New Irish Pub in Manchester - Murphy's Taproom
There's a new Irish Pub in town: Murphy's Taproom. Located where Omega used to be, on Elm Street, just past the Verizon Center. They opened around the end of April.
I looked Murphy's up online (http://www.murphystaproom.net/pages/home) before going there to see what was on the menu, because the last couple Irish taverns I've eaten at, Wild Rover (average), and The Shaskeen (awful), haven't had really great food.
Seeing things like beef stew served in a bread bowl, and words like "demi-glace", I had high hopes for it, so I decided to eat there last night, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Walking into the pub, I noticed that the interior is very nice, and non-smoking throughout, though a bit odd in design. How is it odd? Well, for one, the space feels too open. It's like one big room. There's no seperation between the dining area and the bar area, and there's no doors on the kitchen. For another, the bar area has two L shaped bars running parralel to one another. When you're sitting at one bar, there is another bar right behind you. They were obviously trying to make the most of the space, but in my opinion, they should have had tall tables to stand around in place of the second bar. It wouldn't feel so much like you're crammed in there, and you wouldn't have to walk all the way around the second bar to sit at the main one.
After sitting down at the bar, I was greeted by the bartender, who surprised me when she asked for my name. Apparently, at Murphy's they ask everyone their name, and they use your name when speaking to you, even if they're not your server.
Before my meal I decided to try an irish ale, so I asked for a Murphy's, since I hate Guiness and Smithwick's, and had not tried Murphy's. Well actually I couldn't remember the name of the ale, so had to play a little guessing game with the bartender, which in retrospect is embarrasing because the beer I wanted had the same name as the pub! Unfortunately, I wasn't too impressed with the Murphy's ale. Guiness and Smithwick's are way too bitter for me, but Murphy's, when you drink it, has a bitter taste as it touches your tongue, but then goes down tasting watery. So I was not impressed with it. I much prefer Sam Adams. Particularly the summer ale.
Now for the part you've all been waiting for. The meal itself!
As soon as I checked out Murphy's menu on their website, I knew I wanted to try the beef stew. I'm a sucker for bread bowls, and my parents used to make great beef stew. So that's what I ordered.
When the entree came out, I was really impressed. The presentation of the dish was excellent. There were all these little toasted onion sticks all over the top sticking out like branches, and the top of the bread bowl that had been cut out was perched atop it at an angle, and the stew inside looked delicious and thick.
But then I tasted it... ARGH! This was not my mom's beef stew. This wasn't even the Shaskeen's Beef Stew. Like the French Onion soup with steak tips which I had at Z's, this beef stew was absolutely LOADED with onion flavor. Now, I like onion rings. And I like fresh onions on my burgers. But this was just way too strong a flavor for me. It wasn't anything at all like the mildly spiced beef tips with potatos in gravy that mom used to make. The Shaskeen's beef stew was a lot closer to that, and one of the few things they serve there that isn't half bad.
Now, I can't say that the beef stew at Murphy's is terrible, but if you don't like that strong onion flavor, then you certainly won't like this. If you do love onions to death, then you might be in heaven. It certainly seemed well made.
Thankfully though, my story doesn't end there.
My bartender came over after I'd been trying to force some of the stew down, and asked me if I was enjoying the beef stew, and I told her that I wasn't, so she took it back and let me order something else. This time, I chose the shepard's pie, which is beef and lamb with corn and carrots and potatoes. After the first few bites washed away the horrible onion flavor from the beef stew, (the bitter murphy's ale was not helping with this) I really enjoyed the shepard's pie. It was quite delicious.
After I was done with that, since I'd only ordered the small shapard's pie (it comes in two sizes and the small is $6.99), I decided to get a dessert, and for dessert I chose the back and tan brownie sundae. In retrospect this may have been a poor decision, because out came FOUR brownies with two scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream on them. It was like a large bananna split. So I was not able to even remotely come close to finishing it, but the brownies seemed freshly made and it was quite good. But I don't know if I alone could finish that whole thing after any meal nevermind half a bowl of stew and a shapard's pie. ;-) But at $5 for the dessert, it wasn't a bad deal at all.
When all is said and done, I give Murphy's five stars on the food, and four stars for their location and design.
I give four stars for the location because it's quite a distance from the main part of elm street and you have to cross a major intersection and pass a gas station if you wanted to walk there. And it's not a very scenic location. But they do have a small parking lot, so that's a plus. I'd rather they were located where the Shaskeen is, or where JW Hill's is, but I'll go out of my way for their food any day over the garbage they serve at those places.