One of the things I most miss from Normal Times is unexpected interactions; so it was a pleasure to run into Feargal McKinney, the owner of The Old Monk, as I arrived to try its new coffee service.
“We live just the other side of Abrams [Road], and I’ve had my office on Oram [Street] for years,” he said. “My whole life is now in a nice, little circle.”
McKinney had already pulled back from two successful concepts on McKinney Avenue before COVID-19 hit. There are Dallasites in high school today who probably owe their existence to The Idle Rich Pub.
“I have been thinking for years about how to use the building differently because it just sits for so many hours in the week,” Feargal says about the coffee service at the Monk.
Like so many other operators we’ve interviewed since March, his desire to keep his staff employed in COVID Times spurred McKinney to try something new.
The extra non-alcohol sales also help ensure The Monk remains under the 51% threshold for alcohol sales to be considered a legitimate restaurant.
As much fun as the service industry can be, it’s also a gossipy place where people hold ridiculous grudges and take offense at invisible slights. Just this week, a prominent Texas chef was fired, and his employer made such an aggressively negative public statement that I expected to see a report of an arrest. I’ve advised employers for 20 years not to do unprofessional stuff like this.
In this environment, it is quite rare to find an operator everyone truly likes. But Feargal is that guy.
He introduced us to Kendal Kohlman, a service industry veteran who got her start in Dallas before going to New York City for a few years. Fleeing COVID, she returned to Dallas needing a new gig. She’s the brains behind the new menu. Because of Feargal’s Irish accent, I initially thought Kohlman’s first name was “Candle.”
Candle Kendal made me a delicious Americano from some medium-strong coffee from Cultivar, another East Dallas fave selling responsibly sourced coffee (and a bunch of other good stuff).
She also made us one of the Monk creations she developed — the bread pudding latte.
“It’s obviously based on the Monk’s bread pudding,” Kohlman says.
Feargal was adamant that we try this drink, but based on the name, I was not looking forward to politely sipping what had to be a sugary, viscous mess. Not so: The flavor was subtle buckwheat and not too sweet.
We also tried a selection of breakfast tacos on surprisingly good tortillas with delightfully spicy salsa. The standout, though, was the fried chicken biscuit sandwich with gravy made from Kuby’s jalapeño-cheese sausage. For those familiar with the normal pub-centric menu at The Monk, you’ll be impressed with the kitchen staff’s versatility.
The Monk is taking the pandemic seriously. Tables are spaced. Employees (and Feargal) are masked. And don’t let the cold weather scare you. They’ve winterized the patio with windbreaks and heaters so you can both stay warm and stay away from people.
And praise Jeebus, North Henderson Avenue is kinda almost maybe fixed. The new design allocates the limited cross-section to pedestrians, and there’s a new light at Willis Avenue so you can kinda maybe survive crossing Henderson to get to the Monk if they ever turn it on.
As a bar, the Monk has always had the kind of atmosphere that makes you feel like you want to spend all day there. Now you almost can.
The Old Monk, 2847 N Henderson Ave. (Knox-Henderson). 214-821-1880. Open 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday,;7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.