Of Bobbleheads and Trappist Monks
Bobbleheads were the rage during the Fifties. Along with fuzzy dice, the bouncy little toys adorned young men’s cars. They also provided the inspiration for Nodding Head (1516 Sansom St.), a brewpub located above an oyster house. The tap handles are shaped like bobbleheads, and a display case full of them stands at the top of the stairway. Even though the interior was dark and packed wall to wall, we still managed to pick out President Bush, the Phanatic (the Phillies’ green furry mascot), and Snap, Crackle and Pop (of Rice Krispies fame) among them.
Nodding Head reminded us of the hole-in-the-wall pubs we’d visited in London, complete with brown wainscoting, wooden floors, and a game of darts in progress. The beer selection ranged from Grog, a dark mild ale, and 700 Level Ale (a light beer named for the infamous top deck at Veterans Stadium), to 3C Extreme, an aggressively hopped double IPA. Somewhere between those extremes we found BPA, a maltier version of an American pale ale. It was our choice for the weekend’s Best in Show.
Monk’s Café (264 South 16th St.) isn’t the beer world’s best-kept secret; many of the world’s top brewers and writers have found their way there. Nor is it a place for the antisocial. Even on a Saturday afternoon, we faced plenty of competition for seats. Rather than fight our way to the formal back bar, we grabbed seats in front and contorted ourselves to avoid becoming obstacles.
Over a Belgian-style fruit beer called Supplication, we read from our bible—our Beer Bible, that is. It’s a guide to Monk’s ever changing, 200-plus beer selection. Beers are grouped by style and country, and punctuated by commentary as tart as the house Belgian brown. Predictably, Belgians dominate the menu—all six Trappist breweries are represented—but the selection also features offbeat beers from other parts of the world, such as a milk stout and a hefeweizen from a brewery in Japan.
Monk’s boasts that it introduced the Belgian tradition of cuisine à la bière to America. The menu includes such exotic entrees as rabbit braised in Cantillon, along with less formal dishes, such as mussels served with a choice of eight sauces and pommes frites with bourbon mayonnaise.