Cafe Reviews

Murphy's Law: Nothing Brightens Spirits Like Fried Corned Beef and Bear Skeletons

Funny how spending time in an Irish pub can boost your mood. It's not only okay to forget about your stress, gab with friends, and laugh out loud; it's pretty much mandatory.

Murphy's Law, a lively hangout in the heart of downtown Chandler, is just that kind of place, with a couple dozen beers on tap and a menu of bangers, corned beef, and other hearty eats. All you need to bring is a sense of humor, which the owners clearly have — hence the pub's name.

Honestly, the sky could be falling, but it's hard not to smile when the first thing you see inside the front door is a towering bear skeleton sporting a police cap and gripping a billy club in its bony paw. ("He'll scare all your troubles away," a waitress told me.)

Between that, the wacky customer comments written on dollar bills stapled all over the walls (the restaurant donates a buck to charity for each one), and endless pints of Smithwick's ale, Murphy's Law offers a welcome reprieve from the daily grind. It's also a good fit among the various San Marcos Place dining options, which include sushi, Italian, Mexican, a brewpub, an ice cream shop, and a wine bar, among others. In this neighborhood, you can actually barhop.

The vibe at Murphy's Law is bustling but down to earth, with traditional such Irish pub touches as illuminated round beer signs, vintage-inspired hanging lamps, and an old-fashioned copper ceiling above the bar. Seating is plentiful, from the long row of bar seats to clusters of high-top tables to wooden church pews lined up end to end down the long, airy space. The crowd here is a mix of ages, huddled at packed tables or hanging out alone with a pint and a laptop (free Wi-Fi is a perk). The waitresses, clad in black kilts and knee socks, are predictably perky and eager to bring another round.

In the way of food, there's a lot to consider — classic Irish fare, several kinds of burgers, boxtys, sandwiches, and a slew of beer-friendly appetizers. Good thing the kitchen does fried food well, because a lot of the items are batter-dipped.

My friends must've been feeling adventurous on a recent visit, because everyone seemed intrigued by the Little Grippers, an unusual dish that we figured was either really delicious or really not. What landed at the table was a platter of corned beef chunks veiled in hot, crispy Harp ale batter, with tangy-sweet honey mustard dip. The meat was very tender beneath that thin, fried coating — so pleasing to sink your teeth into. We surprised ourselves at how quickly we put away so much beef.

Just as surprising was how unanimously we didn't like the iron skillet corn bread, supposedly one of the restaurant's best sellers. Made with green chiles and corn, and served with sweet whiskey butter for dipping or drizzling on top, it sounded like a surefire hit but completely missed the mark. Was there a mishap in the kitchen? Chiles were barely detectable and the sweetness of corn was absent, with a strange musty flavor in its wake. It was so dry that it needed the whiskey butter to be edible, and even that didn't add much flavor. Everyone gave up after a couple of bites into it.

Safely back in fried-food territory, we loved the tasty onion petals, served in a round metal kettle with a side of horseradish sauce. These were thicker than onion strings and smaller than full onion rings, delicately fried with a lightness similar to tempura.

As expected, the fish and chips were prepared with an equally light touch, with a pile of thick-cut fries and juicy pieces of Harp-battered cod. Meanwhile, shepherd's pie, filled with beef, peas, carrots, and melted cheese, was as rich and stick-to-your-ribs as it gets, and one of the better versions I've had. I think the layer of mashed potatoes made all the difference — these had bits of onion mixed in, and a decadent buttery taste that complimented the flaky pastry on top.

Instead of the usual bangers and mash plate, I went with a banger boxty — a thick, lightly browned potato pancake wrapped around sausage and sauerkraut. The acidity of the kraut balanced out the heaviness of the rest, making it easy to scarf down. Like everything else on this part of the menu, it was available as a sandwich as well.

But not everything worked out as a boxty. Crab cake had a fine flavor, but the soft texture was too similar to the boxty itself — next time, I'll go with the onion roll.

A tangy topping reminiscent of barbecue sauce, along with some melted pepper jack, jazzed up the Kilarney grilled chicken sandwich, while blue cheese added oomph to a fat half-pound burger topped with sautéed mushrooms. Horseradish sauce and pepper jack didn't add much "Philly" to the cheesesteak, but the roll was fresh and it was stuffed with tender shaved beef.

Groaning from stomachs full of beer and boxtys, my friends practically protested when I ordered dessert. But as often happens, they willingly dug in when the sweets showed up.

Crème brûlée kissed with Bailey's lacked that essential crunch of brûléed sugar to tempt me beyond a single bite, but moist carrot cake, layered with velvety cream cheese icing, made up for it. And the real stunner of the night — a dangerously hot skillet of bread pudding sizzling in a sugary, mouthwatering Jameson whiskey sauce — made us all forget how much food we'd just eaten, if only for a few moments.

When the sky is falling, this is the best kind of distraction.

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig