Murphy’s Mule Barn – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

A mule is an animal with long funny ears
he kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny but his brain is weak
he’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
and by the way if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule.
– Bing Crosby

Murphy's Mule Barn in the far North Valley.
Murphy’s Mule Barn in the far North Valley.

Murphy’s law, a popular adage in Western culture is commonly formulated as “if anything can go wrong, it will.”  Murphy’s Mule Barn, a popular North Valley restaurant, hasn’t posited any law that I know of, but if it did, the law might read something like “friendly folks, great food, huge portions, small check.”

Named for Murphy’s Mule Barn in Salina, Kansas, the restaurant celebrates all things mule in a cutesy sort of way with an ambience that includes barn implements such as stirrups, harnesses and other mule driving tools, many of the antique variety.

Pictures of mules and ceramic statues of burros add rustic charm while posters by prominent New Mexico artist B.C. Nowlin give no indication that Nowlin, one of the restaurant’s most famous “local” patrons starts many a day with breakfast at Murphy’s before heading to his studio (and it’s a good bet he gets there full).

Breakfast burrito Christmas style
Breakfast burrito Christmas style

BC Nowlin not withstanding, the most famous diner to visit Murphy’s Mule Barn was Kirk Douglas whose 1962 movie Lonely Are The Brave was partially filmed at the restaurant.

Murphy’s was once a truck stop called Big Chief and still has somewhat of a truck stop feel to it.  Many of its patrons dine in their most comfortable ranch work clothes complete with well-worn and dusty baseball caps.

In days past, some of Murphy’s patrons filled up the smoking section until New Mexico passed a law prohibiting smoking in restaurants.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner have improved vastly since then.

At Murphy’s, the typical portion size would feed a developing third world nation.  Fortunately the level of quality is nearly equal to the portion size.

The near foot-long, three-egg breakfast burrito, for example, is overfilled with crispy hash browns and your choice of ham, bacon or sausage (or all three if you’d like) then topped with a green or red chile sauce.

The green chile sauce is wonderful.  It has very little bite, but has plenty of the requisite roasted green chile taste aficionados love.  The red chile is also low on the piquancy scale, but also has a nice flavor.  Together the red and green chile combine to make this breakfast burrito among the tastiest breakfast burritos in town.

Cinnamon Rolls to die for
Cinnamon Rolls to die for

Murphy’s homemade cinnamon rolls are immense six inch (irregular) squares, inch-deep masses of baked dough, raisins, sugar, cinnamon and lots of butter.  They’re easily big enough for a small family to share, but could use a bit more cinnamon (I say that about all cinnamon rolls).

The breakfast combo is also family sized with two eggs any way you want them, two pieces of crispy smoked bacon, two sausage links and two fluffy pancakes with hot syrup.

The bacon is the type only restaurants seem to be able to find and serve.  Each strip is long, thick and crispy–the type of bacon you don’t want to share with your dining companions.

Show me an old-fashioned Americana diner and I’ll guarantee excellent pancakes.  Murphy’s pancakes are easily nine inches in circumference and are among the very best in the metropolitan area.  Slather on some butter and syrup and you’re in carbohydrate heaven.

Murphy's pancakes are the size of an Olympic discus
Murphy’s pancakes are the size of an Olympic discus

Murphy’s lunch and dinner menu includes truck stop standards such as chicken fried steak, but it also includes New Mexican entrees.

My chain worshipping friends might dismiss Murphy’s as a dining option without ever trying it.  That’s entirely their loss and fortunately an opinion not shared by the throngs who frequent this North Valley institution.

My own lasting impression is that Murphy’s is a throw-back to an era in which waitresses were friendly, breakfast was served anytime and menus included ads for neighboring businesses.”  Murphy’s is a delicious bit of Americana in Albuquerque’s North Valley.

Murphy’s Mule Barn
9700 2nd St, NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 6 January 2007
BEST BET: Pancakes, Breakfast Burrito, Cinnamon Rolls

Murphy's Mule Barn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

18 thoughts on “Murphy’s Mule Barn – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

  1. While working in retail and the service industry I was constantly invited to go eat at Murphy’s Mule Barn and it took me a few years to finally do so. My loss! I should’ve gone earlier than I did. I’ve been numerous times since then and my guests and I really enjoyed the old fashioned country feeling of the place as well as the service and especially the food. My favorite was always the over the plate chicken fried steak. No it wasn’t something you would find on the food networks(and I’m glad it wasn’t) but it was good old fashioned home style cooking. I hadn’t been for a while and when I picked up my guests and got there it was vacated and the wall sign painted over. So disappointing. Well another great landmark gone. Gonna miss it.

  2. Maybe the Friends of Gil (FOG) go in on a little investment and reawaken Murphy’s Mule Barn! What a legacy it had. My parents would come out from Los Angeles and be amazed at the amazing breakfasts with all the overly friendly wait people there. There is a place in downtown Los Angeles called The Pantry that my parents went overboard for as we would spend an hour or so in line around a corner, well, Murphy’s was very similar to food, help, etc and thinking about it now brings a smile to my face, my mom would be very spoiled there. My has Albuquerque changed in the 24 years I have been here…

  3. Drove over to Murphys yesterday .. it was closed ! Could not believe it . The Mule Barn has been a North Valley institution for years …
    Then I hear rumors of Blakes Lotabuger closing …whats next ? geeezzz…..

    1. Hello Timo

      Did you see a “Closed, Going Out of Business” sign or something of the sort at Murphy’s Mule Barn? What a sad day it would be for Albuquerque if this institution did close down. I did call Murphy’s automated voice messaging system, but it’s full and there’s no word on their Facebook page as to any closure.

      Thankfully the Lotaburger closure rumor is just that–a vicious rumor propagated by a (choose your own pejorative term here). KRQE’s newscast last night confirmed that Lotaburger continues to expand, even beyond the Land of Enchantment.


        1. Thanks, Ruben. A Yelp comment also confirms Murphy’s closure: The guy (A) (original owner) sold his business to another man (B), that guy planning to reopen it, but guy A failed to mention or put in the contract the thousands of dollars needed for repairs. So it will never re-open.

          Jim Millington apprised me of a more thorough (and defamatory explanation) on Zomato, but shortly after that explanation was published Zomato removed it.

  4. Ate breakfast with six family members recently. The bacon is really good and the biscuits have gotten better but the same gravy. Went for lunch with four different family members one had fish, said it was good, one had green chile cheeseburger said it was average., one had chicken fried steak which was over cooked and too much batter and the gravy is the same gravy they offer at breakfast for the biscuits. I ordered the patty melt,patty was half the size of the bread, a light rye and it was barely toasted, not grilled and the cheese wasn’t melted and the onions were not grilled, just limp. Very disappointing at best. I’ll be back but will stick to breakfast.

  5. Regarding, Gil’s reply to Steven’s criticism of Gil’s review style, this is exactly why I love Gil Garduno’s website. Gil finds what is great about a restaurant and through some subtle hints lets the reader know if this is a must eat at or maybe just a good alternative to the same old stuff. Thanks Gil, You are the BEST restaurant reviewer I have ever read! Oh and I do love Mule Barn too! Not the very best food in Alb but just a good fun friendly place with classic food and crazy huge portions.

    1. Hi Adelino

      Thank you very much for your kind words. I try to approach every restaurant review from a position of respect. The mom and pop restaurant owners really “put themselves out there” in presenting their creativity and product to the general public. Most of them do their very best to please their guests. Far be it for me to be overly critical and mean-spirited about their efforts when doing so might affect their livelihood.

      Your assessment of Murphy’s is spot on.

      Thanks again


  6. The omelettes are good and the egg plates with bacon and or the sausage which is made by them. I really like good biscuits and gravy, but theirs isnt it, the biscuits are average and the gravy needs help. I dont eat pancakes often but I like theirs, large and flavorful. Most of the chile sauces they serve are mild and that’s my only complaint. Good value and good food overall.

  7. THE place for breakfast when the weather grounds us! Great food, huge servings, the perfect atmosphere for large groups of scruffy early-uppers, bottomless coffee cups, and very affordable.

  8. I’ve eaten at Murphy’s many times and have never had a bad meal. I mostly eat breakfast there and its always good.

  9. Don’t forget the amazingly huge Chicken Fried Steak. Not only is it gargantuan, but it’s also one of the best tasting I’ve ever had.

    1. Only about twenty percent of the restaurants reviewed on my blog are linked to from Urbanspoon. Of course there are restaurants I don’t like, but there are ways of saying so without resorting to name-calling and insults. There’s already enough of that on the blogosphere.

  10. I love Murphy’s. It reminds me of my grandpa! I eat there almost every week! There Breakfast burritos are fabulous!! Their Waiters and Waitresses are good at what they do!

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