Small Towns: Murphys

Here’s one from our series on small towns in the foothills, with some highlights from our visits.
murphys community park
Murphys Community Park

Oh, what fun you’ll find in Murphys, with its tree-draped Main Street packed with wine-tasting rooms, restaurants, boutiques, galleries, bed-and-breakfasts, even a floral shop with a white bird in a white cage you can see through the window. Down the hill behind Main Street, the community park that typically hosts events—including First Friday summer music and dancing, the Calaveras Grape Stomp and Murphys Day of the Dead—is a nice spot to picnic by Murphys Creek, sit in the gazebo or run the kids at the playground.

murphys main street
Main Street, Murphys

Tasting Rooms—More than 20 tasting rooms populate Murphys downtown, including Newsome-Harlowe (outdoor fire towers), Four Winds, Lavender Ridge, Twisted Oak, Milliaire (creekside patio), Hovey (which shares spacious outdoor tables with Murphys Pourhouse) and La Folia (an amusing hat shop as well). See the tasting rooms link on for information about each winery and to link up to make reservations.

Alchemy Cafe—The menu lists innovative dishes such as ahi niçoise salad, lump crab bacon mac and cheese, and lamb kamoon, but here’s what you must order: Gold Nugget bread. It’s ciabatta with corn, scallions, jalapeños, garlic and a couple kinds of cheese, and so very soft and warm.

gold nugget bread in murphys

Books on Main—Every small town needs a bookstore, and this one sells books—new and used—as well as candles, bath salts, sage bundles, pencils and other book-nerd merch, some with delightfully unexpected sayings: for example, a bath bomb for Grammar Police says “smells like your annoying.”

ice cream in murphys

Sweet Window—JoMa’s Ice Cream walk-up window is open, dispensing cones piled high with such interesting flavors as Salty River of Gold and Jiminty Cricket.

In the Icebox—Opened in March 2020, Fathom Thiss Design and Bloodroot Apothecary share the moss-shingled Hansel-and-Gretel-looking historic icebox building. Creak open the wooden door. Lining the walls: handmade goods and beaded jewelry from artist Brittany Cockshott and body oils, salves, tinctures and other medicinals from herbal practitioner Emily Flynn.


Long Live Murphys Irish Pub—This past year has been an especially rocky road for Murphys Irish Pub, which closed under one ownership in March 2020 and opened under another in August. Jessica and Anthony Delaney, who had been closely involved with the pub under previous ownership, purchased it and plan to continue pouring Guinness and local craft beer and wine and serving Irish pub food, including shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash.

live music

Murphys Historic Hotel—Ulysses S. Grant slept here sometime after the joint opened in 1856, according to the guest ledgers still on site. It survived a town-razing fire in 1859 and still stands as a friendly resting spot for weary travelers. The saloon will throw you back to the Wild, Wild West, with taxidermy staring you down and a one-plank bar that’s been there since 1856.

murphys historic hotel

Get Dressed Up—The mother-daughter team behind Jane & Jean boutique, Sue Richmond and Laura Cashara, opened a second location, Jane & Jean Etcetera, which allows the original location to devote all its space to hand-selected boutique womenswear, while Etcetera stocks childrenswear, lingerie, accessories and even a few gift items for men.

What a Place!—About a mile outside of downtown, Ironstone Vineyards beckons with beautiful grounds (so many daffodils in springtime!), an outdoor gold mining museum, wine caverns, a barrel-lined breezeway and, of course, wine tasting.

sausage and mashed pototes