November is my favorite month of the year for so many reasons. It’s finally time to grab a light jacket and shuffle through the freshly fallen leaves on the ground. Halloween, the greatest of all holidays, has just passed and I was hopefully able to scare the bejeezus out of vast numbers of small children. Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the horizon which means so are delicious home-cooked meals and opportunities to warm up next to a cozy fireplace. And it seems that most of my family and friends have birthdays this month which only means more parties and more time at bars. So, it’s at this time of year that I like to find the perfect tavern that incorporates all of that. Lucky for me, Chicago never disappoints, and that’s why I head to Mrs. Murphy’s & Sons Irish Bistro.
Located on north Lincoln Avenue in the North Center neighborhood, Mrs. Murphy’s & Sons Irish Bistro is not your typical neighborhood bar. First of all, this Irish Bistro (yes Irish and bistro in the same sentence) has great food. Huh? Second, EVERYONE that works there is nice. I mean really nice. Say what? Third, it’s big, haunted, and is in a renovated funeral home. Really? Yeah, really.
Herman Krauspe and family opened a funeral home here in 1929. The Krauspe’s remained in business well into the 1990s. During the depression, this area of town was ruled by mob boss Hymie Weiss. Rumor has it that Hymie would approach poor families that had lost a loved one and would offer to pay for their funerals. In addition, he would offer these grieving folks $1000 if they gave him access to the body and coffin, no questions asked. Hymie and his gang would then place multiple bodies in a coffin prior to the burial in order to get rid of any evidence. It was a win-win situation, but also a creepy-creepy one too. A few other murders took place later on and, thanks to all of this deadly history, the building is said to be haunted.
In the early 2000s, Jim Murphy, of Murphy’s Bleachers fame, purchased the building with the hopes of creating something new and different. Jim had previously traveled to the mother country in search of good food – something that he could bring back to the States to prove that the Irish could cook something more than boiled potatoes. Upon his return he set out to open Murphy’s Irish Bistro, a classy Irish gastropub that would serve traditional Irish meals in a high-end fashion. Sadly, Jim passed away while construction was still taking place and he never got to see his new adventure take root. His wife and sons took over and made sure to carry out his dream. They succeeded. Named Mrs. Murphy’s & Sons Irish Bistro for obvious reasons, the tavern opened in 2002.
The Murphy’s did a great job of combining the old with the new and preserving history while producing a contemporary atmosphere. Playing up the funeral home theme, patrons are encouraged to sign a guest book upon entry to the establishment. Walk in and head down the hallway into the great room. There is no mistaking the feel of the funeral home, but the environment is cozy. Made up of light stone work, dark woods, a fireplace with cushy ottomans, unique and historic lighting, and a gorgeous hand-crafted bar, the place really makes you feel right at home. I never knew creepy and charming could work so well together.
Gastropub this is. Steamed mussels, a killer burger, and other cozy Irish fare are amongst some of the many items on the menu. Using a whiskey base for their unbelievable BBQ sauce, it’s no surprise they were the 2010 winners of Ribfest Chicago.
But aside from the bar’s beauty, unique past, and good eats, what sets Mrs. Murphy’s aside from other bars is the staff. From the host to the bar staff, from the wait staff to the cooks, everyone in this joint is as nice as can be. I have never encountered an entire staff that is so pleasant and willing to assist you in any way, shape or form. And then there’s Eddie. Eddie, Chicago’s most under-rated bartender in my opinion, mans the bar and makes the bar. Knowledgeable about all of the elixirs behind him and any one of the craft beers they carry, Eddie is able to provide you a recommendation no matter what your taste. And once he knows your taste, he usually aims to surprise you with something new. Eddie also plays it old school. Having a bad day? Celebrating a great day? Just pull up a stool and Eddie is there ready to lend an ear, sometimes even two. Not to mention, the kid is a big soccer fan and futbol is usually on any one of the tavern’s tubes. Kickin’!
Feeling boooooozy? Then head to Mrs. Murphy’s. It really is the place where everyone knows your name. Well, eventually anyways.