Monk’s

Review by: notpurfect

If you come from anywhere in the Midwest, you know about the Wisconsin Dells, located in the Driftless Zone of Wisconsin, an area that was missed by the glaciers. This region contains some of the oldest rocks on the continent. It was formed around the same time as the Tapeats sandstone at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, a bit less than 600 million years ago. The Wisconsin River, largely formed by glacial meltwater, cut its way through these soft sandstones to create a geologic wonder; but this is no longer what most people come to see.

For most people, the Wisconsin Dells is the water park, go-cart, and miniature golf capitol of the world. It is also filled with museums, “wonders”, souvenir shops, and a variety of fudge and novelty shops. It’s as if every roadside stand and tourist trap from all of the highways in the country were brought together in one spot, with a couple of the Midwest’s largest roller coasters added to round things out. It is a wonderful bit of Americana, and a mecca for the road trip enthusiast. Despite all of the growth in the area, the downtown has hardly changed a bit since the sixties.

While strolling through the busy main drag of The Wisconsin Dells, at a certain point you will feel yourself stop. Your nose will poke up into the air, and you will wonder, “What’s that smell?” That smell is the best possible advertisement for Monk’s Bar and Grill. It is the smell of burgers frying, of onions, of butter on the grill, and it is particularly compelling on a cool summer night. Monk’s has been around since 1947, making it one of the older establishments at The Dells.  Unlike many of the attractions at the Dells, Monk’s is neither a tourist trap, nor a chain. (Although there now are 4 other Monk’s in Wisconsin.) It is a local bar that made good.

You could easily miss Monk’s, as it does not take up much frontage on the sidewalk between the assorted fudge shops, and souvenir stands. In the tradition of the old-time pizza parlor, the cooking is done right in the window. A menu is posted outside, next to the door. The door opens into a narrow, but very long room, with a bar off to the right, some tables ahead. There are the obligatory TV’s (with the game on, of course), sports paraphernalia, and T-shirts, as well as a video jukebox. Though I heard no bar dice, they would not have been out of place.

Your burger is laid on the bar, cut in half, on a piece of butcher paper. The 1/3-pound fresh-ground chuck burgers lack the smooth rounded edges of frozen portion-control meats. These are great burgers. They come hot off the grill, with butter and hot fried onions, on a slightly-toasted bun. Toppings include Swiss or American cheese, mushrooms, bacon, and even marinara sauce. For the health conscious, there is a veggie burger to eat with your NA beer.

In addition to the burgers, Monk’s has chicken sandwiches, appetizers, hot dogs, and brats. Even so, the burgers are the main attraction, and they are the one item that has been bringing the customers in since 1947.

The only problem with Monk’s is that you might end up spending more time here than you planned. This is, in many ways, a grown-up version of the cozy little corner bar. It is quite easy to get really comfortable here. After experiencing the ever-present hype and tourist hustle of the Dells, hanging around in Monk’s almost makes you feel like you are back home.

Directions & Hours

11am - 11pm
  • Monday: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
  • Saturday: 10:30 AM – 12:00 AM
  • Sunday: 10:30 AM – 11:00 PM

What To Eat

Burger

DISH
Cheese Curds

DISH
Root Beer

DISH

Monk’s Recipes

Discuss

What do you think of Monk’s?

One Response to “Monk’s”

Jane & Michael Stern
Geoff Wendt

April 9th, 2009

On our way to Minnesota, we logged on to “the site” with a portable phone and were pleased to find Monk’s coming up in 20 miles. While driving through downtown in the off-season, we imagined how crazy the small tourist trap of a town must be when it’s in full swing. The Dells is to water parks what Gatlinburg TN is to the breakfast show. Spring was in the air and there were already some locals walking the sidewalks and cruising the streets.

As everyone noted, the smell is the first sign that you’re close to Monks. Right in the front of the long narrow building is the small kitchen with a window front for all the window-lickers to admire. The grill hood pumps the sweet smell of the burgers cooking on the ancient grill out to the passersby on the sidewalk. The smell is overwhelming, scratch-and-sniff sticker strong.

My wife and I both opted for the classic with cheese and onions, medium-rare, with a side of cheese curds. The burgers are massive one-third-pound handmade patties made from fresh, quality beef. This was the burger I’d been looking for, the best burger I’ve had in a long, long time. It came served simply on a piece of paper right on the bar. Between the huge patty, the precise cooking temperature (nailing medium-rare), and the 50-year-old grease patina on the grill, it’s simply burger perfection.

The curds are outstanding as well. Fried cheese curds are a Wisconsin specialty and these are probably the best I’ve ever had. The tangy, hot balls of cheese are deep-fried in hot, clean oil long enough to give them a dark, very crispy and chewy texture. The cheese is somewhat acidic, which is really nice when mixed with the great mouthfeel.

Without a doubt one of the best bar meals I’ve ever had. If you’re in the area, make sure you go out of your way for a visit to Monk’s. The bartenders are very friendly, helpful, and welcoming. It was a really nice experience and we’ll definitely be back for round two.

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