Ontop of the phenomenal beer selection, the food is awesome too. Ive tried just about everything there and it has always been good. The portions are plentiful and the food is prepared well. This is the type of place where you can tell the people there care about whats inside. A very low key chill spot with a fancy 5 star selection. Always a favorite.

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Photo of Yetiman420
4.94/5  rDev +11.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

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

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Photo of StoutSnob40
4.56/5  rDev +2.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.5

Photo of seanchai
4.25/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of orangesol
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

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.

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Photo of nickfl
4.06/5  rDev -8.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4.25

This place has a great vibe, provided it isn't ruined by being literally packed full of humanity. It is decorated nicely in what I would describe as "Belgian Pub" style, but it is kind of tiny. There is a second bar and some more seating way in the back, past the bathrooms which may be less crowded if the front is packed, but it is a small place and it seems like it may just get too busy to really enjoy at peak hours. When we were there it was too full and service was all but non existent, which wasn't really their fault, though they really could have had another couple of bar tenders on duty. The draft selection wasn't huge and some of it was pretty meh, but there were a couple of real stunners on there to make up for the "I can get that anywhere" kind of stuff. Didn't eat but it seems like it would be worth going back to try that aspect. Really not my best philly beer experience, but I'd like to give it a try again some time when its a little less crowded.

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Photo of yemenmocha
4.83/5  rDev +8.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

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.

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Photo of jjboesen
3.43/5  rDev -22.7%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 1 | selection: 4.5 | food: 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.

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Photo of acurtis
4.38/5  rDev -1.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5

Stopped in for dinner and a few beers Friday night. First time but we knew it would be packed so we got there 6ish. It is dark and snug. Hostess was pleasant and the wait time was less than we were told, I think it was about 20 minutes. I checked out the taps at the front bar and got my friends a Duvel Green, Corsendonk XMas and Allagash White. I like darker beers and there wasn't any porters or stouts at the front bar. I later learned the back bar had DFH WWS 2005 on tap. One complaint is there was no tap list for the back bar anywhere which leads me to believe that you can't order from that bar while dinning in the main dinning area. I could be wrong about this.
FOOD: Our party (5) ordered 3 different burgers and 2 large pots of mussels. The food was outstanding and there had to be 60 mussels in one large pot, a small pot would have been enough. Frites were also very good.
Service from the front bar was attentive but non communicative.
Service at the table was excellent, waitress was fast, keep our drinks full and friendly. Difficult to rate because table/food service would be 4.5 and front bar service more like 3 I didn't see the bill so I'm not sure how much it was but food menu prices were very fair. Drink prices might have been a little high but if I stop back in here again it will be mainly because of the food. The beer is just a bonus.

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Monk's Café in Philadelphia, PA
Place rating: 4.44 out of 5 with 542 ratings