Nickel City’s newest Austin bar, which pays homage to classic New York City taverns, is opening this December. Murray’s Tavern will debut at 2316 Webberville Road in the East Austin neighborhood on Friday, December 8. The team is also opening a new bar at the address next year. Half Moon will be a patio bar starting in March 2024.
Owner and operating partner Travis Tober — bar Nickel City, Italian cafe Uncle Nicky’s, casual bar and restaurant Old Pal in Lockhart, etc. — calls Murray’s a tribute to his grandparents, whom he grew up with. “I like to say that it’s a natural progression,” he tells Eater. “Nickel City is always based in the Buffalo bars that my grandpa hung out at. This is what I feel like the bars my grandmother was hanging out at.” New York City taverns are time-honored institutions dating back to the 1600s; the cozy establishments are home bases for drinking and hearty eating. The title stems from his grandmother’s maiden name.
Tober recounts a time when his grandparents visited him during his first bartending job in 1997. His grandmother asked for a Rob Roy, which he didn’t know how to make. So she taught him. Afterwards, she asked for a Brandy Alexander for dessert, which he also didn’t know how to make, so she showed him that, too.
That’s why Murray’s will always serve Rob Roys and a Brandy Alexander iteration on the cocktail menu, no matter what. The Austin bar’s version of the Rob Roy makes use of Monkey Shoulder scotch and Lagavulin 16-year single malt scotch — “so it gives you a little smoky peatiness into it,” as Tober explains — along with house-made sweet vermouth, bitters, and lemon oil, “just to help pop off the flavor.” The Brandy Alexander is a frozen iteration with an Italian brandy, creme de cacao, and cream. Tober is also working on potentially adding a chai tea tincture.
The rest of the cocktail list, developed with managing partner Brett Esler (previously, he had been the bar manager of Hestia/Kalimotxo and worked the bar at Whisler’s), will include classic New York City drinks. Additionally, there will be miniature cocktails served a la carte or as flights, as well as a nightcap menu.
Food is important to the ethos of the tavern, so co-partner and chef Nicholas Yanes (Italian restaurant Juniper; also Uncle Nicky’s, miniature golf course restaurant Dirdie Birdie, and formerly of hotel restaurant Verbena) took his inspirations from some of New York’s iconic taverns, like PJ Clark’s and Red Hook Tavern.
The Murray’s burger is made with a ground-to-order beef patty topped with what Tober describes as a “goop” of melty white cheese, plus lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. There’s also the signature prime rib. Expect other classic tavern items like oysters Rockefeller; chicken francese with green beans and a lemon-butter sauce; pastas such as tagliatelle with butter, black truffles, and aged Parmesan cheese; crab cake sandwiches; and salads. To honor the address’s previous tenant, sandwich shop Gourmands, there will be pancetta and corn chowder in a bread bowl. Desserts include profiteroles and black-and-white cookies.
The physical space, designed with McCray & Co., features wood features throughout, as well as stamped-tin ceilings and the centerpiece 50-foot-long bar. Spread throughout are items from his grandparents, including awards, photographs, and a plaque from the school his grandfather designed in Buffalo with his name on it.
Murray’s entrance will be a New York-style vestibule with a Tiffany lamp and a photograph of Tober’s grandparents when they were younger. The restaurant will also include a back dining room that will be reserved for dinner only from Thursdays through Sundays.
As for Murray’s forthcoming patio bar Half Moon, the name is from the boat that Henry Hudson was on when he came to North America for the first time. The bar will be rum and agave-focused and serve easy-going drinks. It’ll be open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays when it debuts in March. There are also plans to host free pig roasts for the neighborhood.
The Webberville address had been home to longtime sandwich shop and casual bar Gourmands Neighborhood Pub. It closed after 11 years of service in December 2022 and the Murray’s team took over.
Also on deck for Tober and Yanes is the second location of Uncle Nicky’s, which will open on South Lamar sometime by the end of this year or early next year.
Murray’s Tavern’s general hours will be from 3 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and then from 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Lunch hours will be added in early 2024.