New traditions

Unexpected and delicious choices at Two Twenty

The star of the evening: smashed potatoes with Sriracha pork belly croutons, sour cream, roasted peppers and charred green onions.

The star of the evening: smashed potatoes with Sriracha pork belly croutons, sour cream, roasted peppers and charred green onions.

Photo by Meredith J. Cooper

Two Twenty Restaurant
220 W. Fourth St.
Open for breakfast Mon.-Fri., 7-10 a.m. and Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-2 p.m., and for dinner Tues.-Thurs., 2:20-10 p.m. and Fri.-Sat., 2:20-11 p.m.

The first thing that struck me about Two Twenty Restaurant was its unique menu. Chicken and waffle as a dinner entree. Beer-cheese burger. And what’s a Sriracha pork belly crouton?

So, on a recent weekday evening, I invited three of my girlfriends out to the new restaurant, which recently took over the space previously occupied by Johnnie’s in the Hotel Diamond, for cocktails, food and to catch up on our lives. Only one of them had been there before, and she immediately said, “I already know I like their Old Fashioneds!” She’s particular about her liquor, so if a cocktail passed the test, we knew we were off to a good start.

Kelly and I arrived first and took a seat. Perusing the specialty drink menu, I wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or insulted at the fact that it includes a glossary. Actually, I take that back—while I’m familiar with sherry, vermouth and bitters, I had no idea what aperol was before reading the description: “An Italian aperitif made of bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona among other ingredients.” OK, I still don’t know what it is. But let’s move on.

I opted for a glass of cabernet, which I sipped as we chatted and looked over the rest of the menu. The small plates at Two Twenty are all over the place, and in lesser hands than those of head chef Michael Iles—formerly of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Restaurant & Taproom, French-trained and highly experienced—I might’ve worried that it would be a little unwieldy. But there are some tantalizing-sounding choices.

“I don’t know what I want to try more, the coconut prawns or the smashed potatoes,” Kelly said. I agreed they both sounded good, though I was unsure of the inclusion of Sriracha pork belly croutons with the spuds. Having heard early on that the chicken and waffle was one of Two Twenty’s signature large plates, I’d already set my heart on it.

Upon her arrival, our friend Wendy immediately ordered the coconut prawns, which made Kelly’s decision simple. Jackie announced she was on a “liquid diet” and ordered wine.

The ambiance of the place is much the same as it was as Johnnie’s. Upscale, but with a remodel that’s modernized the furniture and overall feel. Our seats in the lounge were comfortable, though we chose a table with backless bar chairs, so there was nowhere to put our jackets and purses. The low noise level made conversation easy, as did a few drinks, and service was friendly and prompt.

When our food arrived, we were eager to dig in. Jackie even buckled and requested an extra plate so we could all share. The prawns ($12) were a good size, breaded and served with a sweet chili sauce and wasabi custard, which was not at all overly spicy.

The chicken and waffle ($20) was served with a “citra-hopped hot sauce” and jalapeno jelly, alongside a cute jar filled with black-eyed peas. The chicken was nicely breaded and perfectly fried, although a bit bland all by itself. When eaten in the same bite with a piece of pecan waffle smothered in a sweet butter and some of the jalapeno jelly, however, it was quite good. It seemed strange that there was no syrup, but the butter brought enough sweetness to the dish.

The real star of the night was the smashed potatoes ($11), with the pork belly, roasted peppers, sour cream and charred green onions. The potatoes were good, but the pork belly … I have never tasted anything quite so rich and melt-in-your-mouth awesome.

In the end, we all enjoyed the food, drinks and ambiance, which combined made for the perfect girls’ night out. Next time I’m trying the beer-cheese burger.