Faced with a looming Saturday night, not to mention a looming deadline, the Neighbor and I decided to patronize Cowboy Monkey last weekend. Nuzzled in what can be called an alley between downtown shops and bars on the Neil side and Radio Maria and a bank on the Walnut street side, Cowboy Monkey has been a bar I frequently visit, though it’s never a place I start at, stay at, or end at. I felt it was time to give it its just try.
The winning point for this bar would have to their beer garden/patio. Easily three times as large as the indoor bar, it has tables, benches, umbrellas, and even a little metal skeleton of a gazebo to add to the aura. The piazza encompasses a share of plant and tree-like structures that leaves its company with a slight sense of privacy, which is nice, but without feeling like you are in the wild bush.
The inside of the bar boasts a kitchen, bar, seating, and stage. The kitchen itself is positioned in the back of the bar, and walls and strategic placing keep it out of customers’ sights. The bar isn’t itself isn’t noteworthy; the only mark worth a mention is that they have high sitting chairs as opposed to stools, which is a nice plus. There are six tables set with wall/bench and chair seating running perpendicular to the stage. The body of the stage opens up onto a rather sizeable empty area that can be used to congregate or view a band during a performance.
The stage is used for the bar’s multitude of acts. At the time of visit there was a local improv group (Zoo Improv) performing, and later in the night a trio of rock bands performed. Almost every day, there is some variety of act performing or presenting at the bar. The plethora of acts include indie/indie/pop rock, local improv, local and big city DJs, live karaoke, and any other scenes the bar feels its patrons want to see. Sometimes the bar charges a cover to see the band and sometimes it does not, really depending on the popularity of said act. The nice part of the outdoor beer garden is that unless you are actually going into the bar to see the performance, you don’t have to pay a cover. Live music as a background sound to your night is never a bad thing in this writer’s opinion.
Now for the most important part of any bar: beer! The menu boasts seven draft beers and 57 types of bottled beer. Also there are 17 types of wine, over 50 types of liquor, and 21 cocktails (14 of which are martinis). Of the beers on draft, there are two worth mentioning. Bell’s Oberon ale, a wheat beer, reminds one of a Blue Moon but with a slightly smoother taste. The second beer is Magic Hat #9. The beer was described as a wheat/apricot beer. Curious? I was too, so I tried it. It has a slight nutty taste and it was quite an adventure. I’d recommend it to anyone with a strong palate. I will keep from turning this bar review into a beer review but suffice it to say that there is something for everyone’s taste buds on this menu.
Along with their beer offerings, the Monkey exhibits a mediocre size offering of fodder. The best way to sum up the menu is as a tex-mex/ appetizer fusion. Much study of the menu leaves one wondering why a bar that has many varieties of rock performers would have a menu consisting of Cilantro Lime Salad and Chihuahua Zucchini Tacos. For those of you wondering, Chihuahua is also a type of cheese. After interviewing a couple next to us who had the Cowboy Nachos and a group on the other side enjoying two of the salads, the general consensus was that the food was very good but the portions could stand to be slightly larger for the money. This writer’s group partook of some of the establishment’s chips and homemade salsa. The salsa was actually very hearty and flavorful. The prices are not bad: $4.75 for the chips and salsa to $8.00 for the Baja Steak Tacos, but it was also our opinion that the portions come into slight question.
Upon arrival around 8 p.m., we chose a table and were promptly seen to by a waitress, Megan. Megan was very prompt and also very nice; never did our bottles go empty without inquiry. After about an hour, we switched tables to join some friends that had arrived and into a different server’s section. By this time, the patio had become more occupied but still nothing to be considered packed. The waitress for our new section was constantly passing us but very rarely stopping to question our desire for another beverage. At all times she was very nice and courteous, just on a couple occasions she had to be hailed. On the other side of this, our original waitress Megan went out of her section to inquire about any longing for more drinks. At around midnight we repositioned to a new table and section, at this time the patio and bar were very busy. We were promptly seen to and our beers were brought out in a timely manner. Our beers may go empty for a minute or two before being attended to and the later it got, the longer it took for our beers to get out to us. Clearly seeing how busy and rushed the waitress was, it is worth mentioning that she was always very nice and never pressuring. In the end, the service was really hit and miss, and maybe the patio could use an extra waitress when the hour turns late.
The last topic of note is the accompaniment of the other patrons. When inquired about the average visitor, Megan described them as “an eclectic mix of students and young professionals.” I would love to expand on that, but I think she hit the nail on the head. Looking around I viewed multiple people of many ages on dates, as well as a girl’s night out, a guy’s night out, a group of middle aged friends, and a group of people dressed in Braveheart outfits (complete with William Wallace look-alike).
In the end I recommend visiting Cowboy Monkey, but eat dinner at one of the other fine restaurants downtown first. If the bar gets too busy for you, there is still an assortment of other bars in very close walking distance; for example, try the Blind Pig Brewery, whose patio opens into the Monkey’s patio. The best idea would be to use it as a weeknight getaway to sit back and relax.
Cowboy Monkey is open daily from 4 p.m. – 2 a.m. Its location is at 6 Taylor Street. On Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday an abridged menu is offered till 1 a.m.