Beer selection is top notch, including Lost Abbey, Hill Farmstead, and Russian River on draft. Bottle list was long and impressive, but had none of the 3F or Cantillon advertised. Smallish space divided between two bars, which can be annoying as no common beers on tap and no common account or tab transfer.
Huge deduction for the service, which was somewhere between apathy and outright hostility. Saturday afternoon at 2:00pm, not crowded but not deserted, No reason for poor service. Donít coast on reputation guys.
Iíve hear a lot about this place and to be honest I was disappointed. They do have a fantastic beer list and the Duck confit was good, but that is about all the positive things I have to say about the place. It is a bar but is it really necessary to play the music so loud that you have to yell to keep a conversation at the same table during dinner in the eraly afternoon and it didnít help that I didnít like the music. The waitress didnít clean our table from empty plates.
Just visited Monkís Cafť yesterday after planning on going for years. Iím glad I finally made it. It was a very good experience...not quite as lofty as the reviewers make it out to be...but still one of the top craft bars in the US...particularly when compared to Belgium craft bars. I see this place as an 86-96 rating depending on your personal craft beer interests...but like Caponeís...perhaps a few points lower than the aggregate score (I realize RateBeer ups a score over time just from the shear number of positive reviews allowing a place to outscore itís average review). Anyway...great food...great atmosphere...and extremely good Belgium beer list. Once you get away from Belgiumís things can drop off pretty quick as far as numbers of non Belgiumís...but the quality and uniqueness of those beers is certainly notable. Case in point...during me visit I was able to enjoy a couple of Russian River beers (no Pliny or Blind Pig unfortunately)...and a great 22 oz bottle of Anchorage Brewingís Galaxy White IPA...definitely a highlight (along with the mussels and frogs legs!). My only complaint...and for me itís a big one...is the fact that they wonít give you a taste of anything on draft before you buy it...which is especially annoying given they donít offer flights or even half pints or half pours...and many of the offered beers are unusual enough to the average beer drinker that some type of tasting arrangement should be made available. My job involves a lot of travel around the world allowing me to visit many different types of beer establishments and I have never run across a place that doesnít offer at least one of these 3 tasting options...although Iím sure there must be others out there (when I complained I was clearly told these were the barís policies). I find this policy unacceptable for a world class craftbeer bar...and although I like the place overall...I am not likely to revisit often. Still...Monkís is a must visit on any craftbeer loverís list...Iíve now checked it off.
Perhaps itís just me, but this place seems highly overrated. The room certainly needs refurbishment, even though itís sort of charming like it is now, the music played were far too loud even though itís a bar, and the fries they brag about are quite mediocre. Lovely mussels though. The waitresses brought the beer quite quick, but the way of cleaning the tables were strange. Seemed quite randoml what they removed, even when we were done eating only some of the plates were left and wasnít even removed when we left half an hour later. Love the beer list at this place, else itís more or less mediocre.
Have been meaning to get over here for years and happened to pick Beer Week for the first visit! Only about a twenty-minute wait in the evening, luckily, and validated by the experience. Itís another venerated institution, and yet another dimly-lit hole-in-the-wall, but lively and diverse, happy despite the cramp and bustle. Beer list is tremendous, an expansive survey of Belgium and a satisfying selection of local and upper-end American beers (one of the handful of places to reliably find Russian River east of Colorado, for example). Theyíre known for mussels and the like, but even my humble pommes and mayo-based dip impressed and, perhaps more importantly, reminded vividly of authentic Belgian/Dutch street food. Essential. [early June í15: 94]
Next two visits: great bartending from the front bar (he was especially good at helping some customers who thought they knew a thing or two about beer, but really didnít), great stuff on tap from Russian River, Hill Farmstead, De la Senne, Tired Hands, etc. Sunday afternoons a somewhat different feel from late night, at least for me -- very chill and relaxed rather than raucous, with friendly and attentive service. Great events, too! Hard for me to comprehend that some have had a bad experience here. [Sept í15: 98]
Bar is somewhat crowded and dingy but not a bad vibe overall. Service was generally friendly and knowledgeable in spite of the large crowd. Great draft and bottle list. Food was excellent, especially the mussels. Prices were a little high but not outrageous given the area and quality. Definitely worth a visit, although the place does get packed so plan accordingly.
Interior had a cozy, old world feel. It felt a little on the small and cramped side, but maybe that was a factor of it being so crowded. I lucked out and was able to score a spot at the bar just as someone got up to leave, otherwise the wait for a table would have taken awhile. The beer selection was great with the highlights for me being the Pliny and Blind Pig. I didnít really check out the bottle list, but I understand it is extensive. The food I ordered was very good. The service was a bit spotty, as it was so crowded that the bartender was kept very busy. Prices were a bit high, but that was to be expected. A great experiance overall and Iíd love to make it back there sometime.
I came by on Monday night and it was jam packed so it goes to show the popularity of this joint. Fortunately, I managed to squeeze the last spot at the bar. Shorty after, folks started to queue for the wait on tables...busy! Once I was settled, service was great. The bartender was clearly busy but handled the pressure without any issues. I was disappointed that quite a number of taps had kicked so that ruled out my first few preferences. Oh well, there were still a couple of interesting beers to try and of note the upcoming list of beers looked solid. Ordered a duck salad and it was delicious. Lively ambiance and warm, soft lighting ensures itís an inviting bar to visit.
Small place with a distinctly Belgian feel. Dim light, lots of glassware hanging from the ceiling above the bar. Their beer bible is incredible and Iím not sure you could beat the selection of you tried. Catillon bottles? Check. Assorted vintage Belgian brews? Check. The food was great, mussels were phenomenal and the bread they served along with it tasted fresh baked. The only minor gripe I had about the place was the service. Once I got in and started talking to the bartender it got better but he seemed to like to pretend people werent there. Didnít greet me when I sat down, had to ask a couple times for a beer menu over the course of at least a few minutes when I could see them stacked directly behind him.
When I visited: Late September 2014.
What I had: Russian River Blind Pig IPA, Monks Cafť 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 fiancť.
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 Riverís best beers on tap, our waitress was warm, attentive and knowledgeable, we enjoyed all of our food and my partner liked her wine, couldnít have chosen a better spot to celebrate our engagement.
What I disliked: I probably wouldnít come here on a busy night if I just wanted to drink, since they reserve all tables for diners. Thankfully, though, that wasnít an issue for us.
Would I go back? Absolutely. We had a flawless experience here and itís clear that The Monkís Cafť is a must-visit when in Philly.
Overall Rating: 100