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Murphy's Seafood Bar & Grill

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Murphy's is the last of the old apostrophe-wearing restaurants that used to vie for the title of "Boise's Best Surf-n-Turf." Its contemporaries, Schott's and Milford's, have been bludgeoned into oblivion by recent economic recessions, so today only Murphy's remains. But this Broadway eatery carries on the traditions that made the others both loved and loathed in their time: excellent steak, fresh seafood and bills so large they come back tearstained.

If you haven't been in for a while, expect more noise than you remember. The cathedral-sized sports bar(n) along Murphy's north wall gives a constant soundtrack of football updates and coarse laughter to the diners in the other room. But noise, it appears, is the price for dining in a modern steakhouse. So, amongst décor equal parts garland-draped fake fish and old-timey photographs (an odd mixture) my vegetarian sidekick and I met our friends, a pair of new parents desperate for a break from the shrillness of youth, for a session of pre-holiday protein-pounding.

We started with a round of ales provided to Murphy's by The Ram Brewery. Like all Ram beers we've tried, they were inoffensive, although not robust or interesting enough to compete with Boise's truly local microbrews. They did, however, help me choke down the excessively greasy calamari appetizer I was sharing with the bleary-eyed 'rents. Given the price ($10), I expected something better executed and more imaginative than soggy rings with a side of bland mayo-sauce. In the future, I'll stick with Murphy's Caesar salad and excellent clam chowder instead. Along with its mediocre preparation, our appetizer was also quite slow to arrive, meaning we had only minutes to pick at it before our prompt server started swooping in the entrée plates. We had no choice but to shrug off the last third of the squid and turn to what we hoped would be more delectable fare.

Veggie Jackson selected, as she usually does, her one option on the menu: in this case, a plate of titian triangles going by the title of butternut squash ravioli. She found it boring, cheese-heavy and light on squash with a wonton-like limpness to the noodles. I asked for an adjective, and got the same one she gave the beers: "Eh."

The procreators had only slightly better luck with their choices. Mama had herb-crusted trout, which she declared flavorless and burned-tasting. She promptly traded it to her husband for his salmon fillet, half of a steak-and-salmon combo. He declared the trout to be "campfire-y," meaning simple, crunchy and a little charred, but not unappetizing. He fared better with his steak, a perfectly medium-rare five-ounce filet covered in a smoky sugar-sauce.

My choice (naturally) was the most consistent of the entrees. I also opted for a combo, but selected pork osso bucco (marinated pork shanks) and scallops on the half-shell. If you've only had the gummy little cylinders that most people call scallops, I suggest you find someone like Murphy to set you straight. These tender little dreams, drizzled with lemon and butter, seemed to disintegrate just as they coasted, like Venus in the Botticelli painting, onto my tongue. The pork as well was so tender as to be blown off the bone by a light wind, and was served atop excellent garlic mashed potatoes.

The meals were all generous in size--which was appropriate, considering that after a pumpkin cheesecake nightcap, they required a rent payment to the restaurant. Nonetheless, I doubt I'll drag the parents back for a while, at least until the runt is in college and we can all afford apostrophes of our own.

--Nicholas Collias ate Santa's cookies. Sorry.

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