Out of the disemboweled corpse of a failed Chili’s emerged the shiny new Murphy’s Tap House in Louisville earlier this month. And though there are definite similarities in the skeletal structure of the two restaurants, Murphy’s Tap House has done enough in its remodel to differentiate itself from the fast casual chain both in the quality and diversity of the menu, as well as the slightly more authentic vibe within the walls of the building.
The Tap House is the third Murphy’s foray into Boulder County. It’s a restaurant I’m quite familiar with as their South Boulder outpost is directly across the street from the Boulder Weekly office. Because of that deep familiarity, I regarded the menu at the Tap House, which is similar (if not identical) to the other Murphy’s locations, as I would an old, warm sweater — it’s comfortable, mine and I could pretend to read Hemingway in it with ESPN on in the background.
Rolling with it, I ordered a pumpkin ale that was on tap — the Tap House, befitting its name, has more than two dozen rotating beers, mostly local, but also a lot of craft beers from elsewhere in the U.S. The pumpkin ale was the first of the season. Perhaps it was a little early for some people; I know folks get fussy about when you can start enjoying seasonal beverage flavors like pumpkin and peppermint. But, for me, seasonal drinks, like the seasons from which they were born, are not about calendar dates, but are about mindsets. And in Murphy’s Tap House, that warm sweater of a restaurant, pumpkin ale worked.
Although the menu is mostly the same as its Boulder locations, there are some new items that I was eager to try: the salmon BLTA, Carolina barbecue wings and the Asian crab cakes.
The salmon sandwich was built on a crusty, long white roll. The salmon was cooked medium well, so it was light pink and had all that fishiness and moistness removed. If that’s not your thing, you can get the salmon cooked to order. The sandwich is piled with bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado (as the acronym requires), and it makes for a light but substantial meal. It came alongside one of Murphy’s everchanging soups, this time a southwest black bean.
The Asian crab cakes were pretty darn good. It was a lot less sloppy than a typical crab cake, but still had just enough moisture to make eating it enjoyable. What made it Asian were the cilantro, red jalapeno, ginger and mango chutney. I don’t know if it would’ve received dual citizenship with those additions, but they did pair well with the crabmeat.
The hot wings were a perfect match for the Tap House atmosphere. That is, they were good and so now there’s a go-to food item here if you stop in for happy hour or want to watch a game sometime. They weren’t coated in breading or any thick sauce, so you got the full experience of crispy chicken skin with moist chicken meat and a thin, powerful sauce. The sauce was mild to medium in heat, and had a wonderful vinegar tang.
There was also an old staple of Murphy’s on the table: the bison and pork meatloaf. It was a little tougher than what you might expect of meatloaf, and the charred grill marks on top make you wonder if its meatloaf at all. After a few bites with the rich brown gravy and whipped potatoes, however, alchemy occurs in your mouth and makes for a good bite.