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Feb 15, 2011 11:41 PM

Monk's Kettle - just not the same any more; has lost its soul [San Francisco]

I was disappointed to hear that their founding chef Kevin Kroger left, but I figured that their new chef would continue with his own take on their excellent formula of "ingredient-driven pub food."

Instead, the food has gone upscale, with prices to match. The main section of their menu used to have mostly sandwiches in the $10-15 price range, with a few higher-end entrees.

Now, about half of the menu is over $20, and even the chicken sandwich is now a "chicken paillard"

While the food is still good, it's just not what I want. And at those prices, I could probably get a better meal at Bar Tartine around the corner (or, at leaset the old Bar Tartine, not sure how it is under the new chef).

Furthermore, the beer seems to have gotten more expensive, as a third of their draught beer is over $10 - including a 10oz. Kwak pour for $16.

The whole thing is just very unfortunate - there's already a good number of higher-end restaurants in the Mission - but perhaps they figure that they can get the same Bauer treatment the Tipsy Pig did.

While it still probably has the best beer selection in the city and would recommend it as such if someone was looking for that, it's no longer a place where you can go have a great beer and a great sandwich for not too much money.

And the wait certainly has not changed - was quoted an hour at 8:15 tonight - ended up being over an hour and a half.

Bar Tartine
561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

The Monk's Kettle
3141 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Tipsy Pig
2231 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

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  1. I am only in SF a month or two a year, and Monk's Kettle is one of my favorite places. Too bad it has gone upscale, but the only other place really comparable with it is so downmarket I wouldn't go there after 6 pm. I think what this points out is that there is really very strong demand for places like this, but too few entrepreneurs are stepping up to the plate. Hopefully we can have more places like MK and there will be lower prices and easier access to them.

    1. Passing by the other day I looked at the new menu and also wrote it off as now essentially unaffordable - when I want to spend that much there are many more options. Unless it's one of the top places in the city over $20 for an entre doesn't make sense. Have any reviews put it in that ballpark?

      They used to have a relatively large number of pretty affordable and interesting beers on tap some reasonable food options (the lamb burger was quite good). This was alongside some more expensive items but you had some nice choices.

      At the new prices I'll probably head elsewhere. Sigh, it's a shame to see a quality but value place turn into a quality (?) but high priced place.

      1 Reply
      1. re: boris_qd

        Yeah. The only person I "know" that ever tried that higher priced items at the old place was in the Chronicle review, which said they should stick to the sandwiches.

      2. The menu is definitely not as expensive as you say. I walked by the other night, and the food looked much more interesting to me than before. 4 of 5 entrees are over $20, but they're the ones with more expensive ingredients--foraged mushrooms, sweetbreads, leg of lamb, scallops. All the rest of the menu is under $20. The fries are the same price, the burger and chicken sandwich look like they've gone up $2-3 since I first went there three years ago. I suspect the ingredient quality and execution is much higher now, based on my glance at the menu. You didn't say a word about the quality of the food--just the price.

        Yes, the beer list on drought is now nearly 1/3 above $10, but I price-checked the most expensive item, and it's 1.7x the same item at BevMo in a bottle. (600 mL Firestone Walker 14) That seems like a reasonable markup. Are you saying they are gouging on price, or just that they offer more expensive and higher quality options than they did before?

        6 Replies
        1. re: SteveG

          I guess rather then markup I'm considering overall cost. There used to be more lower - midrange options (that were still quite tasty). Markup is irrelevant if I can't afford the item to begin with.

          In the higher price range there are many topnotch items so the execution really needs to be perfect - we need some solid reviews to see if it merits the higher prices.

          But I liked being able to stop in and treat Monk's as a tasty neighborhood place rather then an expensive special occasion one. I guess that's why I'm feeling the loss... the loss of a good neighborhood place. And in that sense it doesn't matter if it's super good now - i still lost the neighborhood place.

          1. re: SteveG

            I never even said the food was expensive, nor did I say it wasn't even worth the price. It's just not an appealing menu anymore. I don't doubt that the sweetbread, leg of lambs, foraged mushrooms justify their high price tag, but i don't particularly care for those items at a place like Monk's Kettle. I want thinks like lamburgers and steak sandwiches.

            The Monk's Kettle
            3141 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

            1. re: vulber

              You said half the menu was over $20. That sounds expensive, but when I checked the menu, that wasn't remotely the case. You commented on the old menu having $10-15 sandwiches, as if the new menu doesn't, again, not the case.

              I'm just trying to figure out what makes you think it has lost its soul--is the new food soulless, or have you eaten there since the chef change?

              1. re: SteveG

                4 of 9 entrees are over $20, which is roughly half. They have three sandwiches now, with the rest of the entrees looking like something out of your generic "Californian/New American" restaurant.

                On the old menu, you had a choice of 8 different sandwiches under $15 as your meal, and three more expensive plates. There were four salads to choose from in the appetizers, now the appetizers are filled with things like rabbit and trotters, and no mac and cheese.

                The "lack of soul" refers to the generally increased feel of pretension, while I've only tried a few of the new menu items (which were good), it's just not the type of food I want to enjoy with a good beer.

                1. re: SteveG

                  Not that this answers the question but there are 3 entres priced from $12-13 and 6 from $17-27. Appetizers run $8-15 with the average over $11.

              2. re: SteveG

                missed the last part of your question - no, i'm not saying they're gouging on price, just that they no longer offer as many affordable options as before - it's not all that different from building a wine list - if money isn't an issue (which it doesn't appear to be for htem, given their vast selection of and access to rare beers), anyone can build a wine list full of screaming eagle and opus one and the like, it takes a lot more skill to track down affordable yet excellent gems, which they seem to be doing less and less

              3. Vulber and Boris: I agree with both of you 100%. No need to elaborate beyond that.

                1. I was the original chef at Monk's. Thanks for the remarks about my menu. Hopefully in the near future, there is will be a return to some of the familiar food that I always loved to cook. My philosophy was always approachable and affordable food that was farm to table, sustainable and organic when possible. I geared my beer dinners and fresh sheets towards the "foraged" and more refined dishes but kept the core menu simple and flavorful. Hell, you are paying out the ass for the beer, why not enjoy something everyone can relate to right?