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Thursday, January 5,2012

Bar and grill bites that satisfy

By Clay Fong

Coming off the holiday season, a full-course dinner may seem excessive after weeks of seasonal indulgence. Something lighter is the order of the day, and if it can be enjoyed in an unfussy environment without spending too much, so much the better. The reasonably priced happy hour menu at the Murphy’s in North Boulder ably fills this bill in a bright and lively locale evoking a textbook bar and grill.

 

Local stalwart Murphy’s retains its longstanding atmosphere of conviviality, being equally suitable for both families with children and the solitary diner seeking a simple brew and burger at the bar.

It was packed on the evening that friend Norma and I paid a visit, and the vibrant feel was enhanced by the presence of a gentlemanly practitioner of the art of sleight of hand.

While some diners were happily tucking into full-bore meals, we availed ourselves of the shared plates menu, a blend of bar food favorites and more gourmet options marked down for happy hour. The Murphy’s on South Broadway serves up a similar bill of fare, although there are some differences in the available offerings.

We opened our small-plate smorgasbord with two south of the border specialties, the $3 guacamole with tortilla chips, and the similarly priced Six Bite Nachos. The avocado dip was marked by an appealing textural consistency and color. However, the flavor of the main ingredient was masked by a heavy surplus of cumin. The name of the nachos dish was misleading, as it consisted of far more than six bites. For the money, it was a generous portion, and enough for two people. The tasty mix of chips, cheese and jalapeņos evoked favorable comparisons to my favorite Boulder nachos of all time, the heaping platter from the now defunct Oasis on Canyon.

In the global faceoff between the $3.25 Asian wings and the $3.99 Caribbean jerk ribs, pork prevailed over chicken. The teriyaki-glazed wings were standard bar fare, with few distinguishing characteristics. On the other hand, the Jamaican-style pork ribs possessed fine meaty qualities, namely a luxurious falling-off-the-bone texture enhanced by a tangy habanero mango sauce that nicely balanced sweetness and fire.

Other options included a pair of light seafood bites. One was a $4 crab cake, moistened with apple and scented with what tasted like Old Bay Seasoning. While East Coaster Norma was accustomed to spicier takes on this preparation, the freshness and subtle crustacean creaminess shone through, as the seasoning didn’t overwhelm. A lemon mayonnaise provided an appropriately delicate accompaniment, as did a side of slaw.

Norma found the $3.99 smoked salmon preparation an interesting variation on classic bagels and lox. While the accompanying strawberry sauce may not be for everyone, this light mix of capers, brie and fish displayed a surprising French flair. Crostini made from ciabatta bread contributed a crunchy complement to the subtly smoked salmon, which was closer in flavor to fresh fish than heavily cured lox.

We ended our meal with the long-running $1.79 “smallest dessert in town,” a modest cube of brownie paired with a petite scoop of vanilla ice cream, just enough to round out the meal. In many respects, this ending epitomized the finer aspects of Murphy’s ambitious happy hour, as it was fairly priced, of decent quality and just the right size.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

Murphy’s 2731 Iris Ave.

Boulder 303-449-4473

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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