TLO Restaurant Review: Murphy’s Original Steak House

Wanting to get out of the city if only for a few scant hours last weekend, my ladyfriend and I took a random road trip to medium-sized berg of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Thankfully taking over, she had planned the itinerary with a much-needed lunch stop at a fine local steakhouse known as Murphy’s Original, 1625 SW Frank Phillips Blvd.

With signage that featured a weathered cow out front proclaiming it has been there since 1946, once we walked through the glass doors and passed the strange entryway that doubled as what is probably a storage closet, she became mildly disappointed that this was no fine steakhouse while I became absolutely thrilled that this was no fine steakhouse:

As I dropped to my knees and thanked the god of rural diners for this call to deliverance, a waitress in a pink t-shirt led us to our minimally wiped table, bits of French fries and other lunchtime ephemera were still scattered on the floor, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care at all, soaking up the pure Okie ambiance of the joint.

Looking over our small menus, I noticed that barely anyone around us were wearing masks—not the waitresses, not the kitchen and definitely not the customers. But, I remembered, I was in Bartlesville and it wasn’t my place to correct a restaurant full of old men in their sixties wearing snap-button short-sleeves shirts and black ball-caps with their military service record on them.

I’ll leave that to you and your Twitter, man.

For a starter, I really wanted to try the fried pickle spears, but there was not a consensus around the table. So, instead, we ordered the Trio Appetizer Plate ($6.99) that included Fried Mozzarella Sticks, Fried Stuffed Jalapenos and, thankfully, the Fried Pickles I so desperately craved. Remarkably hot, I burned my tongue as the tart pickle juice exploded in a yelp of third-degree pain.

There was a selection of Open-Faced Sandwiches on the menu featuring slightly erotically-named eats like Hot Beef and Hot Ham. With a slight titter of immature laughter, I voyeuristically watched as my ladyfriend had the Hot Hamburger ($7.49) delivered to the table, featuring a half-pound of beef covered in fries and brown gravy, choking the absolute life out of it.

While it took a minor spelunking expedition to get to the meat under the mountain of fried potatoes, eventually she did and, even though she thought she’d be enjoying something far more hoity-toity this afternoon, was quite content with the runny results, even if there was no way she could humanly finish this brown challenge laid out before her.

But, being at a country steakhouse, I couldn’t let the bovine mascot out front down and had to get an 8 oz. Sirloin Steak ($12.99), complete with a baked potato and what my ladyfriend described as “the most Oklahoma salad known to man” consisting of iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes and shredded cheese with a drizzle of ranch and served in a requisite plastic bowl.

The steak, cooked medium rare and leaving a pool of red on the plate, was lightly salt and peppered with an undeniable taste of freshly butchered meat—hard to find in the city, I know—that was beautifully tender and wonderfully aromatic, leading to an afternoon of unslightly mastication, hitting all the perfect buttons needed to enjoy a semi-cheap small-town steak.

For dessert, we ordered an oddly hot slice of pecan pie to share that way lovers in Oklahoma often do. When I asked the waitress if it was homemade, she proudly told me “Naw, it’s from Ben E. Keith.” I gave her a slightly larger tip for the blatant honesty. Cómpralo ya!


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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21 Responses

  1. Love places like that!

  2. if you’re still up there, go by Dink’s BBQ.
    great BBQ and the fried onion strings are amazing.

    coldest beer in town.

    1. Last time I was there, roaches were crawling on the wall.

      That was during the daytime.

      1. Well of course….

  3. As a person who grew up there, I can tell you that closet is where you sit on weekend evenings packed tight as you wait for a table. Its honor-system, you talk to each other about sports and first-in is first-out when a table opens. Pre-Covid of course… Until a few years ago, it was all wood panel brown but the red vinyl with historic photos in frames. There is a walk-up window outside to take food to-go if you just can’t wait anymore, but it might disolve back to grease if you drive too far. Finally, the founders ‘ graves are just a couple blocks away, and their photo is built into the headstone. Its something. Their motto “with gravy over all” is on it, IIRC.

  4. We LOVE Murphys! Found them while traveling and got darn near the same meals. Hubby got the rib eye and mashed potatoes which had their own platter! Jacks with your cholesterol but so worth it!

  5. “she thought she’d be enjoying something far more hoity-toity this afternoon, was quite content with the runny results” … After that meal, I’m sure in more ways than one!

    1. Their menu was changed several years ago, to include more choice than originally offered. The meat has varied over the years, tho steady supporting local beef. Currently inclusive.

  6. We discovered Murphy’s back in May just as things were starting open back up from the Pandemic. We ordered it to go like thirty minutes before they closed. The order wasn’t quite right but we wrote that off to the Covid-19 Thingy and closing time jitters. But the food was good got the Big Ribeye with a Baked Tator. We look forward to going back the next time we’re in Bartlesville.

  7. Long time Bartian here…feeling sorry that you missed out on a couple of highlights, but I’ll share for your next trip:
    1) Order an extra side of grilled onions with the hot hamburger next time. You won’t regret it!
    2) A smidge of ketchup breaks up the richness of the gravy. Only place on earth where you make food less rich by adding ketchup of all things. Weird and wonderful.
    3) They do a decent ranch, but their secret weapon is the house garlic dressing. Just a salad won’t do for it. I cannot eat there without dropping some into every perforation of a set of captain’s of the all time favorite tastes of my childhood. …and if you ask, they’ll sell you a styrofoam cup full to go.

  8. If you ever go back, always order the Jr. Hot with cheese and onions, gravy over all. Never the Hot, the Jr. is too big as well, you don’t need the big one. And you HAVE to try their signature garlic house salad dressing. I’ve always wondered who used the other dressings. I moved away years ago and miss them! Until I got married and had kids I didn’t even know there were things on the menu besides the Jr. Hot and I didn’t know until this post there were appetizers, we would eat the garlic dressing on crackers while waiting, it’s a hometown thing. The cottage cheese and pineapple is a good side as well. We’ve never had dessert either, too full.

  9. Definitely should have gotten the garlic dressing! As someone already mentioned, squeezing that dressing in the Captains Wafers crackers is also mandatory. A salad and a hot hamburger with grilled onions and gravy over all is he only thing i ever order there, ever since I was a kid.

  10. I have eaten at Murphy’s my entire life, 64 years. A hot hamburger or hot beef with gravy over all is what I nearly always order. Like most people in Bartlesville, I am addicted to their garlic dressing.

  11. I always order the chicken fried steak. As good as any I’ve ever eaten.

  12. Gravy over all!!

  13. Their menu was changed several years ago, to include more choice than originally offered. The meat has varied over the years, tho steady supporting local beef. Currently inclusive.

  14. You missed out if you didn’t try the garlic dressing. Can eat that on the crackers for a whole meal.

  15. Having grown up in Bartlesville, my favorite part of a trip to Murphy’s was the huge drawer full of candy they have for kids to grab a candy of choice on the way out!

  16. I grew up here and we moved back last year! We eat there once or twice a week because my son with autism (extremely picky and only eats certain chicken strips and certain pizza) loves their chicken strips. They are always so sweet and we feel comfortable there! Love it!

  17. Ya screwed up on the salad dressing. There is NO other to have than their signature garlic dressing. You can get the famous entree with the gravy on the side, but those of us who love Murphy’s don’t mess with perfection. If you want hoity toity stay in OKC and pay a mint for a tiny little gourmet portion of something. Should have tried the Mac and cheese at the painted horse before you left.

  18. I had Murphy’s as my vocabulary all my life. Even as a child mowing those small parcels of grass that once surrounded half the outside perimeter. Mr. Murphy would always pay me $2 and a free hot hamburger with gravy over all. I miss the owners and their cheerful smiles and words. Times change, but still enjoy all their menu foods plus their garlic salad dressing. Good stuff. 😊

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