Meat and potatoes are the first foods that come to mind when I think of Ireland, and Frank Murray’s Turf Irish Pub lives up to that expectation.
A short walk from ASU’s Downtown campus on First Street between Pierce and McKinley streets, Turf is difficult to miss, with Irish religious and historical figures painted onto the front of the building. Open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week, Turf offers patrons a place to eat when many downtown restaurants are closed.
My friend and I visited Turf at 4 p.m., the beginning of the three-hour happy hour that features half-priced drinks and appetizers. We chose two appetizers, seared ahi tuna and a reuben dip with pita chips, and two entrees, a traditional corned beef and cabbage boxty and a spicy buffalo chicken wrap with waffle fries. The waiter warned us the portions were large enough to share, but we assured him we could handle it with the help of a few boxes.
As we waited for the food we listened to the sounds of Mumford and Sons and Dave Matthews playing overhead and watched the TVs showing horse races and basketball games. Because the seating area is loud, the outdoor patio may be a good option for patrons who prefer distance from the ruckus.
I had mixed feelings after trying both the seared ahi tuna and reuben dip with pita chips. The tuna was a nice diversion from typical Irish flavors, making it a good option for those who don’t like heavy pub food. However, it is simply cooked and might bore some customers.
I have never seen a dish like the reuben dip with pita chips. It is served in a clay pot filled with the inside of a reuben in dip form. It was like eating a reuben minus the rye bread. The dip was tasty but I could not wrap my mind around eating it outside of its home between two slices of rye bread. Maybe if the dish were served with rye chips or small pieces of rye bread instead of pita chips it would not have been an issue for me. Bread aside, this appetizer was unique and big enough to share.
The traditional corned beef and cabbage boxty was great. A boxty is a traditional western Irish dish with a grilled potato pancake over a stew-like base with a side of Irish soda bread and butter. The potato pancake was thick with a crispy outside and creamy inside, and complimented the tender corned beef and cabbage nicely. The potato cake made the dish taste better and my friend said the potatoes tasted just like her mother’s. That dish represented the meat-and-potato image of Ireland.
The spicy buffalo chicken wrap was served with an option of spinach or sun-dried tomato wrap. The wrap was good and the spicy sauce on the chicken did not overpower the other flavors. Part of the chicken was warm and crunchy, while other parts of the chicken tended to be soggy. I wish there was a little more chicken and a little less wrap, but overall it served the purpose of an average buffalo wrap. The side of waffle fries was great and added to the list of great ways the potato can be used.
The waiter was right about the portions being huge, and several boxes were needed to pack the remaining food items. When the check came I was surprised by the amount of $28. I thought it would be much more. But because we came at happy hour, the appetizers were about $3 apiece and the entrees a little over $10 apiece.
Turf’s food is tasty and offers some interesting twists on pub classics. It takes risks by adding new dishes unfamiliar to the typical Irish pub. Also, Turf offers a traditional Irish breakfast from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sundays and hosts live music and comedy events during the week.