Breaking Murphy’s Law

It was a dark night in a city that knows how to hold its liquor...

It was a dark night in a city that knows how to hold its liquor…

It was a bright, cold night in February, and the clocks were striking nineteen. Despite treacherous conditions as snowy Hanover thaws and refreezes into a literal slippery slope, the Review Reviewers carefully made their way from divergent Dartmouth careers to a harmonious dinner in the warm hearth of Murphy’s.

Elsa Hjullåsning, a visiting professor from Sweden, was taking a break from her gender equality research to join the men for her first dinner in Hanover. After travelling for the better part of two days, Elsa Wheelock encounters her first challenge on American soil; hailing a taxi. Coddled by Sweden’s flawless public transportation, the nuances of the U.S. personal transportation system escape her, and she offends her cab driver fifteen minutes into their three-hour journey, commenting on the strong musk emanating from the driver’s seat. Murphy’s, advertising its “rustic, innovative, New England fare,” seemed like the most American restaurant in town, a prime target for her first foray into the world of cissexist, patriarchal cuisine.

Emerging sweat-soaked and panting from the Alumni Gym, Gil Hanlon just finished several back-to-back rounds in the Dartmouth boxing ring. Graduating from shadow boxer to sparring partner to renowned opponent, Gil takes pleasure in knocking his opponents out, banning their consciousness from their bodies, and derecognizing them from the ring. Gaining notoriety as the voice of an unheard majority, Gil is attributed with the now famous quotation, “Get rid of hardos, not hard A!”

Veteran reviewers Sheriff Rick Grimes and Pip Epiphany navigate the icy roads expertly. Armed with Timberland boots and a notebook, the duo makes its way toward the welcoming black sign with iconic golden text that hovers just south of the Green’s muddy paths: “Murphy’s.” The first of the squad to arrive, Sheriff and Pip absorb the bustling Murphy’s atmosphere. Packed with upperclassmen and residents of the Inn next door, Murphy’s offers a refreshing New England small-town quaintness.

Elsa and Gil quickly join the table, and the lively dialogue begins, topics ranging from Elsa’s socialist Scandinavian origins to the demise of her iPhone’s flawless screen—fierce debate ensues regarding Dartmouth’s two competing iPhone screen repair businesses. Conversation soon shifts to the more personal topic of everyone’s sobriquets. Pip’s pedantic genesis from the famed Charles Dickens novel frames him far more favorably than the Sheriff’s less academic, more post-apocalyptic origin. Elsa launches into a thick-accented tirade on her family’s strong history as ideal Nordic socialists, and Gil is too busy Snapchatting to offer any insight.

The earlier service is quick off the bat. Struggling to select ale for the evening, Pip turns to the waitress for help, and receives a strong recommendation toward a featured beer in rotation for only a short time. Described as “super bitter,” the Two Roads Triple I.P.A. ($6) did not disappoint. With a bold hoppy flavor, the piney golden brew has a hint of tang that offers thirty patrons respite from the earthy taste. Elsa opts for some hot water with lemon to warm her cold Nordic heart, and Gil, in typical schoolboy fashion, decides on a simple Sprite. Finally back on the job, the Sheriff is once again on duty and thus unable to consume alcohol, so he opts for a simple ice water.

Focus quickly shifts to the main menu. Elsa was pleasantly surprised to find that the New England menu was not totally dominated by filthy American meat. The mussels and calamari, along with the grilled salmon, fish and chips, and crab cakes for entrées offered sufficient surf menu options, essential to any Scandinavian. After an extremely disappointing revelation from the waitress that the restaurant was out of the seared scallops with foie gras (“Going to be difficult to rebound from this scandal,” Grimes proclaims, as Gil launches into a profanity-laced tirade), the group decides on the tried-and-true classic fried calamari (“breaded and fried, tossed in a light herb and pepper infused olive oil and topped with pepperoncini – served with marinara and chili basil sauce,” $13) and a half portion of nachos (“tortilla chips made in-house daily served with refried beans, tomatoes, scallions and house pickled jalapenos,” $9 half/$16 full). The group resumes discussing the few merits and the many downsides of the troubling new house system. “Free AD!” shouts Gil, as Pip professes his desire for Ms. Hjullåsning to sign on as his future house’s advisor. “What we really need is more open-minded, cultured people like you around here,” he compliments. Elsa’s snow-colored face blushes red, and the Sheriff shakes his head in disapproval.

Within a few minutes, the appetizers arrive, much to the group’s pleasure. Elsa gasps in shock that the calamari isn’t served with lemon, its traditional accompaniment. The others concur, but dig in anyway. The calamari offers a good mix of the ring pieces versus the weird-squiggly-squid kind of pieces, an important balance to maintain. Both sauces offer something special to the taste, with the traditional marinara being of the highest quality and the sweet chili basil offering a unique addition to the dish. All are impressed on this front, particularly the Sheriff, who impounds the remaining sweet chili basil sauce to test on his entrée. Unfortunately, as is the case with almost all calamari appetizers, the provided amount is not nearly enough to satisfy the group. Gil silently picks at the small pieces of fried batter in sadness.

The nachos prove to be a solid appetizer as well, though not quite on the level of the calamari. The towering pile of chips was certainly piled on with a variety of toppings, but the cheese was, ultimately, solid rather than liquid, rendering the chip population a mixture of cheese haves and have-nots. It proves quite difficult to even pick up a tortilla chip with the provided toppings, which makes the eating part of the appetizer more difficult and more messy than necessary. The Sheriff is pleased to find a layer of refried beans beneath the mountain of chips, but is disappointed by the fact it wasn’t more prominently available. Overall, the nachos prove to be a fairly solid appetizer, but the presentation is debilitatingly ineffective.

Pip, after his second Two Roads Triple, excuses himself to inspect the bathroom. Beckoned downstairs by bold lettering, the Reviewer made his way past the portrait of three middle-aged diners chortling in a Murphy’s of an undisclosed decade. The restroom itself is small and elegant, enveloping the casual relief-seeker in safe seclusion a floor below the dining room. Impressive marks for the most important part of the restaurant.

After a bit more time than the gang would have hoped, the entrees arrive. Gil’s reaction is, per usual, over-the-top, as he proclaims his excitement. “THIS LOOKS FLAME AF!” Indeed, his classic 8 oz. Murph Burger (“crispy shallots, NCS Applewood bacon, remoulade, American cheese, sweet potato sourdough roll,” $16) does pique the interest of the others. After taking a bite into the delicious, tender beef, Gil mutters that “The grease system has officially been abolished. This burger is LIT.” With a better bun, equally delicious beef, but no mouth-watering chipotle aioli, Gil cannot conclude whether the Murph or Pine’s Hanover Burger is the best in town.

Elsa is also more than pleased with her 10 oz. Certified Angus New York Strip (“potatoes gratin, VOD, and house made Bordelaise,” $26). Like the restaurant, the classic dish is presented with a refreshing New England overtone. Bathed in a homemade bordelaise sauce, the ten ounce slab of meat sits beside a classic potatoes gratin. The steak is tender, with a flavorful marbling that lends the meat a juicy flavor complemented well by the tender green beans serving as the Friday vegetable of the day. Old fashioned, yet forward-thinking, the New York Strip is the chef’s deconstruction of an American classic, with a touch of New England crunch. Ultimately, she is more than satisfied with her defiance of traditional gender roles.

The Sheriff stares in awe at his Fish ’n’ Chips (“fresh cod battered fried crispy, served with slaw, fries and house made remoulade,” $19) for a few seconds before digging in. The coleslaw on the side, usually an irrelevant part of the traditional dish, is one of the best he has tasted, providing a tart and full flavor that complements the slightly spicy remoulade. The fish itself is both hit and miss, in that one of the filets is soggy and falls apart and the other is a crisp ball of delicious flavor. The remoulade is top notch, and the ketchup is an ever-solid option as well. The fries, inconveniently located beneath the fish filets, are slightly soggier than desirable, likely due to their position.

Finally, Pip receives the Pan Seared Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes (“served with a lightly fried spaghetti squash, frisée salad, and roasted red pepper aioli,” $23). Elsa remarks on how his meal is “the only acceptably-sized dish at this table.” Pip looks in exasperation at the big, American-sized portions on his friends’ plates, as they all seem to find them quite pleasing. Ultimately, he deems the crab cakes satisfying, but underwhelming. They are fresh and light, though certainly not made with lump meat, as they claimed to be. “Though perhaps,” he begins, as the Sheriff recognizes the beginning of a trademark philosophical remark, “the smallest of lumps to us is, in fact, the largest to a mouse.” The group bow their heads in silence at Pip’s quip. “Sick, bruh,” Gil contributes.

Following the devouring of the main courses, the group is left rubbing their stomachs in discontent. For once, a restaurant has left them unable to consume anymore. As the server appears again to suggest desserts, the Sheriff is forced to wave her away and immediately request the bill. Overall, Elsa found Murphy’s milieu charming – and fitting, as it was, after all, in small New England town. The dark wooden walls, brimming bookshelves, dim lighting , overlooking snowy Main Street, created the cozy, crowded setting one craves in the Hanover winter. She receives a generally positive, albeit patriarchal, first impression of the American culinary scene. “You finna hit up a REAL scene? Swing by frat row tonight, it’ll be sweet,” Gil proclaims. And once again, the gang head their separate ways after another successful edible endeavor.