Monking around

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Clearly the friendly Bexley Monk is not a member of a cloistered order. And though the Monk has lived through some major robe-changes and makeovers, the upscale restaurant and bar has preserved its status as a local hot spot for decades now. Named after Dom Perignon, the French Monk synonymous with champagne, this Bexley institution's reliable reputation hinges on fine dining, sprightly drinks and live nightly jazz.

If that description makes the Monk sound like a special-occasion destination, well, yes, it does qualify; but it can also function wonderfully as a casual after-work stop off. That's not only because the Monk offers some moderately priced noshing options, but because it excels in that pastime Columbusites especially love to indulge in: happy hour.

So step across the Monk's black-and-white chessboard floor into its duskily lit, instantly soothing and comfy front chamber. The attractive, granite-topped, room-stretching rectangular bar is the obvious centerpiece, but there's also prompt tavern service at several well-appointed tables positioned along a wall of dark polished wood embedded with twinkling mirrors. The look might well be described as "tony," but do not mistake that for stuffy.

Now, if stuffing yourself on reduced-cost artful plates and cheap top-shelf drinks is part of your plan, then show up here between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. During those golden hours, the Monk's appetizers - presented with eye-catching geometrical flourishes - are scaled back (from, say, $12) to $7 and there's glasses of wine and expertly made cocktails for $4, plus $3 well-liquor drinks.

P.S. All bottles of wine are half-off during happy hours (excluding Fridays). Incredibly, here's a glimpse of the Monk's sweet and deep "well" liquors: gin - Tanqueray; scotch - Johnnie Walker Red; bourbon - Bulleit. Now that's a well worth going to again and again, isn't it?


Some of the Monk's temporally discounted tempters

Portobello mushroom: All veggie and all delicious. You get a beret-sized 'shroom stuffed with tangy and roasted goodies like artichoke hearts, spinach and oven-intensified tomatoes. On top of those is a beautifully broiled layer of bechamel and bread crumbs.

Hummus: Rich and zesty and lots of it. The dip comes in a deep bowl topped with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions, and sits in the middle of a giant platter with fanned-out, spice-dusted flatbread triangles.

Maryland Crab Cake: Two medium-sized, seriously crispy, ungreasy and herby cakes served with a bright mustard-based sauce alongside a few bites of slaw.

Pancetta shrimp: Four fatties wrapped in salty, crispy, golden brown pancetta jackets, served with a basil-bolstered micro salad.