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A.J. McMurphy’s: 'No strangers, just friends you haven’t met yet'

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Dubliner Pasta at A.J. McMurphy’s Irish Pub.

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By Christina Ruotolo
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

If you are looking for an unpretentious gathering place with tasty American and Irish pub food, plus karaoke, trivia and live music, then head over to A.J. McMurphy’s Irish Pub at 1914 Turnbury Drive. A.J. McMurphy’s is known for great domestic and imported beer, as well as an expansive menu featuring appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, entrees, wings, flatbread pizzas, soups and salads with prices ranging from $7-$16.

I would describe this restaurant as an Irish-inspired watering hole that locals and visitors alike will walk in and fall in love with. The vibe is great, the space airy and open with upper and lower seating, a built-in stage with lights for entertainment, a bar that seats 18 and 16 flat-screen TVs so you won’t miss your favorite sports team.

Owners Shannon and Bill Stom have created a place they describe much like the famous Cheers bar and their slogan fits that bill, “Here there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet.” You’ll be greeted by the charismatic Shannon and be wowed by the food that Bill and his crew are cranking out of the kitchen.

Bill has been in the restaurant business for 12 years and says his favorite part is the cooking because he learned to cook from his grandmothers and mother and finds happiness when he sees his customers enjoying great food.

“I love cooking and making people happy through food,” he said. “It was how I was raised, so when you come here, you can sit down and we can all break bread together. It’s a family affair.”

You can choose from American-inspired pub grub items like loaded nachos, handmade kettle chips with ranch sauce; sandwiches like the reuben, Philly cheese steak or patty melt; bone-in or boneless wings; and a variety of flavorful flatbread pizzas. A.J. McMurphy’s also serves traditional Irish-style entrees such as bangers and mash, pub fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and even a hearty Irish stew.

I started my pub journey by trying some of the items on the regular menu. First, I sampled the seared ahi tuna that is pan seared and blackened with a sun-dried tomato and garlic rub. It’s served with a cool cusabi dipping sauce and sliced cucumbers. The seasoning was mild, and the fish was clean and flavorful. The cusabi dipping sauce was cool and refreshing with its mix of wasabi and mayonnaise, a perfect light summer dish.

I sampled a crowd favorite, the Guinness baby back ribs. The half-rack of ribs is dry-rubbed and slathered with a sweet and smokey house-made barbecue sauce made with Guinness beer and brown sugar. The sauce was sticky, sweet and tangy. A half rack of ribs has six or seven meaty bones, and the dish comes with fries and coleslaw.

Next, I tried a traditional Irish dish — the bangers and mash. An Irish banger sweet sausage is served over a bowl full of mashed red-skinned potatoes and smothered with a gravy made with onions and Guinness beer and topped with colorful green peas. Banger sausages got their name because when they put them on a grill they popped. When grilled, the sausage casing gets a crispy, snappy crust. The gravy was deep brown and luscious and had nice hoppy beer undernotes. The pop of green pea at the end brings the whole dish home. This entree is perfect paired with a glass of Guinness beer.

A.J. McMurphy’s offers a variety of special menu items for two weeks at a time. I sampled another Irish dish, the Dubliner pasta. This dish features grilled chicken sauteed with sundried tomatoes, spinach, bacon, shallots and shaved imported Irish Dubliner cheese nestled in fettuccine noodles. It was filling, but not heavy because there are no heavy additives like cream. The “creaminess” of this dish comes from the mild, white Irish cheese that has a clean, nutty flavor. The sauce was light, glossy and flavorful. This was a perfect summer pasta dish.

If you want to try one of the flatbread pizzas, you can try the new shredded pork, goat cheese and fig flatbread. OK, I know what you’re thinking: Figs on a pizza? This pizza was amazing, and the figs are what brought it all home. Sweet, chewy figs and mild, creamy goat cheese go together beautifully. This pizza has so many beautiful flavors, it feeds all your taste buds at once. You get a bit of salty notes from the tender pork, creamy from the goat cheese, sweet from the red peppers and balsamic reduction sauce, savory from the mozzarella cheese, and it’s all complemented by the drizzle of garlic olive oil.

Finally, I sampled a sandwich that is for heat seekers. In the B.L.T. and P.C., hickory-smoked bacon, fresh sliced tomatoes and lettuce and homemade habernero pimento cheese are stuffed between slices of grilled sourdough bread. This one is not for the faint at heart. The pimento cheese is Southern-style made with cream cheese, mayonnaise, cayenne pepper, Texas Pete hot sauce and a whole lot of local habanero cheese. Get ready after your first bite for the heat to build on your tongue. The tomato and cool iceburg lettuce provided a momentary palate quencher, but that sweet heat comes back and builds again.

A.J. McMurphy’s offers 20 beers on tap with the most popular being the six rotating crafts. Check out the cocktail board on the wall to see what beers are coming up.

I decided to try one of the Tuesday night $5 martinis. Each one is unique and tasty and visual experience. I tried the Cotton Candy Martini. Lay a pink and blue fluffy mound of cotton candy in a martini glass and pour over a mixture of raspberry vodka, triple sec and Sprite. When the mixture meets the wispy cotton candy, it changes from a pink and light blue color to a cosmic-colored neon purple masterpiece. It was fun to watch and tasted sweet and sugary, the perfect nightcap. Check our the nightly drink features which include favorites like the Don Juan Margarita, Dickel Pickle, which is a shot of Dickel whiskey with a pickle back chaser, or a Glenmo Old Fashioned.

If you crave a sweet bite instead of sweet drinks, A.J. McMurphy’s offers local Tucci cheesecakes in a variety of mouth-watering flavors. I sampled the brownie cheesecake, which was layers of cheesecake between two layers of rich, chocolate brownie.

A.J. McMurphy’s opens at 3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and at 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, call 355-7956 or visit the https://ajmcmurphys.com.

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