By Kathy Feist
In South Kansas City there is only one Irish restaurant and everybody knows its name: Murray’s Tables + Taps located at 130th and State Line.
Murray’s is a neighborhood bar and restaurant known by locals for its quality food and drinks, live music, and fun atmosphere.
On St Patrick’s Day, the place will be filled with revelers. Little potato spud candies will be sold near the door. Partiers will be packed at the bar. A PG crowd waits to be seated in the restaurant. Waiters busily deliver plates of corned beef and cabbage, potato soup, Irish stew, fish and chips or Reuben sandwiches. Somewhere above the crowd noise, Irish music is playing. Maybe—but not this year—it will be live. Maybe someone gets up to dance. It can’t be helped. The merry atmosphere is so intoxicating. And at the end of the meal, and even if you have had a few sweet confections, you might want to consider the Irish Car Bomb chocolate dessert made with Guinness beer, Jameson whiskey, and Bailey’s Irish Cream.
Irish Family Owned
“It gives me the best feeling to see people having fun,” says owner Pat Murray who opened the restaurant in 2012.
He emphasizes that the restaurant is Irish family-owned and not just an Irish pub. In fact, Murray, who is 100 percent Irish, set out to create an atmosphere similar to his boyhood home. “Mom would fix you something to eat, something to drink. She would make you be very welcomed in our home,” he remembers. “Food and hugs were the two things she cared about the most.”
Fresh Not Frozen
Consequently, Murray’s food items come from family-owned recipes and are made fresh, including French fries, salad dressing, even the limes in the margaritas are freshly squeezed. “I wanted to put together a really good food operation,” he says. He and his wife Leslie dream up new recipes and change up the menu every few months. His daughter Leslie runs the bar.
Some of the more popular items on the menu are the crab cakes, the Burly club sandwich, chicken fingers, award-winning barbecue, pizza and of course their Irish dishes.
Recently, Murray’s added weekend breakfasts served from 8:30 am to 1 pm. Items include crab cake Benedict, corned beef hash and biscuits and gravy.
When Murray opened the restaurant, he had already had 22 years’ experience in the food industry. In 1989 he helped open Lynn Dickey’s on the Plaza. Although owner of an electrical sign company, Murray remained “intrigued” with the restaurant business even after Dickey’s closed. He opened Pat’s Blue Rib ‘n Barbecue in Lawrence and Manhattan, Kansas, and a satellite operation out of HyVee in 1999. The barbecue won several awards and was named Best Ribs in Kansas City by Squier magazine. The HyVee operation closed and Murray sold the Lawrence and Manhattan restaurants in 2011.
Murray was diagnosed with oral cancer in 2008. Two years later, a spot was found on his lung. He is a survivor of both diagnoses. But such fights lend themselves to a deeper reflection on life’s goals. “I knew I liked people,” he recalls. “I liked to entertain.”
For the third time, and with much experience under his belt, Murray bought the former Sunset Grill at 130th and State Line (now Murray’s). “This restaurant was a labor of love when it opened,” he recalls. He set off to making it a fun, upscale neighborhood restaurant and bar.
He rebuilt the bar area and included an outdoor eating space. In the restaurant, he created a small dance space for the live music on weekends. Every so often he adds items to the décor, maybe something he picked up in Ireland, or a piece of art designed by a customer, such as the corked M.
But mainly, Murray is true to those qualities that he reflected upon during his illness. He loves to meet and greet the customers who walk through his doors.
St. Patrick’s Celebrations
This year, Murray’s will be open both on Sunday, March 13, after the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Martin City and on Thursday, March 17. It is the only time customers get to order the hickory smoked corned beef or the traditional Irish breakfast of Bangers, Rashers and Mash (sausage, bacon and potatoes).