New places are starting to open up around here, and that's good enough reason to head out for a two-hour lunch on a Wednesday afternoon. Erica Jackson Curran has been posting some fancy First Looks to this blog recently, giving us peeks at HoM, the ping pong burger place, and the Bull Street Gourmet. But the joint that got me the most excited had to be Two Boroughs Larder on Coming Street.
I was on vacation in Asheville, N.C. when I read the post about the Larder two weeks ago, and it immediately reminded me of The Admiral, a famous eatery in West Asheville that's basically a dive with amazing food. The Admiral has been getting gobs of glowing press, and we managed to snag a 5 p.m. (early!) reservation for six and met CP contributor Jeff Allen and his family there for a pretty memorable meal. The food was innovative and indigenous, the cooks were behind the bar cooking in a teeny-tiny area, and the dining room was crowded, dive-y (as in concrete floors and cement-block walls), and full of rich retirees (the entrees went up into the $30s). Being critics and all, we were highly impressed and wished we had something similar back home in regards to vibe and attitude. At that point, I whipped out my phone and passed around the post about Two Boroughs Larder. This might just be the place we're looking for, I told Jeff.
The next Monday at work, the first week the Larder was open for business, we ordered a to-go lunch. I opted for the farro salad. I can't remember what the other guys got, but the consensus was great food but not enough to eat. Since I'm trying to get into eating shape for the multi-course Ultimate Critics' Dinner next Wednesday night, I didn't mind the smaller portions too much.
Yesterday, I decided to dine in, figuring that would be a much better way to experience the food. And it was. I ordered the field pea salad ($8), a delightful bowl of speckled butter beans (my loves), butter peas, celery, corn, peaches, and croutons. They came rather heavily dressed (OK, swimming) in cider vinaigrette. They could have had a lighter touch with the sauce, but beans can soak that juice right up, so if I had to choose, I'd rather have more dressing than less. Besides, the vinaigrette was good. Maybe a piece of bread for sopping would've been nice.
Since I knew the portion would be smallish, I also ordered the roasted okra ($3.50). Good move. They were lightly seasoned but big on vegetal flavor.
My husband (and co-worker) ordered the Heirloom Hominy ($7), a breakfast plate (they serve breakfast dishes all day) that was a spicy scramble of pork belly, hominy, pickled chilies, and red chile sauce. It was hot and spicy and unusual. I liked it.
At the next table, our CP co-workers Landon, Erica, and Susan were trying to ignore us, but we snapped a picture of them eating their lunch anyway. Landon had the Crispy Pig Head with marinated lipstick pepper, celery hearts, and Benton's Country Ham. It was $9 and one of the "small bites" on the menu. Landon is a new employee of ours and I know he probably doesn't make enough to warrant blowing $9 on a plate that won't get him through to dinner, but he didn't mind, he said, it was so delicious. Besides, how else is he going to fit in those skinny jeans.
The good news for Two Boroughs Larder is that the food is delicious and that's important because the price issue could become a serious price issue. I love good food, and I will pay good money for it, and I don't even expect to have an entire head of bibb lettuce for a salad (as I did at the Admiral). But I do want to feel full and satisfied and like I can make it more than an hour before eating again. For Two Boroughs Larder, a simple fix could be adding some more sides in the $3.50 range. A variety of roasted vegetables, some pickled items, or even a biscuit or bread, would help patrons fill up without having to order $20 worth of food for lunch.
I could tell my husband was still hungry after he finished his little bowl of hominy, so I suggested we head over to King Street and check out HoM and play a game of ping pong and maybe he could get something to eat there. So that's what we did. He got a bowl of fries (with two dipping sauces) and a corn and bean salad and I beat him two out of three in ping pong. The food was tasty and the ping pong was so much fun. I'm ready for tournament play, people.
Maybe we could do it every Wednesday and make this two-hour lunch thing a weekly tradition.