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Enjoy the ‘luck of the Irish’ in Chinatown

Inside Feature

July 7, 2019

Story By: Caroline Wright |

Between its emerald green trim, exposed weathered brick, and the shamrock on its awning, the wee building at the corner of Nuuanu Avenue and Merchant Streets looks like it might be right at home on a street corner in some Irish village.

Built in 1890, this charming little structure has been the home of Murphy’s Bar & Grill for more than three decades. Inside, there’s lots of warm wood, a shuffleboard table, and an emerald green ceiling that echoes exterior awnings and trim. It’s reminiscent of a cozy waterfront pub, for good reason. One of Hawaii’s first “Retail Spirit” licenses was issued here for the Royal Hotel, a gathering place for whaling ship captains and merchants, alii and scoundrels alike. Robert Louis Stevenson was reportedly a frequent guest, as was King David Kalakaua before his death.

“It’s a great old building, and it’s got great history,” says owner Don Murphy, who bought the place in 1987. Murphy himself has become a community fixture over the years, hosting the neighborhood’s yearly block party each Saint Patrick’s Day, and supporting serious fundraising efforts for local causes.

The food at Murphy’s is definitely a step above what might be considered standard pub fare. With a chuckle, Murphy says his menu was developed with input from friends, regular guests, and “the guys who work in the kitchen.” “Every week we change our specials,” he adds. “My chef, Mel Ponce, comes up with a lot of things; he’s a pretty creative guy.”

As might be expected at a place with a shamrock over its door, the beers here are world-class. There are 16 on tap, including Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s, Kilkenny, and Stella Artois. “My bartender’s a beer geek, so we always have two new items on the rotating handles,” says Murphy. “This week we’ve got an IPA, Lagunitas Phase Change, and Da High Life, a lager from Maui Brewing Co.”

Friday is Pie Day at Murphy’s! Marion Murphy bakes pies every Thursday evening and brings them to the restaurant to serve to Friday’s lucky customers. Assorted fillings include blueberry, mixed berry, key lime, banana creme, lemon meringue, apple and more. At $8 a slice, each served a la mode, they’re “to die for,” says Murphy.

MURPHY’S STEAK SALAD ($23.50)

is available every day, though it’s something you’ll hear about only from your server — owner Don Murphy calls them “verbal specials.” This cool, colorful salad features marinated Prime top sirloin that sits on a bed of Waipoli greens tossed in oil and vinegar, with blueberries, strawberries, avocado and grapes, plus your choice of dressing. It is a terrific option for lunch or dinner. Photos by Anthony Consillio

BLARNEY BURGER ($13.75)

Topped with imported Irish white cheddar infused with Guinness, this freshly ground all-beef patty is grilled and placed on a fresh roll, accompanied by fries or Murphy’s delicious potato salad. “The cheddar looks like a black and white cheese; it melts nicely and really looks good,” says Murphy.

SHEPHERD’S PIE ($17.50)

contains savory cubes of roast leg of lamb, rather than the traditional ground lamb. Stuffed with parsnips, carrots, celery, and peas, the dish is topped with mashed potatoes and browned beautifully, and served with a house salad.

FRIDAY IS PIE DAY AT MURPHY’S

For $8 a slice, guests can dig into a luscious homemade pie, baked fresh the day before by Marion Murphy. Choose between blueberry, mixed berry, key lime, banana creme, lemon meringue, apple and more. Don’t forget to opt for the ice cream scoop on top!

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