Virginia Highland mainstay Murphy’s celebrates 30 years with book, charitable effort

It’s a weekday afternoon, inching toward two o’clock and customers are still clustered around the front door of Murphy’s in Virginia Highland, anxiously anticipating lunch. In an economy where restaurant closings are an hourly occurrence in this city, owner Tom Murphy knows how fortunate he is.
“When you’ve been around as long as we have, there are no real sizable booms or busts,” he tells Dish during a visit to our table. “Thankfully, our regulars regard us as an extension of their homes. They know they can come in here, get one of their favorite menu items at a good value and visit with old friends. We were lucky. When the economy went south, we had more than 25 years of goodwill already in the bank.”
Murphy is paying that good will forward via Good Measure Meals, a healthy eating meal service Murphy provides in a partnership with Open Hand Atlanta. The idea: to produce nutritious, low calorie meals for folks in need with specific dietary restrictions. In its first year, Good Measure Meals with Open Hand served up three meals a day to more than 600 clients.
The idea was inspired by Murphy’s late mother Alice after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1998. Her doctors wanted her to watch her weight and eat a more nutritious diet while undergoing chemotherapy.
“For mom, it was easy to deliver her food from here at Murphy’s,” he explains. “But then I started thinking about the people whose sons aren’t restaurant owners and didn’t qualify for programs like Open Hand. The goal with Good Measure Meals was to help people like my mom.”
As part of Murphy’s anniversary celebration, Murphy, along with Atlanta author Jan Butsch Schroder have updated the restaurant’s popular memoir/recipe book: “Murphy’s: 30 Years of Recipes and Memories.” Among the fresh stories in the 2011 edition? A page dedicated to Murphy’s regulars Beth Ahern and Dr. Rod Duralde, who were interviewed for the book after including Murphy’s in their AJC wedding announcement, a first for the eatery.
The couple credits Murphy’s popular dessert, the Tollhouse Pie as the means for their meeting. A few years back, after eating dinner across the street, Duralde and a pal headed to Murphy’s for the Tollhouse Pie where they were seated next to Ahern and her friend. They bonded over the chocolate dessert and ended up serving it at their wedding rehearsal dinner in 2009. The couple is welcoming a set of twins into their household this month. There was no immediate word whether Tollhouse Pie was among Ahern’s pregnancy cravings.