When you think of iconic Minneapolis restaurants, Murray’s likely tops the list. Since 1946, the Murray family has been serving award-winning meals to Minnesota residents and visitors alike. But the story of Murray’s starts more than a decade before Arthur J. Murray purchased a building on Sixth Street downtown to fulfill a dream of opening a swanky dinner club in Minneapolis.
Art and Marie Murray moved to Minneapolis from Milwaukee in the early 1930s. In 1933, they opened Murray’s Red Feather Cafe in North Minneapolis; they moved the restaurant into a downtown hotel in 1939 and began building a reputation for serving quality food. They worked hard throughout the war years and planned their next move–opening a fancy dinner club downtown that would serve hungry customers the best meal they’d ever eat.
The Murray’s chose a circa-1880s building on Sixth Street that had previously been a bar to open their new venture, but the building was in dire need of a complete overhaul to make their dream work. While the building was being worked on, Art and Marie began working on their menu. They brought Marie’s cousin, Alois Schirle, over from Germany to be the restaurant’s master baker and oversee the kitchen. He and Marie developed the perfect buttered garlic toast to be served with each meal, as well as recipes for pretzels and pies. After extensive remodeling, decorating, and the installation of air conditioning, Murray’s opened on August 5, 1946.
In 1951, Murray’s was awarded the Silver Butter Knife Award by Maurice Dreicer, a food critic and self-proclaimed steak expert who traveled the world to find the best restaurants serving the finest meats. This signature 28-ounce strip sirloin continues to be known as the Silver Butter Knife Steak on the menu. Dreicer didn’t hand out his awards easily, specific criteria needed to be met routinely: steaks needed to be served on time, a large portion size, and be the perfect temperature (120℉) when it arrived at the table.
Dreicer later awarded the restaurant his Gold Butter Knife Award in 1956, but the Gold Butter Knife Steak wasn’t as easy to find on the menu. Art explained: “We can only cut one steak from a 50-pound loin. On a day when we use six loins, for instance, it means we’ll have six of the gold butter knife steaks to serve, and that’s all. Some days we don’t have a cut of meat large enough.”
Murray’s caught national attention in 1957 when it was reported that the restaurant was the largest user of butter in the region. The restaurant used 30,000 pounds of butter in 1956–the buttered garlic toast alone used 30 pounds of butter a day just to prepare. In response, the Minnesota Dairy Industry created an advertisement to be placed in newspapers across the nation featuring Princess Kay of the Milky Way enjoying a full steak dinner at Murray’s.
As the accolades for Murray’s continued to pour in, the restaurant gained a national reputation for serving exceptional food along with high-quality service in a regal atmosphere. In 1958, Art and Marie were both elected to American Restaurant magazine’s Hall of Fame, one of the top honors for restaurateurs at the time. At the ceremony, it was revealed that Murray’s brought in $1 million annual gross income (that’s nearly $9 million today) and that sales were growing at approximately 6% annually.
Today, the sign installed in 1954 still lights up Sixth Street and hungry visitors from around the globe flock to Murray’s. The restaurant has always stayed in the family, being passed down from Art and Marie to their son Pat. Today, three of Art and Marie’s grandchildren continue their legacy. Want to know more about Murray’s? They have put together a history of the restaurant with some amazing photos.
Murray’s Strawberry Pie
- 1½ tbsp. cornstarch
- 2 cups sugar
- pinch of salt
- dash of red food coloring
- 1 9" pie crust, baked
- 1 cup whipping cream, chilled
- 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Dissolve the cornstarch in ½ cup cold water. In a small saucepan, bring two cups of water to a boil. Add the dissolved cornstarch and boil for two minutes. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Boil three to four minutes. Add the salt and food coloring.
- Allow filling to cool slightly, approximately one hour. Mix in the strawberries, then pour into the baked pie crust. Chill well.
- With chilled bowl and beaters, whip the cream until stiff, while gradually incorporating the powdered sugar and vanilla.
- Slice the pie into six pieces and top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream.
This article was originally posted on my previous website, Forgotten Minnesota. It was posted there on December 17, 2019.