By Susan Shinn
Devotees of L.A. Murph’s have been rejoicing about the opening of the gourmet-to-go restaurant in its expanded digs.
Owner Laura Murph had opened a commercial kitchen beside her house on Pine Ridge Road several years ago. When she outgrew that space, she opened at 1532 W. Innes St. last June, and hasn’t looked back.
That means there’s more room for Murph’s popular gourmet-to-go entrées, along with a cozy spot to eat lunch, and larger cases of tasty salads, as well as homemade cream-filled oatmeal cookies…
Luscious cakes …
Fabulous brownies …
Lemon squares to die for…
Chocolate chip cookies …
I’m sorry, where was I?
Oh, right. The restaurant!
Business has been steady for Murph, who admits she had to learn all the ins-and-outs of what it takes to run an eat-in restaurant.
“It’s still steady,” Murph says. “Lunch is good.”
Food-wise, L.A. Murph’s offers the same menu it always has, Murph says. “We’ve just stepped it up a notch.”
For instance, the restaurant has fresh salads such as pasta salads and salads with wild rice.
“Now we can have more variety because we have more traffic,” Murph says.
Customers can choose from among eight popular box lunches, or choose a la carte selections.
“We still deliver and evidently that’s a big thing,” Murph says. A minimum order of $75 is required for delivery within the city limits.
The entrees are packaged to go and to be cooked at home. But for 10 percent more, L.A. Murph’s will even heat it up for you.
“Literally, some people do not have time to heat that up for 30 minutes when they get home,” Murph says.
Where she served 72 servings of entrées a day out of the old location, the new place is serving 108.
“Whatever doesn’t sell fresh goes to the freezer,” Murph says.
She has one customer who comes from South Carolina to visit her mom, and fills her cooler with Murph’s frozen entrees.
The dining area seats about 18, Murph says, and has been full every day.
Murph hopes to open a drive-through window ó which is already in place ó this summer. For now, she parks at the window so folks will know not to sit in line.
“We were just so overwhelmed when we first moved in,” Murph says. “There was much more work than we’d ever intended.”
Husband Steve helped draw a design for the gutted building, increasing the display space, and creating a small dining area.
“We weren’t going for a huge eating area,” Murph says, “but this is a destination. People set out to come here and sit down and have their lunch.
“It’s an awesome location. People have got to be happy to see this building occupied.”
Murph’s regular customers followed her right to the new locale.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be here,” Murph says. “People searched us out when we were out there.”
Beth Dixon, a district court judge, comes in often.
“I used to come in and load up on casseroles,” she says. “Now I come in and have a quiet lunch.”
She’s lured in the courthouse crowd with Chicken Lombardy, now a favorite of Bill Kenerly, district attorney.
“Oh, we love it,” says Sue Clark. She and husband Joe come in a couple of times a week. “We try different things. I like her broccoli salad, too. I really like everything. We enjoy this place. It’s just different.”
Joe Clark loves the oatmeal cookies.
Murph praises Doug Phillips, zoning administrator, for his patience while she and her husband scouted for a new place. It took almost a year to do that after some zoning issues surfaced.
“We wanted to take our time and do it right,” Murph says.
She closed for about two weeks during the transition time.
“My customers were anxious,” she says. “Steve even put brown paper over the windows, because people kept coming by and checking if we were open. People said they missed us. He couldn’t get anything done.”
Along with having more space, Murph has more employees ó six full-time and 19 part-time.
“I finally now have a kitchen manager and an office manager,” she says, sounding relieved. “Office stuff is not my thing at all.”
Her thing is cake decorating.
“From the beginning, I wanted to have a bakery,” Murph says. “That’s what I like to do the best ó it’s just all worked out.”
Even though she misses working next door to home, Murph says her daughter Katie, a fourth-grader at Isenburg Elementary School, spends a lot of time with her at work. Son Sam is in the eighth-grade at Knox Middle School, while Tom is in sixth grade.
Murph thinks her meals-to-go fill a need.
“I just keep waiting for somebody to go into this,” she says. “It’s such a niche. It’s so appropriate for today. You get tired of cooking. It’s just another option. I think it’ll stay popular as long as we keep the quality up.”
Murph emphasizes that everything is made fresh.
“To me, it’s just the way it is,” Murph says. “We peel the vegetables, we boil the chicken and chop it up. We make the pie crusts and roll it out. That’s the way I learned to cook. That sets us apart and I hope people taste that difference.”
Hours for L.A. Murph’s are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Beginning March 1, hours Monday-Friday will be 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
For more information, call 704-636-2505 or visit www.lamurphs.com.
Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or email@example.com.
By Susan Shinn