Little has changed in this no-frills Belgian pub since it opened in 2001. And that’s much of its charm.
This corner pub used to be a typewriter-repair shop, and if the truth be known, the tenant now, Stumbling Monk, seems just as anachronistic.
No website nor phone. No television. Other than Tim’s Cascade Chips, no other food is served. For fun and games, there’s backgammon and chess on the shelf. Folks still come to read their dog-eared paperbacks near the window by the light, nursing a Chimay.
A no-frills Belgian pub, Stumbling Monk carries only 12 taps in a city filled with flashy, 50-tap lineups, and it rarely has any IPAs in a city filled with hopheads.
It’s not the kind of place you would expect could still exist in a neighborhood filled with the shiny and the new.
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But here it is at the elbow of East Olive Way and Belmont Avenue East, and here it’s been since Sept. 12, 2001 — still as comforting a sanctuary now as it was the day after 9/11.
The model for barkeeper Rob Linehan’s watering hole was more visceral than any Business 101 model — “a bar you might find in a small town in Europe,” where tourists only find it when stumbling off the beaten path.
Stumbling Monk is popular with locals and lifers, a remnant of Old Seattle when this was a much grittier, unpretentious ’hood.
It’s an austere, tightly focused bar that has remained true to its calling — come for Belgian beer! — despite all the new trends.
Not much has changed. Not the linoleum floor, scraped clean of color from all the scuffed feet and screeching chairs over the decades.
Not the décor, mostly hanging Belgian ale signs that were freebies because Linehan never had much of a budget. The wooden, iron-bolted door that looks like it could have come from an abbey might be his only splurge.
Linehan is also the bartender, server, janitor and roofer. (Someone’s gotta get those wet leaves off the roof.)
When he’s behind the stick, he people-watches out the bar window, which always reminds him how much his Capitol Hill has changed. More folks who walk faster with intent. More stop-and-go traffic.
“We lost a lot of old regulars who said, ‘Oh, my rent went up $300. I’m moving’ to the Central District or Burien. It’s always been a transient neighborhood, but it seems to have accelerated.”
His bar is “heavy with young male tech workers now. Fewer artists, musicians and hipsters. It’s unmistakable. It would be hard not to notice that in the last few years.”
His neighbor, the much loved dive Clever Dunnes’ Irish House, recently closed. Another nearby dive, Redwood, will close Nov. 16 to make way for a seven-story development. Across the street, Good Citizen coffeehouse, from the folks behind Liberty, recently vacated as well.
“Ah, so that’s why you’re asking me all these questions. You want to know if I’ll be next,” he said, laughing.
“Nah, I’m not closing. I’m pretty well-established here.”
His landlord has assured him so, he said. “It’s as much confidence I can have without owning the building.”