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Thursday, November 12,2009

Murphy's Grill has a few culinary tricks up its sleeve

By Clay Fong

Murphy’s Grill 2731 Iris Ave., Boulder 303-449-4473

Retro TV fans might notice that the full bar, warm woods and bright interior of the North Boulder location of Murphy’s Grill bears more than a passing resemblance to the set of the ’80s sitcom Cheers. However, Murphy’s differs from Cheers by describing itself as a neighborhood restaurant as opposed to a tavern and overtly projecting an air of amiable pessimism. Interior signs evoke such cynical saws as Murphy’s Law and the truism that the other line is always shorter. I didn’t understand the point of one cryptic sign reading, “Please watch your step,” which I saw moments before tripping to the floor. Incidentally, that last clause was pure dramatic license. Also, it’s worth noting that there’s a second Murphy’s location in South Boulder.

Murphy’s credentials as a neighborhood hangout are enhanced by live music and a back patio providing a homey outdoor dining experience in warmer weather. The menu also goes well beyond the expected chicken wings and burgers, with such surprises as a Thai coconut curry and a salmon BLT slathered with tomato jam. One suspects such innovation has paid off for Murphy’s, as friend Kon and I observed this eatery was filled to capacity at lunchtime. This is no mean feat considering the presence of four other restaurants in the same strip mall.

But a full house can be a mixed blessing, as we noted it took longer than usual for our lunches to arrive. Nevertheless, my $12 Texas fried chicken platter arrived appropriately hot, with a delicate yet crisp coating around a chicken breast cutlet. I had been hoping for bone-in drumsticks and thighs, but I couldn’t fault the poultry’s tenderness. However, more seasoning, such as a dash of black pepper in the batter and the cream gravy, would have elevated this dish from the slightly bland to something more sublime.

Kon fared much better with his $12.50 walnut-crusted trout. The taste and consistency of this sometimes fishytasting and easy-to-overcook fish were dead solid perfect. The subtle flavor was enhanced and not overwhelmed by a mouthwatering sherry cream sauce. The mashed sweet potatoes were appealing both in taste and appearance, and for an extra buck, a side of vinegar-perfumed fennel-apple slaw was a lip-smacking alternative to the usual mayo and shredded cabbage.

We both concluded with the “smallest dessert in town,” a bargain at 99 cents. Anywhere else, you’d be lucky to get a stale Hostess Chocodile for that much. But here you receive a hunk of chocolate brownie topped with a compelling cream cheese frosting, and a modest yet satisfying scoop of vanilla ice cream. While this offering might not actually be the smallest in town, it might be the best dessert value.

In the past, I’ve tried Murphy’s less costly items such as the burgers, which cost about 10 dollars on average. While there’s nothing wrong with ordering these sandwiches, you’ll get more for your money by spending a couple dollars more on entrees like the trout. While the fried chicken could have been improved with respect to spicing, it was still a generous portion brimming with first-rate mashed potatoes. While it might not be perfect in every way, Murphy’s succeeds in its mission to be a more-than-decent neighborhood restaurant with a few culinary tricks up its sleeve.

Clay’s Obscurity Corner: Murphy´s Law

Murphy’s Law holds that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” and this statement is the precursor to a number of laws, corollaries and razors that propound a rather pessimistic worldview. Finagle’s Law of Dynamic Negatives oneups Murphy by expressing, “Anything that can go wrong, will — at the worst possible moment.” Of course, some of these adages serve as a more broad-based commentary on the human condition. Sturgeon’s Law states that “90 percent of everything is crud.” But perhaps the last word should go to Bloch’s Corollary to Sturgeon’s Law, which is, “And your agent gets the other 10 percent.”

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