Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Erin Go Bragh Murphy's" - by Meg McConahey

Published on March 17, 1995

© 1995- The Press Democrat

BYLINE: Meg McConahey
Staff Writer PAGE: B1

A sign at the alley entrance promises ``Pub Grub'' --
a potent repellent against foodies who insist their
truffles and baby vegetables be presented -not just

At Murphy's Irish Pub there's only belly-filling chow
washed down with ale tawny and thick as waffle syrup.

In the nearly two years since proprietor Larry Murphy
first threw open the door on his life's dream, the pub
has become an escape hatch and reality check for
locals seeking the unvarnished truth behind the Wine
Country's glossy image.

If Murphy's is an unpretentious island of green in a
sea of red marina, it didn't just happen. ``Publican''
Larry Murphy, a one-time town mayor, airline pilot,
potter and art teacher, has cultivated not only the
look but the comfort of a genuine Irish pub.

``You have to have pictures on the wall,'' he
explained, waving to the framed portraits of deceased
ancestors. The Murphys came from County Wexford before
the potato famine. ``You have to have curtains. You've
got to make it feel like it's an extension of the
house. It's really a part of your parlor. In Ireland
they don't build homes with backyard decks. You don't
invite friends over for a barbecue. Everyone assembles
at the pub.''

Murphy corrects anyone who calls his pub a bar. It's a
family place, where 7-year-old Bridget Duff of Glen
Ellen breaks into a jig on a Saturday night and Sonoma
Realtor Tom Kelly's son brings in his 3-year-old to
``visit'' his mug of root beer.

With last call at 11 p.m., regulars show up more for
the live fiddle and accordion, readings of Irish
writers or to play cards Tuesday nights.

``You can go in there and strike up a conversation
with someone you've never seen before,'' said Sonoma
Valley Supervisor Mike Cale, who challenges Sheriff
Mark Ihde to darts in Murphy's back room.

Hidden from the food police, regulars down with
impunity ``chips'' as big as sausages, bathed in
ketchup and vinegar. And with it's bench seating and
walls cluttered with posters, playbills and irreverent
memos like, ``They have checked out Larry's Irish
roots and they have found phylloxera,'' Murphy's is
resolutely downscale.

That, say locals, is real Sonoma, where Sangiacomos
and Fanucchis mingle with Sweeneys and McKnights, for
beer on tap, Irish stew, and fish and chips so pungent
with North Sea cod they're missing only the newspaper

``It's real beer, and this is not pub light,'' said
Melanie Laybourn, nursing a Guinness on a Saturday
night after waiting 45 minutes for a table.

The wait will be longer tonight. Comers will be lucky
just to squeeze in the door as swarms of revelers head
down the alley for St. Patrick's Day pipes and drums
and pints the lanky Publican promises will be
unsullied by green food color.

But regulars whisper that they don't need the St.
Patty's excuse to socialize the Irish way. They'll be
back Saturday night. Sniffed one British-born pub
loyalists: ``I don't care for other places. This is

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