Everything old is new again at Twohey’s, voted PW’s Best Restaurant of 2013
By Erica Wayne 11/13/2013
Best restaurant in Pasadena? No, really! After years of winning in lesser categories (Best Family Restaurant, Best Breakfast, Best Burger, Best Desserts, etc., etc.), Twohey’s, that mid-century icon, has finally reached the pinnacle, voted the Pasadena Weekly’s Best Restaurant for 2013.
For decades this honor has usually gone to the swankiest establishments, with refined décor, long wine lists, menus requiring footnotes for all but the most erudite foodies, and price tags — well you can guess. But, be it the economy or a simple yearning for less problematic times, the unpretentious atmosphere and decent, reasonably priced food at Twohey’s has been rewarded with The Weekly’s top accolade.
My first review of Twohey’s appeared way back in 1987, when I was probably the only local who hadn’t heard of it. At least that’s the impression I got once I “discovered” the restaurant. “Have you been to Twohey’s?” I’d inquire of almost anybody. And the response was inevitable. “Of course. They have great onion rings! And have you tried the hot fudge? It’s to die for!”
My ignorance may be because I was an East Coast transplant, while most of the respondents to my inquiries seemed to have gone to high school in the San Gabriel Valley and to have been Twohey’s-aficionados since their dating years. At any rate, in the 26-plus years since, my love for the place has never faltered.
Twohey’s has always been an unadulterated “family restaurant” — pure Middle America. It’s been in operation since the 1940s (at its present location since the ’50s), and, despite facelifts of both interior and menu (starting in the ’70s), retains most of the signature items that can transport you back to your youth better than any revival restaurant I know.
Oh, sure, they now offer wines by the glass, artisan beers and lobster dinners for upwards of $20. But, frankly, what I usually want is way less formal. The updated menu’s almost as varied as the Cheesecake Factory’s: chicken pesto ($13.99), all kinds of barbecue, seared giant freshwater prawns ($18.99), fajita steak salad ($10.99). But I inevitably turn first to the pages dedicated to burgers and soda fountain treats.
Their “original” burger is the Stinko (Twohey’s doesn’t rely on charismatic food titles), served with pickles and, as the name implies, a generous slab of raw (but sweet) onion. It seems a customer, within earshot of the original owner, looked at the garnishes with dismay and said “Oh stink-o!” leading not only to the title but also to Twohey’s trademark cartoon of the little man with tears in his eyes and a clothespin on his nose.
The price, if you can get up the courage to tell the waitress you want one, is $6.99 with a generous side of French, sweet potato or garlic fries. A “ring combo” ($3.85 plus the cost of any burger or sandwich) brings a huge tangled heap of enormous onion circlets to share the stage. Homemade, fried in a light and crunchy buttermilk batter, they’re worthy of their almost universal praise. The fries are above average as well, retaining their crispness as they cool down.
Soups and sandwiches are mostly traditional, although the clam chowder with curry ($4.99), an heirloom recipe from Twohey’s original chef, is surprising. Likewise, among the tuna melt ($9.99), BLT ($8.99) and Reuben ($11.99) are a few updated offerings, among them two wraps ($9.59 each) and a Maine lobster roll ($11.25).
There’s also a veggie ciabatta with charbroiled eggplant, zucchini, red onions, Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes and Tuscan tomato sauce ($8.99) that likely has the original Twoheys rolling in their graves, since scuttlebutt has it that they didn’t like vegetables (potatoes and onions excepted) and didn’t serve them in the restaurant at all.
On the other hand, many of the entrées are true time-warp fare: chicken fried steak ($11.99), liver with bacon and onions ($13.99), meatloaf ($12.99), turkey with stuffing ($12.99), and fried chicken $13.99). All of them come with soup or salad, house-made dinner rolls and all the traditional fixings. I’m also fond of the fish and chips ($15.99). You never have to remind the server to bring the malt vinegar.
Twohey’s breakfast menu is on the back page, right where it should be. I’m stuck on their orange French toast ($7.95), except when I’m feeling ethnic. Then it’s huevos rancheros ($7.95), Italian or Greek frittata ($9.75) or lox and bagel ($13.95). My mate never deviates from the Alhambra combo — eggs, bacon or sausage, hot cakes or French toast and coffee ($11.45).
There are Twohey’s regulars who come in for a daily soda fountain fix. (We try to keep ours down to once a month.) The old-fashioned, double-thick milkshakes ($4.50) and ice cream sodas ($3.75), which come in lots of mix ‘n’ match flavors, seem to be especially addictive to those who grew up with ice cream socials.
Whenever I’m at Twohey’s at lunchtime I see beaming septuagenarians sucking on straws. Come to think of it, my hubby and I aren’t quite that old but usually share a chocolate shake, always arguing about whether to have them make it with mint chip or cappuccino crunch ice cream.
Younger folks seem more inclined to order sundaes.
And, speaking of sundaes, the most wonderful dish at Twohey’s, without exception, is the large (REALLY large) bittersweet hot fudge sundae ($6.95) with freshly whipped cream and crunchy roasted almonds. The dark fudge, I was once told, is made especially for Twohey’s from a recipe they bought from their original supplier when it went out of business. Whatever they paid, it was worth it.
They also have milk chocolate hot fudge, hot caramel, pineapple, marshmallow, strawberry, blueberry, apple, raspberry and cherry toppings. But they’re for amateurs. Trust me. One bittersweet hot fudge sundae with half mint and half coffee ice cream and you’ll be coming back when you’re in your 70s and voting each year for Twohey’s to keep the title of Best Restaurant in perpetuity.
1224 N. Atlantic Blvd.,
Beer and wine/