Finding Above Average Pub Fare at Blue Monkey Tavern

The Merchantville establishment boasts more than 40 taps and an extensive menu of reasonably priced food.

At Blue Monkey Tavern in Merchantville, beer seems like the obvious choice. There’s plenty to choose from, with more than 40 options from breweries such as Allagash, Bell’s, Dogfish Head, Delirium, Kane and Victory available on draft, and even more available in cans or bottles.

But don’t let that distract you from ordering something off the tavern’s food menu. On a recent visit, I found it to be far better than your average pub fare. Yes, the menu is large, spanning all your greatest hits of appetizers, salads, pastas, sandwiches, burgers and more, but the kitchen seems attentive to each dish.

Blue Monkey Spicy Grilled Shrimp. Photo by Shelby Vittek

We started with the Blue Monkey spicy grilled shrimp ($12.95) served with chopped avocado, cucumber, celery and cilantro all tossed in hot sauce. The butterflied shrimp were plump and juicy, perfectly cooked and well seasoned, and the slivers of avocado were a thoughtful cooling element to the somewhat spicy dish.

Spicy mussels. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Next we tried the spicy mussels ($11.95), which came in a large steaming pot with andouille sausage, leeks and tomato simmered in a wine, cream, garlic and fresh herb sauce. The mussels were fresh and flavorful, and I wanted to soak up every last bit of that sauce with the pieces of bread that came with it. Other options include mussels in beer, Thai mussels, mussels in red sauce and mussels in white wine sauce—all of which I’d gladly try on my next visit.

I’d heard great things about Blue Monkey’s burgers, and so that felt like the obvious next step. The signature Blue Monkey ($10.50) is topped with a portabella mushroom, caramelized onions and blue cheese. I wanted something simpler, so opted for a regular burger ($8.50) with blue cheese ($1.00). The side of fries it came with wasn’t anything special, but the burger—a house blend of short rib, brisket and chuck meat—was exceptional. The meat was juicy and slightly charred, and served on a toasted bun, and proved that a burger doesn’t need to have an abundance of toppings to be great. Sometimes, simple and classic is best.

Burger with blue cheese. Photo by Shelby Vittek

The downtown Merchantville dining scene has enjoyed an evolution in recent years, with places like Park Place and Aroma Indian Bistro opening in the last few years. The Blue Monkey Tavern, occupying the first floor of the historic Collins and Pancoast Hall, has been serving the area since its complete renovation in the summer of 2008. I hope it’s still part of the Merchantville landscape in another 10 years.

Blue Monkey Tavern, 2 South Centre Street, Merchantville; 856-661-8008

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