Down to the Core - An Inside Look at the Big Apple Café

Some would say The Big Apple is not only a staple in Murray and Calloway County, but also a vital and integral part of the stability for the surrounding community. The Apple has been, and remains a rendezvous point for locals and students attending Murray State University for more than two and a half decades providing mental balance for those seeking a good meal and a cold drink.

Though The Apple is not native to Kentucky, it has served Murray residents and given a place of comfort and companionship since the 1950’s. Originally located just "south" of town in Puryear, Tennessee while Murray was plagued by the Blue Laws that restricted the sale of alcohol, The Big Apple Café moved to its current location at 1005 Arcadia Street in October 2001 after liquor by the drink was allowed in the city limits. Regardless of location, The Apple has become a landmark in the eyes of the public and a restaurant recognized for its' original take on Mexican cuisine, great entertainment, and one-of-a-kind atmosphere.

Many changes have occurred throughout the years. The original building owned and operated by Bill Rowe, was constructed in the 1950’s and was primarily known as an African-American establishment. Times changed, as did the ownership when Skip Chambers, from South Carolina, and Robert Danielson, of New Jersey, bought the business and reopened on April 1, 1983 expanding on the tradition that is The Big Apple Café.

Both Chambers and Danielson have become an integral part of the Murray experience. Both raised families and integrated into the community. Danielson, a Murray State graduate, and Chambers have supported MSU sports and are very active in the community. Danielson’s wife, Debi, head of the Big Apple kitchen before retiring, now heads the Murray Art Guild. You can usually find Skip on a golf course and Robert at the Murray Central Park.

On October 2, 2001 after nearly 20 years in Puryear, Tennessee, Chambers and Danielson moved the restaurant to nearby Murray, Kentucky. In January 2007 Chambers and Danielson retired and sold their portions of the business to Chambers' son and Apple bar manager, Boone Chambers, and long time employee and family friend Kaycee Cooper. Chambers and Cooper were students together and MSU graduates in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department. Boone and Kaycee also worked at the establishment for nearly seven years before the transition, so their familiarity made it a smooth and comfortable change for employees and patrons. And now Murray residents and students alike have frequented the establishment for half a century.

The Big Apple not only offers a full bar, but a diverse menu with a variety of choices for everyone from meat eaters to vegetarians, and a kid’s menu too. The Special Bean Roll, originally created by owner Robert Danielson, a meat and bean filled tortilla smothered in salsa and a variety of cheeses, served with lettuce and tomato, has been the cornerstone of the menu since its creation. According to Chambers, "It’s what we’re known for."

Now the menu has expanded greatly since the move to Murray offering unique Mexican staples, delicious sandwiches and wraps, burgers and fries, the best salads in town, fresh cut daily, homemade desserts, and several daily specials including Cajun items, like Wednesday night gumbo and peel and eat shrimp, and an array of different soups. The new prime rib sandwich, thinly sliced, served on a ciabatta roll with melted havarti dill cheese, the bar favorite chicken fajita nachos, or the Monday special white chicken chili, all serve as perfect choices for either lunch or dinner but be sure and save room for the famous double chocolate brownie. (see full menu and prices)

The Apple isn’t only famous for bean rolls and brownies however. The restaurant has also served as a musical venue for over 25 years. Featuring live music on Thursday nights, an occasional impromptu jam by local artists and jazz musicians on Tuesday’s, original poetry on every other Wednesday, and a monthly Saturday showcase, The Big Apple has housed many unique talents and diverse performances throughout the years. Musical acts range from local bluegrass sensation "Bawn In The Mash", rock favorite "Hoosier Daddy", R&B phenom Clarence Dobbins, to southern rock fan favorite "Bordertown" and college scene fave "The October".

Musical traditions began back in 1983 with the rising fame of Pat McLaughlin, and has allowed the Big Apple to host many respected artists such as Steve Earl, A.C. Reed, Bobby Keys, Townes Van Zandt, Warren Haynes, and even James Brown’s sax player Waldo Weathers. No matter what your taste in music, I’m sure the Apple has something for you. (please see bands page for listings and links)

The Apple probably also has something from you…for 25 years patrons have brought anything from license plates, concert posters, artwork, and postcards to pictures of their kids in a Big Apple t-shirt to be displayed on the walls like a college dorm room. Students who travel abroad take pictures of statues and famous monuments with a Big Apple hat and send postcards from around the world. Even local celebs like Molly Simms, "Las Vegas", and W. Earl Brown, "Deadwood", make their yearly visits and leave behind an autographed picture from their latest venture. But the establishment always gives back to the community and university through donations and sponsorships, maintaining a great connection to all of its’ patrons whether they are still around or to those who have moved on.

Smoking and non-smoking rooms are available, yet the dining room remains smoke free from 11am-3pm Monday through Friday. The Big Apple Café also features a banquet room, ideal for any occasion, from business meetings and surprise birthdays to class reunions and bachelorette parties. On Monday nights you will find the room filled for Froggy’s "Hey Coach", where MSU football and basketball coaches are interviewed. The bar area features dartboards and video game machines including anything from trivia to golf. There is also an expanded deck area with two sets of the popular game cornhole.

So whether you are looking for dinner out with the family or some fun time with friends, come by and visit the local classic, open Monday through Saturday 11 am to midnight. And don't forget to pick up one of a variety of t-shirts, hats, stickers, key chains, or even a coozy to take a part of The Big Apple Café with you when you go.

Big Apple Swag

Big Apple Swag

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