Joanne Ketler and Patricia Cipollone have opened their brand new Murph’s Beef & Ale in the space that hosted the ill-fated PrimoHoagies on The Avenue in Henlopen Station center near Signarama, Casa DiLeo and the former Big Sissies (now The Swell). Lots of visibility and tons of free parking.
It’s important to make one thing clear about Murph’s Beef & Ale: If you go in there expecting a “roast beef sammich on whole wheat with mayo, lettuce and tomato,” you’re in the wrong place. You can get a nice one of those at Arena’s. Murph’s style is very regional, sharing primary characteristics with Philadelphia, Chicago and Buffalo, NY. Like the Chicago Italian Beef (actually dipped entirely in jus), or northwestern New York’s Beef on Weck (a salty roll and gravy-covered beef), these sandwiches are made in a specific way: Beef is sliced onto a roll, jus is ladled over the top (enough to soak into the roll), and minimal toppings like cheese or gravy are available. In Philly, broccoli raab always accompanies the pork sandwich (think DiNics in Reading Terminal Market). OK, enough with the regional food lesson.
UPDATE! Well, the Murph’s girls are nothing if not responsive! They listened to the comments posted here at RehobothFoodie.com and sandwich orders now include a nice pickle spear right there on the large plate with the sandwich. So there’s even more to like as the proprietors continue to improve their little sandwich shop. Now back to the program in progress.
I’ve been to Murph’s twice so far, and I’ll tell you why I feel they are on the right track:
1. Their kaiser rolls (key to a good sandwich) are delivered daily from none other than Amoroso’s Baking Co. in Philadelphia. The 9th & Passyunk crowd is familiar with these soft, yeasty little gems.
2. There are banana pepper rings AND grated horseradish on the counter. You can apply as much or as little as you want. Let freedom ring!
3. They offer the “outside cuts” of the beef as an option when ordering, until they are all gone, of course. Outside cuts of beef or pork shoulder (we call them “burnt ends” in the BBQ business) are the reason we are not vegetarians.
4. They drizzle jus over the top of the meat – just enough that it soaks into the roll a little, but not so much that you have to eat the sandwich with a straw.
The gravy fries (get the beef gravy) are a sleeper there, and the chunks of beef make it even more appealing. Think Canadian poutine, but without the cheese. I am planning a return visit to check out some of the other starters.
Take a look at the gallery for photos taken so far. The ladies are still fine-tuning everything, but they seem to be going in the right direction. And yes, the teeny-weenie plates (seemed like a good idea on paper) have been replaced with nice big plates with a tall edge. So the juice and gravy stay put!
The bar is friendly and has a particularly nice touch: They have New Belgium Fat Tire on draft! Murf’s Beef & Ale is open Sun-Thurs 11a-12 midnight, Fri & Sat 11a ’til 1a. Stay tuned for more pics, and listen to Joanne and Pat on my radio show on Saturday, 7/11. They are a hoot.