By Kerry O’Connor
You probably know it well.
Tir na Nog, a 6,500 square-foot Irish bar right across the street from Love Park in Philadelphia has been around since 2002.
With seating for 320, the popular watering hole can handle large crowds and still be divided up to accommodate smaller parties. It’s named after the Irish mythical land of Eternal Youth. It has a stained glassed window portraying Oisin, his guide Niamh and the magical horse that they rode upon to Tir na Nog.
But walk just a few blocks away, down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Windsor Hotel, and you’ll find another Irish establishment with a cozier vibe just as worthy of losing a few hours in—if not 300 years like our pal Oisin—and it’s also named after an Irish legend.
“Con Murphy was a well-known rogue back in Limerick,” said Liam Kelly, co-owner of Con Murphy’s Irish Pub. “He was a real character and when he talked in the pub, people listened to his stories. We decided to name the bar after him.”
Established in 2010 by Kelly and his business partner Maurice Collins (both originally from Limerick) Con Murphy’s has quietly gained a reputation as a go-to pub for a good pint of Guinness, a delicious meal and the cozy company of strangers with stories to tell, just like it’s namesake.
Did I say strangers?
As the artwork above the door says “No strangers here, only friends who haven’t met yet.”
It’s true. You couldn’t remain strangers with someone if you wanted to. There’s not enough room for that.
Con Murphy’s weighs in at around 2,500 square feet and seats about 100 people. The floor plan consists of a bar and limited seating on the first floor and a bar and tables for dining on the second floor mezzanine, like the Plough & the Stars in Old City, but smaller.
That’s the way Kelly likes it.
“Both Maurice and I were involved with Tir na Nog,” said Kelly this past February, sitting at a table in the front window of Con Murphy’s while the international flags whipped around outside on the Parkway. “Maurice was an owner. I worked there. It’s a great place, but really big. When Maurice and the other partners sold it, Maurice and I went into business together and wanted to create something smaller, more casual and more intimate.”
It’s the intimacy of Con Murphy’s that makes it authentically Irish. The small floor plan is reminiscent of the types of pubs found in every small town in Ireland from Killaloe to Cavan, the kind that are obviously just the living room and parlor of a one-time residence.
And the similarities don’t stop there.
“We have a lot of traditional items on our menu,” said Kelly. “We do an Irish breakfast with the usual…sausages, rashers, eggs, black and white pudding, beans and tomatoes. And our lunch and dinner menus have Shepherd’s Pie and Guinness Beef Stew.”
Not only that, Con Murphy’s often features live Irish music, such as the Bogside Rogues and Slainte.
“We squeeze the bands onto the landing of the stairs, between the first floor and the mezzanine,” said Kelly with a laugh. “It’s great because people on both floors can hear the music and see the band. We have live music all the time, but we always have traditional Irish music every Sunday.”
Even though Con Murphy’s is gaining a following amongst Philadelphia’s Irish, don’t be surprised if the friend you haven’t met yet sitting next to you at the bar is a long, long way from home.
Kelly and Collins picked the location for the pub because of its location to the brand new Philadelphia Convention Center and are counting on conventioneers popping in on their way to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum and the brand new Barnes Museum slated to open next year.”
“It’s a great location,” said Kelly. “The new Convention Center expansion puts their front door right on Broad Street. Cherry Street, which is right across the street from The Convention Center, is going to be turned into a pedestrian walkway. Conventioneers will be able to walk right down Cherry to the Ben Franklin Parkway.”
And Cherry Street leads right to Con Murphy’s.
So what about those members of the National Association of Something or Other and the art aficionados who may not be interested in Shepherd’s Pie or rashers?
“We have them covered,” said Kelly. We make a cheese steak that’s so good, even locals come here and order it. That says something.”
Plus, Irish pubs will always be popular, even among the non-Irish. We (Irish) have a reputation for being good drinkers and good company while drinking. We’re not going to ruin that.”
On the wall at Con Murphy’s, along the stairs from the first floor to the mezzanine, is a mural with pictures of race horses, rugby players, and dogs racing. One can’t help but notice that they’re all betting sports, the kind of sports a “rogue” may enjoy following.
An homage to the namesake himself, like Tir na Nogs’ stained glassed window?
“Kind of,” said Kelly. “They’re all Irish things in the mural, but yes, they’re all things that Con would’ve followed very, very carefully. I’m telling you he was a character.”