Tap Room Tour: Monk's Cafe, Philadelphia
I had the good fortune of visiting the famed Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia last week. I'd been there a couple times before, but that was prior to my visit to Belgium and my profound love of Belgian beers. And while I remember respecting the place, I absolutely did not appreciate the place for what it is.
Monk's is one of the best beer bars in the US. To start, the beer list is unmatched. I've known for years that Philly is a big beer town, a market that attracts the best beers from around the world, and nowhere is it more evident than after a quick page through Monk's beer "bible." They have about 20 beers on tap, including Pliny, Blind Pig, and Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour, which is brewed as a tribute to the bar by Brouwerij Van Steenberge in Belgium and which was delightful on draft. The bottle list has over 400 bottles including about 5 Cantillon selections (the owners have a good relationship with Jean Van Roy and he helps ensure that they are well supplied). And the prices are totally reasonable (we paid about $25 for a bomber of Cantillon Geuze, which is about what I'd expect to pay at retail).
In addition to the beer list, the place is really set apart by the ambiance of the interior. It truly feels like a hopping beer bar in Brussels or Bruge, with a warm, cozy interior, low lighting and a friendly staff. The walls are adorned with delightful souvenirs that the owners likely picked up in their travels in Belgium and are a great touch.
The food is delicious. On this visit, we stuck to a few varieties of mussels (with frites, of course), which did not disappoint. On a prior visit I'd had a burger which I remember as tremendous as well. Though a bit heavy, you can't go wrong having dinner at the place.
All in all, an incredible experience that lives up to the hype and which should not be missed by any beer fan visiting Philadelphia. I'd leave the kids at home though, as the place gets packed and there's not a lot of room for kids to entertain themselves.