When Buffalonians hear Blue Monk, they think an amazing selection of beer, but they can also think vegetarian options. You could say I run in Craft Beer circles. My friends, for the most part, are beer snobs, only dipping to mass produced Blue Light once all the other stuff has run out and that’s all that’s left at the campsite. So Blue Monk is possibly the most obvious establishment in Elmwood. While I’ve been here several times to taste the (figuratively) sweet nectars that are the rare brews at Blue Monk, I hadn’t eaten here often. Before Vegetarian Buffalo, my husband and I meet friends there and we had the best time on their outdoor patio; it was the perfect temperature on a summer evening in Buffalo. You know the type–the kind of day that we sigh and think to ourselves “It was worth the snow.” (As of today, the snow in my yard has accumulated to my height, and frankly, I think the last time I shoveled plowed ice-packed slush from my driveway, I tossed a huge chunk of asphalt onto the heap. I’m not 100% certain, because right now the ice chunks and asphalt have the same density, but this chunk wasn’t breaking up. 2015 better be the most beautiful summer Buffalo has ever seen.) Back to the first experience at Blue Monk: the service was fine. Our server ran a little slow, but the place was packed and he was very good natured when he was at our table. Our drinks remained filled and the food was incredible. They have a house-made veggie burger that I remember being unbelievably good. I should really get back there and try it again… Recently Blue Monk sounded amazing. I wasn’t certain I wanted a veggie burger, what I really wanted was a big plate of vegetables, but I couldn’t think of anywhere that wouldn’t serve up only steamed veggies (bland), and I figured Blue Monk’s hearty menu would be a good stop. We were sat immediately and our server took our drink orders shortly after, giving us several minutes to look over the specialty beer menu. You’ll need it, the menu is extensive and changes regularly. Several beers sounded good for a chilly, snowy, Sunday evening, but as soon as I saw the B. Nektar Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser, I knew that was what I wanted. My husband went for the Brooklyn Quadraceratops. While they were both eye catching beers, neither of us really wanted an entire pour, so we ordered them both as a 5 oz serving. The glasses were, in fact, adorable, and happily filled to the brim with brew. Both were absolutely amazing and, for the occasion, perfect servings (especially since I basically drank mine as if it were apple juice). My husband looked over the Blue Monk menu, but the Specials pamphlet caught my attention and I checked it out. Inexplicably, unbelievably, the last item on the Specials was Vegan Ratatouille. This classic French vegetable stew was made with celery, onion, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and tomato with aromatic herbs and spices. I couldn’t believe it, that ratatouille was exactly what I wanted. Obviously I ordered that. On the Specials Menu was a Breadhive Sourdough Pretzels appetizer served with mustard and beer-cheese sauce. Since Breadhive is amazing, we ordered that as an appetizer. It came out shortly and the soft pretzels were warm, crusted on the outside, and pleasantly soft in the middle. They were baked through completely, unlike some places. The beer-cheese sauce was very good too, made with a dark beer and savory, but I preferred the whole grain mustard myself. Our meals took a little long. Whether the ticket was forgotten or if it was due to the fact we had an appetizer, I have no idea; as a past-server I know I would never admit to which one it was. But we got our entrees and I was perfectly content to dig in. The Vegan Ratatouille was amazing. It was warm-your-soul worthy. The vegetables were thoroughly cooked, yet they still maintained their shapes. The stew was tomato based, but it was perfectly seasoned to balance that acidic sharpness the tomatoes gives off. While it was ideally mellowed with herbs, there was a little bit of heat to the stew. And finally, it was served with a small pre-sliced baguette. As my husband and I sat there, tucked away in the little upstairs corner near the kitchen, it immediately became one of my favorite dinning experiences. How does Blue Monk manage turning a hipster beer bar into a cozy European tavern? Or make it an upscale experience in the summer when everyone can sit on the patio? I suppose I’ll never know, but they certainly manage it somehow.
My husband ordered the Blue Monk Burger that was served with homemade Monk Chips with a side of Roasted Garlic & Seas Salt aioli. He really enjoyed the chips, the burger was an ideal medium-well, the caramelized onions were easy to bite through, the smokey blue cheese hit the spot, but all of this was slightly spoiled by one side of the top half of the bun being burned, which contributed a bitterness to everything that was hard to overlook. So he ate the burger most of the way through from the side that was enthusiastically toasted, until the bitterness began to sour the experience, in which case he then left the bun off and ate the rest. Waste not.
While Blue Monk isn’t a place vegetarians or vegans would dine at regularly, they are, at least, accommodating. Nearly everything that comes out of that kitchen is amazing, and the ambiance is welcoming. The servers are great and I’m already looking forward to the next trip there, whenever that may be. All in all, it’s certainly a winner.