Walking through the doors of Marc Murphy’s Ditch Plains Restaurant in Manhattan is a welcome respite from the often manic energy of New York City.
Murphy’s Montauk style fish spot is celebrating ten years of bringing a laid back, beach style restaurant to the island of Manhattan. The Ditch Plains restaurant opened in 2006 when Marc Murphy wanted to do something “a little bit more casual than what we had at Landmarc. We wanted to open up a casual fish spot to get lobster rolls, burgers and great beer on tap”. Murphy beams when speaking about Ditch Plains’ lasting success and the culture he has put in place there.
“Ditch Plains is very successful because it has an accessible menu and really good, consistent food. You can go there for dinner or have beer and seafood and watch a sporting event. It’s not a guessing game”. In his attempt to diverge from the typical beach bar style place, Murphy has created a unique and vibrant place that serves its customers great food and drink in a great atmosphere. Menu highlights include chicharrones tossed in smoked spices, oysters on the half shell and a myriad of fresh fish dishes. Ditch Plains works with fish purveyors in the City to locally source their fish, and they follow Murphy’s strict rules about the oysters he puts on his menu.
“Oysters should not have jet lag”.
This means east coast oysters only on his menu. He says at Ditch Plains “Blue Points” and a variety called the “Naked Cowboy” are popular choices. He limits the number of oysters on the menu to keep them as fresh as humanly possible and to be sure they are all used the same day for freshness.
This approach to giving his customers the best shines through in the wine menu, where only half bottles are available. Murphy and the team at Ditch Plains did away with glasses of wine since “you never really know how long that bottle has been open behind the bar”. Instead the half bottles ensure the customers get a brand new bottle with two and a half glasses of wine. “You know it is your bottle and it is opened specifically for you” said Murphy, highlighting an approach that has worked well for Ditch Plains over the years. Cocktails have evolved over the years to include seasonal drinks like Watermelon Margaritas, part of the beverage program for which Murphy heaped praise on Wine & Beverage Director David Lombardo.
Murphy attributes some of Ditch Plains’ success to its unique atmosphere, great food and a more interesting experience than other beach bar style places in the city. “We don’t have fake nets or crabs on the walls, it’s still a New York City fish shack so it is more modern. If you want to watch the Yankee game but drink better quality wine and eat a lobster roll, Ditch Plains is the place to do it”. The interior is full of aged and weathered wood contrasted by large TV screens showing surfing competitions or sporting events and offers a beachy atmosphere without being overbearing or tacky.
In offering a bit of advice to newcomers, Murphy says one key is to read the neighborhood to make sure you’re filling a need and not going up against strong competition right down the street. In addition to that, Murphy said that fresh ingredients give you a head start on other places that aren’t sourcing local and fresh food.
Ten years in, Marc Murphy’s vision of a neighborhood spot for people to enjoy the food he loves is alive and well. Ditch Plains has accomplished a lot in ten years, however watching the next ten years should be even better with Murphy at the helm. To learn more, visit their website.