Saint Patrick’s at Murphy’s? I’d love to say this was meticulously planned, but it was more of a Saturday whim executed on Sunday than a fully thought out excursion. We were originally looking for a eatery in Inman Park, but many of the famed steakhouses there are closed on Sundays. And Murphy’s — where is that? Isn’t it a little east of Decatur, sort of near where the original Alon’s sits? And isn’t it a steakhouse mainly, formal dining and such? And since we didn’t know, we made reservations early on Sunday, just to be sure we could get into the door.
Okay, so we map the site and from a Snellvillian perspective it’s really close to Little Five Points. From Ponce de Leon and Briarcliff facing west, head one more block west, then turn north on Highland Avenue. That really crowded corner, about 0.6 miles down the road, with all those eateries? That’s Virginia, the corner of which names the Virginia Highlands. Funny how going to eat can teach you new geography.
The road on the way there is full of bars, and on this day, full of people wearing green and having a good time (note to academic self: look up growth of adult holidays such as Halloween and Saint Patties). On the corner itself, there are plenty of restaurants whose names I recognize (note to blogger self: must come back). It’s a casual section of town, and on this pretty spring-like eve, folks were out walking their dogs in ways I’ve only seen in around Taqueria Del Sol in Decatur, and oh yes, the aforementioned Alons.
There is complimentary valet parking, and as small and crowded as the roads are around here, please use it.
Before we went, we had downloaded Murphy’s menu, and targeted some small dishes and an entree or two. Murphy’s menu is versatile and the prices, overall, are excellent given the quality of the food. I was a little shocked. In many respects it’s cheaper than Buckhead Diner. The median price point for entrees is probably high teens, with no more than 3 dishes this day over 20 (iirc, Murphy’s changes menus seasonally). Things like calamari and mussels are closer to 10 than 20 and Murphy’s burger, dinner version, runs about 15.
Walk in the restaurant and we were soon seated. We were in the dining area, and large French style doors were open to the outside, as the weather was suitable for that kind of display. Otherwise we were greeted with loudspeaker feedback, as a singer was getting set up to play. At this point the restaurant wasn’t full. Soon staff arrived and we ordered drinks and appetizers. Oh yes, on the way in, a green chalkboard had announced specials, one of which was lamb stew.
“I claim dibs on the stew!” said my daughter.
As the music starts, the lilt of Irish accents floats over from the nearby table, whose men are formally dressed and whose women are wearing green. And oh yes, the cute ten-something daughter is sitting in dancing getup, while smiling and posing for pictures.
And somewhere around now, after I’m half way into my beer for the night, it strikes me that on Saint Patrick’s, I’m listening to a lady sing Irish ballads, surrounded by well dressed folks with distinct Irish accents, in a famed Atlanta restaurant named Murphy’s, along with wife and daughter. How iconic is that? It was, to a first approximation, pure accident. I just wanted a nice place to eat.
And if the food had been mediocre, then yes, this would have been something of a downer, but nothing we experienced in our stay at Murphy’s did anything to dent the reputation of this eatery. The artichokes were excellent, the broth in which the mussels sat was superb. It didn’t hurt, all the tasty bits in the broth as well: bacon, onions, thumbnail sized potatoes. Murphy’s mussels are inexpensive, and perhaps the best version of this dish I’ve had in this city.
Sometime around now Irish soda bread appears.
We had Irish soda bread muffins at Sweet Tomatoes the day before, so we had some idea what to expect: a mildly sweet bread with some raisins. This bread was superior to the muffins at Sweet. The bread wasn’t as hard or dry, and the hints of spice we caught that night in the bread just wasn’t there in the ST product.
The lamb stew was tasty, hints of tomato and spice, and a real lamb flavor. The ribeye we ordered was a perfect medium rare, and was tender, even if it didn’t look like the inch and a half thick slabs of meat my dad would grill on lazy Louisiana afternoons. My daughter and wife stole all the potatoes on the ribeye. The only downside of the evening came with the ravioli that accompanied the vegetable plate. My wife just didn’t favor the filling.
Around this time, the Irish tunes became more dancelike, and young girls began to dance to the tunes of the singer. Families would come up with cameras and phones to take pictures of their daughters, and the more dancelike, marchlike tunes reminded me of Garry Owen, and one of the scenes from one of the most historically inaccurate and yet delightful moves I’ve ever seen (General George Armstrong Custer was neither this prescient, nor this good looking):
We won’t say too much about these as they were excellent. We had a white chocolate creme brulee, an everything-from scratch banana pudding, and a cheese plate. Hard to go wrong with cheese, especially blues for me, as it reminds me of moments when I would bring a chunk of blue and some pumpernickel to Vallhalla at Rice, to eat after my bartending shift was over.
Thoughts: a terrific meal, timed just about perfectly for us. We saw some of the day’s revelry but were never trapped in it. The food was excellent, the extras were on point, and now I realize that Murphy’s can be encapsulated in the two Vs: versatile and a great food value. In terms of the atmosphere, it wasn’t the more formal steakhouse we expected, but more, as Urbanspoon puts it, bistro eating.
997 Virginia Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30306