Murphy’s Bistro and Tavern in High Falls (A Mini Review)

A new incarnation for a favorite local hangout

The one-time farmhouse perched on a rise in High Falls has housed several restaurants over the years. For the past 20 or so it was popular hangout called Northern Spy. It’s a sweet place, with a friendly bar and a casual dining area, a pretty dining room with a fireplace, and a nice screened porch where everyone wants to sit in warm weather. We locals were sad to see it close recently. But, on January 8, a resurrection! Brian and Marie Murphy, who had recently been holding down the culinary fort at the Inn at Stone Ridge nearby, reopened the place as Murphy’s Bistro and Tavern.

When he was 15, Brian Murphy worked as a dishwasher and prep cook in the cafe, then known as Top of the Falls, and the chef encouraged him to attend the Culinary Institute. He did, and after graduating, cooked in the building again during its short incarnation as Good Enough to Eat. (He also spent several years with John Novi at the famous DePuy Canal House down the road.)

Now, with his own name on the place, Murphy has introduced an American bistro menu, offering lunches like chorizo and white bean stew, potpie, wings, burgers, salads and sandwiches. Dinner choices run from small bites and light dishes to more robust fare: short ribs, meatloaf, pastas, some Mexican goodies and — not least — Murphy’s signature beef Wellington Béarnaise. Prices are pretty good, and there are dinner deals.

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We zipped in last weekend for lunch and were greeted by a pretty hostess, who seated us and handed over menus with astonishing aplomb, given that she’s eight years old. (“That’s Emma. She started when she was three at our old place,” her dad, Brian, remarked, explaining her professional bearing.)

Veggie burgers can be dry and lackluster, but Murphy’s — made with brown rice, bulgur, onions, mushrooms and cheese — was so moist and tasty, I inhaled it before I remembered that I’d planned to take its portrait for this post. So picture this plateful, if you will: a half-inch-thick patty, complete with appetizing grill marks, topped with caramelized onions oozing sensuously out the sides of the brioche bun; cole slaw; a pickle; and big, fat, golden steak fries. The one flaw was the slice of pasty, tasteless winter tomato, which I didn’t eat on the grounds that it contributes nothing but dampness (you may recall previous rants on this subject). Alex’s pastrami Reuben was equally delicious. We’re looking forward to going back to sample that beef Wellington. It’s not often you get the chance.

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