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 Minnesotans 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 dreamed of opening a fancy dinner club downtown that would serve hungry customers the best meal they’d ever eat.
The Murrays chose a circa-1880s building on Sixth Street for 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 tested items for the 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. Dreicer didn’t hand out his awards easily — specific criteria needed to be met routinely: steaks needed to be served on time, have a large portion size, and be at the perfect temperature (120℉) when it arrived at the table. This signature 28-ounce strip sirloin continues to be known as the Silver Butter Knife Steak on Murray’s menu.
Dreicer would later award 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 found itself in the national spotlight when, in 1957, when it was reported that the restaurant was the largest user of butter in the region. The eatery reportedly 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 over $10 million today) and that sales were growing at approximately 6% annually.
The sign installed in 1954 still lights up Sixth Street and hungry visitors from around the globe continue to flock to Murray’s. The restaurant has remained 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 wonderful history of the restaurant with some amazing photos on their website.
- 1 – 16 ounce New York cut steak (also called a club steak)
- salt to taste
- butter, melted
- Select a frozen New York cut weighing approximately 16 ounces frozen.
- Put steak in a pre-heated 550° oven to thaw. This will retain the natural flavor of the meat and keep the natural juices to a minimum.
- Then broil the steak to individual taste. Season with the salt, then brush with melted butter and serve immediately.