Well, Children of the Poo-Corn, it’s time for another entry, although I confess that if you’re looking for a review of a horrible meal you’re not going to get it here. For I, your humble eater, Maahk had…AN EXCELLENT MEAL! The meal in question took place at Three Monkeys Cafe on James St in Northeast Philadelphia, just down the road from Holy Family University and directly across the street from Torresdale Station. You city dwellers have no excuses – just hop on the El and it’ll dump you squarely onto the Three Monkeys’ outdoor tree-canopied patio. A finer meal will be had in no other restaurant in Northeast Philly… Seriously, this is the only serious restaurant in Northeast Philly. Five Guys, Wawa and the Dunkin Donuts/gas station hybrid are not serious restaurants.
I sallied into Three Monkeys on the warm, dry evening of August 17, 2011, with two fellow diners who shall remain nameless in order to protect the guilty. I’ll call them Mom and Dad. After spending most of early dusk swearing at the evening news with a beer in one hand a Bud Lite in the other, it seemed right to forgo cooking and take a nice meal out, so “Dad,” “Mom” and I packed into Dad’s GMC Yukon Denali, one of General Motors’ more upscale Earth-rapists, and drove the mile and a half to this quaint, tucked-away bar and restaurant.
The low lighting and gilded fixtures along with the burgundy colored walls and curtains lend a certain Victorian quality to the indoor portion of Three Monkeys. Outside is equally nice, yet nothing like the indoors in either style or atmosphere. Diners needn’t worry about having the hot summer sun baring down on them as trees and canopies shade the entire terrace. Our party opted to remain indoors as we had gotten there just as the outdoor portion had filled up. And while there were enough old people inside to qualify Three Monkeys for God’s Waiting Room for the 19114 zip code, the atmosphere suited our purposes just fine. It was so good, in fact, that we barely noticed the occasional squawks, cackles and misunderstandings of the chronically hard of hearing. “Grace?! She died 30 years ago!”
I started off with a Guinness, naturally. Meat has been unkind to me lately, and I to it, so I opted for the next worst thing: Cheese. The Grilled Chimp-an-Cheese sandwich is not overly greasy and surprisingly light (in your hand) compared to grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had in other gastro-pubs. Overflowing with American Cheddar, Provolone and Mozzerella, it was so tasty that I made quick work of little bastard. The salad that accompanied it, a wiser option over heavy, unhealthy fries or chips, was also a little more upscale than you’ll find in most restaurants round these parts. No iceberg lettuce in sight – spinach, romaine, sliced carrots, tomato and cucumber, all of which I ate raw and unadorned. It was a nice segue into the cholesterol laden sandwich which was soon to stop up my…well, everything.
While my dish was quite good, I couldn’t help feeling a bit covetous of the two other meals on the table. “Mom” ordered the Tuscan wrap, which is grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and parmesan dressing wrapped in your choice of plain or spinach tortilla. It looked quite heavenly and, unless your making one yourself, I don’t know of many restaurants in NE Philly that serve up this kind of fare. While I didn’t sample the wrap, I can guess accurately, I think, that the best dish on the table was “Dad’s” chicken quesadilla. I helped myself to a slice and believe you me, you’ll want to try this when you make your own trip to Three Monkeys.
Also, I have to mention the house beer: Horny Monkey Ale. It’s a tasty red beer that goes down very smoothly – and you’ll never guess you’ve had three until suddenly you’re ordering a slice of cheesecake…and another Horny Monkey Ale.
The cheesecake was standard fare. Nothing special, but it hit the spot…that spot, just over a little, next to the left ventricular whatsit. Right there! By chasing the grilled cheese with a piece of cheesecake, I think I’ve actually INDUCED lactose intolerance on a body which, I’ve always felt, could handle the rich creamy goodness remarkably well. The sleepless night, punctuated by sharp abdominal pangs and cacophonous abdominal geshreeyehing may have converted me to almond milk for good.
While there is no movie to accompany this entry per se, I did spend the small hours watching a delightful British documentary series called Stephen Fry in America. Worth a watch. And it goes well with gastro-insomnia and a hot cup of chamomile.