Low Key: Philly’s Best Italian Food is Served Out of an Irish Bar, Thanks to Murph’s in Fishtown
Over the last year or so it’s been chore to keep up with all the newest and latest restaurant openings especially in Fishtown. This neighborhood has been red hot when it comes to dining. National publications have deemed Fishtown home of the country’s best Pizza (Pizzeria Beddia) as well as one of the the best bagels/sandwiches (Philly Style Bagels). As more and more chefs vie for a slice of the foodie pie, one of Fishtown’s best kept secrets has been gaining more and more notoriety. Murph’s Bar (202 E. Girard) is an old school Irish bar that has become a Italian food lover’s paradise.
Blink and you may pass it. Located just beyond the hustle and bustle of Frankford & Girard, Murph’s is a super low key spot. If you weren’t looking for it, you’d never know it’s there. No strobing lights or neon signs here. You won’t find huge retractable windows or a parade of hipsters smoking out front. Just a cool bar-top made of pennies and good people. For about 80 years Murph’s has been a staple in the neighborhood the welcoming bartender and patron inside tells me. As I am patiently waiting on my Lobster Ravioli the two began to share stories of Fishtown yesteryear. It was entertaining hearing how much the neighborhood changed but Murph has remained.
The Origins of the Menu
Murph’s hasn’t always been serving Italian food. It wasn’t until about 2 years ago that Chef Francesco took the helm and re-hauled the menu. Born in Italy, Chef Francesco explained in an Italian accent his journey to the land of cheesesteaks. No stranger to odd coupling, Chef Francesco actually owned an Italian restaurant in Germany of all places. He eventually moved to Philly with his wife and it wasn’t long after that he found himself in Fishtown. As an avid stickler for freshness, Chef Francesco doesn’t rely on deliveries to receive his goods, he goes out personally to pick up all of his ingredients. “I like to personally see the food and shop. It also keeps costs down because we don’t have a middleman, ” Chef explains. It also means that there’s a limited supply of ingredients so once he runs out that’s it. Guests will have to wait until the next day if they miss out on menu items such as pork shank or bolognese.
From the looks of it the menu is probably the only thing that has been changed around this bar. It has that ultra classic neighborhood bar feel. Wood everywhere, chalkboard menus and tight quarters to ensure interactions among patrons. So if you’re looking for a spacious restaurant that’s “bright and airy” to play with your smartphone while you drink, this is not the place. However, if you want an old school bar ambiance and great conversation with real people, this is the spot.
On this day I happened to swing by on a Sunday so there was no crowd and my food came relatively fast. My lobster ravioli topped with shrimp was perfection. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of Italian food and this is on my short list of all-time favorites. What makes it even better is the fact that it’s a bar and not some stuffy place where you need a sports coat and a reservation.
Murph’s Bar is a gem within a gem. The bar alone is a neighborhood institution serving up great drinks but the menu Chef Francesco put together makes this place unique and puts this place over the top when it comes to food experiences. Perfect for a chill solo meal, casual date or hanging with friends and family you just can’t go wrong here. The only drawback is the limited seating unless you choose to eat at the bar. However, it’s a small price to pay when considering the perks of this joint. If you plan on stopping by during the week they have a pretty decent Happy Hour with $1 off tap beers and 1/2 off domestics.
So if you’re in the mood for some banging Italian food, cold drinks, and warm people then you gotta make Murph’s in Fishtown your next stop!