Castine Pub offers good cheer

Maine Maritime Academy first-year students Andrew Catlin, Simon Burditt, Nick Jesiolowski and Will Manning played at Danny Murphy’s pub throughout the school year. PHOTO BY CHARLES EICHACKER

When a stranger rolls into town after sunset and asks where to get a bite to eat, chances are she or he might wind up at Danny Murphy’s, an Irish-themed pub now occupying the old Reef Restaurant building on Sea Street.

Bernie Higgins, a veteran Castine bartender, decided to open the place three years ago.

“I’d worked in the business for a while and the stars were aligned” he said on a recent Thursday night.

He put 6,000 new bricks into the structure and hired local chef Matt Cefalo. The menu now consists of traditional pub fare: pizza, burgers, sandwiches, apps.

Rounding out the mix is a drink selection that includes cocktails, wine and beers ranging from Guinness to microbrews —Geary’s, Gritty’s, etc. — and cheaper, lighter lagers.

The taps were flowing on that night. A group of four first-year Maine Maritime Academy students from the Bangor area had been playing guitar and singing at Murphy’s on Thursday nights, and this was to be their last show before shipping out to the high seas.

“SportsCenter” played on a TV above the band as it made its way through bare bones, if melodic covers of Johnny Cash, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foster the People and others. Sitting around a big table in the center of the restaurant space were their parents, who’d trekked down from Bangor and Hampden to show their support.

Several other MMA, first-year students also came to support to their classmates, and while the underage aren’t usually welcome, a doorman was letting them in on the condition that they confined themselves at a table far from the bar.

For the nondrinkers, there’s plenty to enjoy at Murphy’s. In addition to the live entertainment, it also has a pool table and arcade games including a version of Big Buck Hunter.

And, at least in this reporter’s experience, the food is tasty. Bartender Miranda Caldwell, who works at Murphy’s while pursuing postgraduate study at MMA, recommended the Reuben. Combined with sweet potato fries, the sandwich didn’t disappoint.

Higgins must be willing to cater to the college students’ tastes, since the following Wednesday would be toga night. But he’s not lax about checking identification. Doorman Francis Cegelka remained busy throughout the night.

But it wasn’t all parents or thirsty students at Murphy’s that evening. A few locals stood around with beers and came in for take out.

Coming from as far away as Bucksport, that crowd is what sustains the pub in warmer months. This summer, Higgins has added several items to his menu, including a steak special, and is holding more family friendly barbecues, cook-offs and events on the waterfront.

“I’ve done kids parties, pizza parties, weddings, funerals,” Higgins said. “The only thing I haven’t done is a bar mitzvah. But I’m working on that.”

Charles Eichacker covers the towns of Bucksport, Orland, Castine, Verona Island, Penobscot, Brooksville and Dedham. When not working on stories, he likes books, beer and the outdoors. [email protected]