Human intuition is a wonderful thing. It is not always right, but it often is. Intuition is a key tool in the arsenal of the critic who looks beyond the restaurants whose publicists come knocking. I felt an instinctive pull toward Murdoch's from the time I heard of its opening in April. Its menu of uncommon pub grub looked to me like it almost couldn't fail. I was right.
What kept me away so long? Distance from Houston was a factor, yes, but really, Murdoch's, tucked in a single-story former residence on 18541 Mueschke Road, isn't particularly close to much anything else in Cypress, either. It is a true no-man's-land. But perhaps that made the hunt even more thrilling.
The restaurant is owned by the Franke family, who converted the home to an eatery themselves. It should come as little surprise that chef-owner Sarah Franke cut her pub grub teeth at Moon Tower Inn, but while the EaDo staple's sausages aren't homemade, Franke crafts hers in the kitchen under the moniker Dumb Dog Sausage Co. Need root beer-bacon jam or sweet ghost pepper sauce? She's got that, too.
On the current menu, there are six homemade sausages, as well as a 44 Farms beef frank. In order to try as many as forcemeats and house condiments as possible, I ordered the Epic Sausage Pub platter, which includes a choice of three sausages, four sauces, two pickles and a side. The duck-and-pork sausage—bursting with big, fresh blueberries and tangy with wine—was a favorite, but already seems to have left the menu since my Saturday visit. The options are ever-rotating, so this could change on a dime.
I was also impressed with the brand-new Ohana, coarsely ground pork blended with house bacon, dried pineapple, macadamia nuts and coconut water. A layer of smoke is what makes the combo—it's like a fireside luau with pig and pineapple browning over the flames.
The more refined (and densely packed) Cheezballz Chicken is an unexpected taste of northern Italy, with toasted pine nuts, basil and mozzarella incorporated with the chicken. The best of the sides and condiments was elote salad, basically chilled, off-the-cob Mexican street corn likably dotted with cilantro.
Sausages can also be ordered individually or made into a corn dog. If only I'd had the room, a maple-pumpkin-pecan pork sausage battered and fried on a stick would definitely have happened.
But I had higher fried priorities. Namely the Popcorn Pork. Is there another item on a menu anywhere that's been cooked sous-vide for 24 hours but retails for $6? I certainly haven't seen one. But that's precisely what separates Murdoch's: The technique in the kitchen is light years beyond the world of jalapeño poppers and nachos, though the restaurant has versions of both. In the case of the popcorn pork, the cubes of belly are cooked extraordinarily low and slow for an entire day, then deep-fried and dusted in what tastes like salty five-spice. Franke's side of sweet chile sauce is a nice touch, but completely unnecessary in the wake of the pork's outsized flavor.
There's plenty more to love, too. Photo Fritters are crispy, caramelized balls of kimchi bound together with just enough dough to keep them whole. There's a menu of six different burgers, served on either a pretzel or ramen bun. I tried Murdoch's Favorite (presumably the favorite of Murdoch II, the family's second yellow lab by that name), a 1/4 pound patty capped with a slab of sous-vide pork belly, sweet pickled peppers, bacon jam and chèvre spread. The burger was the rare case of a dish that was less than the sum of its parts, which were excellent, but would have lived more harmoniously apart.
But even that was far from a miss among several hits. And if I start planning my next trip to deepest Cypress now, I may make it back before the end of the fall.