Murphy's Grille -- Murphy's Grille turns into a winner
Sierra Lodestar 10/17/12

Foothill Flavors

By Antoinette May Herndon

It’s fun to watch the world go by, don’t you think? And, is there a better venue in three counties than the Murphys Grill veranda?

No, it does not overlook the streets of London, New York or San Francisco. But, perhaps that’s one of the grille’s charms. Murphys is just so—so Murphys. Nobody’s rushes by. Main Street pedestrians never stride when they can amble.

I’ve always loved the grille’s special people-watching potential. To sit at a table just inside the low stone wall fronting the street is to experience a window on the world in miniature.

But truth, be told, I’ve not always been so thrilled with the food and service at Murphys Grille Somehow it seemed that the cuisine never quite lived up to expectations. Now, mind you, it was never bad, but I invariably went away feeling that the dishes looked more desirable on the menu than they tasted on the plate. As for the service, it tended to be haphazard, tilted more toward attitude than efficiency. If there hadn’t been that passing panorama to keep me entertained, I’d have gotten awfully bored twiddling my thumbs.

Well, let me tell you, that was then. This is now: I’m delighted to write that Murphys Grille has reinvented itself.

Charles and I had inklings

right from the start when our waitperson, Kayla Maxwell, greeted us in a friendly way. It was a Tuesday evening. Murphys Grille had a good crowd but there were a number of tables available. Kayla showed us to our favorite which fronts on the sidewalk.

It was a gorgeous Indian summer evening, the passing parade delightful to behold. I ordered Snowshoe Brewing Co.'s Grizzle, (a strong, hearty dark ale that bites back.) My Grizzle was predictably good, but the Lagunita IPA that Kayla suggested for my husband, Charles, was amazing Have you ever imagined a dry beer? Would you expect it to be good?

It would be “no” on both counts for me. But was I in for a pleasant surprise! I’d call Lagunita the martini of beers. If you like one, you are certain to love the other.

The grille has a new menu with some sophisticated choices. We took our time perusing, all the while munching on crispy chips with homemade hummus. Think fresh and light with hint of lemon. Good!

After much deliberation, Charles and I shared the lemon marinated beet salad ($10). It was outstanding—thinly sliced beets combined with watermelon, shaved fennel, pumpkin seeds and feta cheese, then tossed with a strawberry vinaigrette dressing. The subtle blending of flavors was really fantastic. Our portion was

generous, more than sufficient for the two of us.

Charles had the evening’s special:  prawns and fillet mignon served on a bed of polenta. ($25)  This seems like a perfect choice, doesn't it?  Only this time it wasn't.   The prawns, though tender, were so strongly spiced that they overwhelmed the excellent steaks.

The polenta was a fine complement to the  spicy prawns but would have been best served on the side. Who wants a bite of steak and mush?  The three were  piled on the plate together.

Maybe this sounds picky-picky, but these are the details that can morph  a good dinner into a fantastic one.

I had a half order of the barrel smoked ribs ($14) served with Carolina BBQ sauce, baked beans and cole slaw. I truly believe that these were the best ribs that I have ever tasted. They were perfectly smoked with a wonderful rub seasoning.

Obviously, the credit goes to the new chef, Chip Robertson who has transformed Murphys Grill. What a pleasant surprise. This is Murphys and Main Street is lined with lah-de- dah restaurants that ask an arm and leg. Murphys Grill is well located, unpretentious and sits easily on the pocketbook.

VITALS: Murphys Grill. 380 Main St., Murphys. Phone: 728-8800, Reservations advised. Beer and wine only. Open Friday through Tuesday. Casual dress.