CASUAL DINING STATION OPENS SHOP IN SHERMAN OAKS
When you have a good thing going, you’re either apt to stay the course and not to rock the boat or strike while the fire is hot. Richard DiSisto is striking hard and taking over Sherman Oaks one block at a time…that or he has seriously already taken over one block of Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
First came Tipple & Brine, which was followed by Tunnel Bar, two dining and drinking destinations that shook Sherman Oaks to its core. Now comes MURPH'S, a more casual spot offering classic Americana dishes and spirits.
“Our goal is to serve quality food and drinks that are classic, approachable and well-crafted,” says owner Richard DiSisto.
“This is a place for the people in the neighborhood to come fuel up on premium eats, cocktails and beer,” adds Mike Williams, Executive Chef for the Vantage Restaurant Group, which run Tipple & Brine, Tunnel Bar, and MURPH’S.
Walk into MURPH’S and you’ll immediately notice its 1930s Art Deco service stations vibe. A large garage door separates the interior from the spacious patio overlooking Ventura Boulevard and oil barrels cut in half are mounted to the wall are populated with booze bottles, vintage oil cans and auto body manuals, while industrial hanging fixtures you have probably seen in your grandfather’s garage light the space.
During our recent visit for dinner at MURPH’S, we started with an order of the highly addictive Potato Puffs—a purely evil creation that is a real Snacks menu item winner—and a round of drinks of course. The Bus to Beelzebub, made with mescal, maraschino, sweet vermouth, Ancho Reyes, angostura and habcheriño, is fiery but a really nice cocktail. Likewise, the Final Exam, a mix of bonded bourbaon, Jamaican rum, Amaro Meletti, and Miracle Mile red eye bitters, is a stiff and satisfying drink. Both are great way to kick off your night.
An interesting Snacks offering is the Pig Ear Fries, which are tasty but a little too tough and bland and in need of some kind of sauce. Moving on to the Light Fare section of the menu, a must-have is the Sweet Corn Soup made with chili, bacon and scallions. It’s so ridiculously good. It’s rich and thick and reminiscent of porridge in its thick consistency. The Chopped Romaine with Kalamata Olives, summer sausage, garbanzos and Cotija, is nice salad but it was a bummer that the sausage wasn’t all that—in fact it was almost unnoticeable.
Opting for another round of drinks, I have to give it up to Christopher Day (Tipple & Brine and veteran of Honeycut) who has put together a list of straightforward cocktails such as the Oil Change (bonded bourbon, fresh lemon, honey and ginger) and the fiery River Tam, a tequila-lime concoction spiked with habañero syrup, ginger and topped with soda. There’s even a tasty beer cocktail, the MURPH’S Law, with bourbon, Amaro Averna, honey, ginger, lime and SanTan hefeweizen.
Wanting to try some of MURPH’S Favorites from the menu, we went with the crowd pleasing Wings with Umami glaze, peanuts and scallions; Crispy Pork Belly served with sunchoke puree, balsamic glazed figs, and Fresno chili; along with the Short Rib “Pastrami” with rye spaetzle and mustard jus. Each was very tasting, although I was a real fan of the pork belly, probably because they combined it with figs, which I love, and the so tasty “pastrami”.
Larger menu items can be found in the Things to Share…Or Not! section and we opted to share the Fried Chicken served with biscuit and grilled corn. A simple yet solid dish, I’m not sure it’s worth its $24 tag, but it is a hearty and satisfying offering.
There are also different burgers to choose from, Classic, Spicy, Smokey and Cheesy, along with a house-made, chickpea-based VeggieBurger, which we decided to go with just to try something different and it proved to be a solid dish and a great non-meat option.
“We are aiming to make the best burgers, grinding the beef in-house and making sauces and pickles from scratch,” says Williams.”
Apparently Richard DiSisto is already working on his fourth Ventura Boulevard venture, which will be called di avellino, inspired by his grandfather, who emigrated to the U.S. from the Italian province of Avellino.
“It’s my quest to transform Downtown Sherman Oaks and create a real community here,” DiSisto says. “I want to make it a destination.”
Consider that mission accomplished.
MURPH’S is located 14649 Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. Hours: Mon-Thurs 4pm to 10pm; Fri and Sat 11:30am to 11pm; Sunday 11:30am to 10pm. Call 818-986-9999.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photos courtesy of Mark Dutweiller