Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Remember Patricia Murphy's Candlelight Restaurants?

This was once the original Patricia Murphy's in Brooklyn Heights.

I try not to turn back the clock too much. It can get to be maudlin, if not downright depressing.
But sometimes, it's hard to resist.
Especially when we're turning it back to the 1960s -- an era that (what with Mad Men, etc.) has generated renewed interest.
Well. there was a restaurant (a chain of restaurants, really) that become the epitome of '60s pop chic.
Do you remember Patricia Murphy's Candlelight Restaurants?
These restaurants were legendary -- and famous for their incredibly luscious popovers. They featured fresh linen, flocked wallpaper, sparkling chandeliers, lots of crystal and china, the glow of candlelight and plenty of hot, tasty American food.
Some of the Patricia Murphy's suburban locations (such as on Long Island, in Yonkers and later in Ft. Lauderdale) also featured beautiful gardens.
New York magazine describes Patricia Murphy's as a place "where waitresses in gingham walked around with baskets of popovers." And yes, you were welcomed to take all the popovers you could eat -- but usually just one at a time, please.
Patricia Murphy opened her first restaurant in Brooklyn Heights in the 1940s and things just took off from there. Or, to put it another way -- those popovers really popped.
What you see above is the site of the original Patricia Murphy's as it looked a few years ago.
In Manhattan Patricia Murphy's was at 38th & Madison and also on 49th St. Those two locations were very popular and often attracted crowds that ranged from busy professionals to tourists, theater-goers, ladies who lunch and even some starry-eyed diners out for a romantic, low-lit dinner for two.
They came for the popovers and they stayed for everything else. And in the larger, out-of-the-city locations the everything else even included a gift shop where you could purchase Patricia Murphy's own story, entitled "The Glow of Candlelight."
Yes, there really was a Patricia Murphy. She started the first restaurant with just a few dollars and a dream. Word is she didn't even know how to cook. But she had a good head for business and a magic touch. And she certainly must have worked hard.
The restaurants reportedly slipped when the chain grew too large and Patricia Murphy removed herself from the day-to-day operation. Eventually, Patricia Murphy's went bankrupt.
Times-- and eating habits -- changed as well.
But just for nostalgia's sake, here's the recipe for those famous popovers. Not that they'll really taste exactly like the one at Patricia Murphy's, but why not give it a try?

Patricia Murphy Popovers:
Put 1/3 tsp butter or Crisco in each muffin pan (or custard cup). Heat in oven 5 minutes while you are mixing batter.
1/4 tsp salt 1 cup sifted flour 1 cup milk 2 eggs 1 tbsn butter, melted
Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Beat eggs with rotary beater, add milk, butter and sift in flout, beating only enough to make a smooth batter. Fill hot muffin pans one-third full of the mixture. Bake in hot (450) oven 30 minutes, then at 350 for 15 minutes or until firm, brown and popped. Keep oven door closed while baking. Makes 6 large or 9 small.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just found some memorabilia at my Grandmothers from Patricia Murphy's would have loved to experienced myself. Thanks for the info!

Patricia Murphy said...

Going through some old papers and found a postcard from Patricia Murphy's Candlelight Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale , my parents sent it to me in 1964 , they couldn't resist because my name is Patricia Murphy. Was thrilled to find this information. Thanks

Jo Pecorelli said...

ernmiletDan, I remember going to Patricia Murphy's in Yonkers, NY for Mothers Day when I was a little girl. Thanks for the memories!

Anonymous said...

I remember going to Patricia Murphy's in Yonkers when I was young as well. We frequented that Patricia Murphy's often. Especially after we moved North to Mahopac and would go back and forth to visit my grandparents at our first home ( above them) on Seton Ave in the Bronx. I have been searching for the Vanilla Sauce recipe that Patricia Murphy's used to serve on their warm apple pie! Thanks so much for sharing this information.Thomas

Maxine said...

Well it is like heaven finding information on our favorite place to go in the 1960's while living at the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn. One just felt so good being there because of the decor, the service, and the aroma. My husband was going through a training program at New York University with Goodbody and Company--I worked at Goodbody located 2 Broad in Manhattan assisting the Commodities Managing Partner. For months every Thursday evening we went to the Candlelight Restaurant, I believe that was the night they served juicy pork chops and apple butter with popovers. We have never had popovers since from any restaurant up until my husband and I a few weeks ago ate at the Cooper Door Restaurant in Hayesville, NC, and they served them.
We have now been married 53 years and the Candlelight Restaurant has never been out of our minds and I went years dreaming about popovers. A few years ago I ran across a receipt in a William-Sonoma catalog. Also, somewhere along the line I found a cast iron popover pan that makes 7 popovers and now I am so proficient. I use (1) organic egg, some organic milk shake it well in a jar, sift in bread flour, stir or shake a little add the organic butter, a little chunk I melted on top of the stove in the cast iron pan--pour in the batter, let it heat a little, put it in a 500 degree oven and within a few minutes they come out delicious. We do not worry about them deflating--we eat them with White House Apple Butter, as that is lighter than others we have tried. Every time we are eating these delicious popovers we mention the Candlelight Restaurant. We were back in NYC over the years and would always go to Brooklyn looking for the Candlelight Restaurant. I know the restaurant must have served good side dishes but I just can't remember what they were. I am sure it must have been good. Please give my heartfelt thanks to the family of Patricia Murphy for lighting up our light through our long journey in life. Thanks to the ones responsible for the history of the Candlelight online.

Anonymous said...

My Aunt Fanchon would take my mom, sister and myself to Patricia Murphy's on Madison in the 60's. We would take the train from Poughkeepsie usually to see the Nutcracker or another event and then have dinner there. My other siblings went there with my aunt as well over the years. It holds great memories for all of us, especially the popovers. My aunt was a fine lady who was a social worker in Manhattan from the 30's to the 80's. She lived at 38th and Madison at the Lancaster for years. She introduced all my siblings and myself to the wonders of Manhattan and to Patricia Murphy's. Susan