Thursday, June 23, 2016

Murphys - Virginia Highlands - Atlanta Georgia

You can find Murphy's at 997 Virginia Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 in the heart of Virginia Highland (literally at the corner of Virginia Ave and North Highland Ave NE). Parking is rather limited to side-streets so you may as well valet with the guys across the street - they'll take good care of your car.

It's been at least 10 years since I last visited Murphy's, only due to the huge number of restaurants in Atlanta and my desire to visit pretty much all of them. I last lived on North Highland in 1994 and while I lived there and for about a dozen years afterwards, I got to know the local restaurants quite well. I had visited Murphy's a few times and have taken it a bit for granted - I'm very happy that the restaurant is doing well - it seems some restaurants in the area can stand the test of time.

Murphy's is the corner building of a row that bends along North Highland with parking along the front - Murphy's faces Virginia Ave more along the back-side of the bend. You'll see bright yellow awnings above a patio and entry-barrier against the weather - otherwise the brick facade is painted and resembles other low-retail along Highland. The interior is very warm and inviting, brick, painted ceiling rafters and wooden table tops. Wines are prominently displayed on several walls (Murphy's is known for its wine tastings); there's votive lighting everywhere to provide a pleasant glow to everything. This is an awesome date-night spot and I can attest that it's worthwhile for brunch. We had reservation and were seated almost immediately (the restaurant was not full on this mid-week evening).

The menu is fairly simple (and always has been from what I remember) focusing your attention on seasonal variations and longstanding favorites. This is one of my favorite local menus as I've never been a fan of "the phone book" that you see at some restaurants. I guess the cynic in me thinks that the kitchen is unlikely to be good at everything when a menu is that large, plus I think it makes things harder for a diner when there are too many options.  On the front there are Starters, Share Plates, Big Salads, Main Courses, Sides, and a Daily feature. The back has desserts at the top and is mostly covered by a wine-by-the-glass list, with options for a few specialty cocktails and beers. 

I opted for a Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tropical IPA (which I'm guessing is their answer to the most excellent Creature Comforts Tropicalia). The beer was very good but still not quite the offering from Athens - still a great accompaniment to the Flash Fried Calamari appetizer (apple cider mignonette, cocktail sauce).  The peppery-sweet/sour mignonette was an excellent foil to the hot/fried calamari - loved that. We were also give an excellent bread and shared a perfectly-tossed Caesar salad (another pet peeve of mine is when the Caesar is overly-dressed - this one was just right).

For dinner we selected the Guinness Braised Brisket - horseradish mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and green beans; and the Gulf Shrimp and Cheese Grits - field peas, soppressata salami, tomatoes, cheddar grits. Both entrees were fairly hearty with good but not huge portions and delicious. The brisket was fork-tender and full-flavored. The grits to me had a bit too much tomato - the acids seemed to overpower the grits quite a bit and the peas were a bit too al dente but I'm sure most would like them a lot.

For dessert we went with coffee and the Carrot Cake - walnut carrot cake, cream cheese icing, vanilla pineapple compote. It was solid but I've had better, maybe slightly dry. If it sounds like I'm being picky, well yes I am. I used to eat here quite a bit so I'm probably over-sensitive having not visited in many years so take it with a grain of salt.

Finally on the service - once someone came by the table everything was fine but that was one problem. I don't believe the server was aware that the table had been given to her - we could see her straightening up a table across the room. We sat for 10 minutes before someone realized that we needed attention. The second item, and perhaps this is my final pet peeve - the tables next to us had an overly-attentive server that spent a lot of time talking to the couple there (sounded like at least one was a friend) - so we had someone's back to us for most of that 10 minutes - seems like she could have been more aware of what was going on around her and figured out that we needed some service.

So I'm giving this 4/5 for the food and 3/5 for the service.

-- John

(also posted to Yelp)
Murphy's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  

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