In short, I was hungry and turning into a monster, so ducked into the first place I saw that had something on the menu I could eat. Without a snack or a little nibble every three hours, I become irritable and emotional - even to the point of crying. So, into Monk’s we go.
Stepping into the dark, dirty (more on that later) bar atmosphere of Monks on a beautiful, sunny afternoon for lunch just didn’t feel right. Maybe if I were an alcoholic that spent my days recuperating and recharging in the low light of bars, Monk’s would have felt like a warm, friendly blanket. Or maybe if it were cold and overcast outside, so the transition would have been less drastic. No matter, I was just happy to be minutes away from eating.
Seated in the nook across from the bar, we look at the paper drink menus on the table, only these paper menus look like they’d been trampled on the floor at a concert. These drink menus were dirty waaay beyond a few splatters of beer. Should I touch this? Does Monk’s not have the money to go to Kinkos?
On the food menu (not nearly as dirty, but still in need of replacement) they’ve got your standard vegetarian pub offerings: basic salad, French fries, portabella sandwich, and a veggie burger. They’ve also got a vegan burger, a vegan tempeh sandwich, and vegan portabella “lasagna.” It was these last items on the menu that got me in the door, not because I necessarily wanted to order them, but I thought that since these items were present, Monk’s at least aims to please vegetarians and vegans.
Hmm…veggie burger or portabella burger? I rarely (ha) see these on menus, so was torn. I went with the veggie burger. Monks has lots of paired toppings to choose for your burgers, though. Do I want the Abbot with Boursin and sprouts, the
I went for the Monk’s veggie burger with caramelized leeks and blue cheese. Sounds good, right? Imagine hot, sweet, caramelized onions and tangy blue cheese on the top a warm burger – kinda like this visual here.
I was fully expecting the flat, perfectly round veggie burger you get from the freezer section, so there was no surprise there. I didn’t expect a burned veggie burger – it’s not meat, you barely have to heat the thing. I also wasn’t expecting cold leeks that looked like someone pressed firmly onto the burger, and tasted like, well, nothing. That blob of blue cheese was insulting. I drenched my burger in the spicy sauce that came with the fries to add flavor that the leeks and blue cheese should have contributed, but didn’t. The bun was good, but they get those from a local bakery.
My partner ordered the vegan tempeh sandwich on whole wheat bread. The sliced sandwich bread could not stand up to the heft of the smoky tempeh, tomatoes, and few leaves of lettuce. The sandwich had to be secured by two hands pinching all sides to keep the contents from falling out, and the bread from flopping. This sandwich needed a heftier bread. As one who takes a sandwich to work almost everyday, I don’t ever care to see sliced bread when dining out, and would have asked for a substitution, but…this was not my sandwich.
The side of Belgian fries was limp and greasy. Aren’t Belgian fries supposed to be crisp because they’ve been fried twice? Also, every single fry was no longer than an inch or so, and many were mere nubbins. These fries were only suitable for drunks who didn’t care what greasy carb they threw down their gullet – with a fork, off course, because they were too tiny to hold.
After our dissapointing meal, I was at least filled with food and back to my normal self. I was able to focus on other things than filling my belly, so turned my focus to the interior of Monk’s. The small windows beside me were covered in torn plastic, and the window sills were covered in dust. The walls were splashed with all sorts of food and there were twelve or so gnats perched on the wall about three feet above our table. I expect dirty walls and general filth at concert halls and dive bars, but Monk’s serves food! Ick.
Monk’s cares enough to get us vegetarians and vegans in the door, and oblige us with something to gnaw on, but they don’t care to actually give us something of any worth. I will only be back to Monk’s if I’m dragged there by beer-drinking friends, and then only to drink. There are much cleaner Belgian gastropubs in Philly that serve better veggie food. And, please, hire a cleaning crew, and send someone to Kinkos.
Monk's Cafe, 264 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA, 19102
Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.; Sun. brunch, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m; Sun. dinner, 5 p.m. - 1 a.m.