160 Main Street, Salt Lake City
Murphy’s bills itself as a step down in social clubs. That is truth in advertising – but only in one physical sense – you must navigate three steps off Main Street to get into this cozy pub. Once you’re in, I would suggest that you’re actually in a step-up from some of the newer lounges and bars in the downtown area. The food is consistent and above average, and the service, with bartenders like Laura, Riley, and Jason is always above par. In fact, all the help, from bartenders, to servers, to cooks are friendly, witty and chatty. I’m a little sorry that I had never gone into Murphy’s until a year ago when I took a job nearby, because it has quickly become one of my favorite watering holes.
Murphy’s has been in the same location for 17 years. In this town of always-changing taste, that fact, alone, is a testament to everything about the bar. The owner believes he is one of the five longest-running bars in Salt Lake.
Sometimes called the “Trapp East” the bar is very gay-friendly. On any given day Riley Richter and Taxi Jeff, along with a dozen other regulars from Sun Trapp, can be seen at Murphy’s. Recently the owner remarked that he was quite proud that his bar is diverse and takes pride in the fact that people feel safe there. At least, I think that is what he said, his Irish accent is very authentic.
There are some very creative appetizer items on the menu you won’t find anywhere else, and there are some bar-food standards, which have been elevated, and taste better than anyplace else. The prosciutto-wrapped jalapeno stuffed with cream cheese is an example of the thought going into their food, especially when you add the blackberry coulis on the side; perfect for dipping — balancing the flavors as well as adding a nice cooling effect to the spicy jalapeno. Another unique menu item is the Salt City Fries with sweet potato fries, bacon and bleu cheese crumbles, and buzzed with Utah honey. It’s a sophisticated, vegetarian poutine of sorts that has some dynamic flavors. The Irish nachos with home-cut potato chips smothered in cheese, topped with bacon, red onions, jalapenos, sour cream, and cilantro are also delicious and filling.
A lot of bars in town skip over lighter fares and salads, so finding a few calorie-friendly options on this menu is a welcome change from the “let’s deep-fry everything” mentality. The prosciutto, apple, and arugula salad tossed in lemon juice and olive oil served with nice big pieces of shaved Parmesan is on par with any of the more-elegant restaurants nearby and, at $9.00, is a complete steal. A recent addition, the orzo cucumber salad with olive oil, lemon juice, basil, parsley, chives and red onion is a perfect appetizer or lite lunch.
I’m certain that if readers try either the funky chicken or pulled pork sandwiches, they’ll return many times. The flattened and blackened chicken is topped with bleu cheese, bacon, and burgundy-glazed onions on ciabatta with arugula and tomato. Yes, it’s basically a chicken sandwich, but made with a lot of love. And there isn’t anything basic about the pulled pork, which is house-smoked and pulled with a homemade BBQ sauce. The toasted bun is filled with meat and then topped with red onion, coleslaw and pickles.
If you’re at Murphy’s for dinner, a few things like the Shepherd’s pie and bangers and Mash are old school, delicious and you won’t find them on too many menus in Utah. But the one item I really love (and on too many menus) is the fish and chips. So many restaurants have some mediocre variation, but Murphy’s is one of the best (yes, I was surprised too). The beer-battered North Atlantic cod is fresh cut off the giant fish each day and the batter is light, allowing the fresh fish to shine.
The bar just re-signed their lease, meaning they’ll be there for at least five more years, but readers, I implore to your drinking and eating sensibilities: don’t wait, go, and enjoy this “step down in social clubs!”