Jeff & I have been testing out the Paleo-ness of some Chicago restaurants recently. Typically when we eat out the cuisine of choice is burgers, since that’s one meal I rarely make at home. When it comes to Paleo friendly restaurants in Chicago, I know I can always trust a recommendation from my friend Anthony.
Both Anthony & I enjoy cooking but he has a leg up on me in terms of restaurant experiences in Chicago which is why I’ve asked Anthony to share his Paleo restaurant knowledge. Today Anthony’s sharing a review of a restaurant called Two. :)
1132 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642
Experience the Pacific Northwest in Chicago
If you have ever experienced the incredible work of fishing on the open sea in the cold and brutal Northwest Pacific or in my case, had the sympathetic experience by television osmosis, then you can see what it takes to have a fresh catch. These fishermen have experienced the many ups and downs of the business and when they have some good times, they would march down to a restaurant that has the freshest catch possible.
Walking into Two, one gets a feeling like no other. It’s something like being in the Pacific Northwest. Something so serene and weathered, all at the same time. Like you are about to see the morning fog softly roll in, blanketing you and the rocky shores. Or maybe, it’s the lush green meadows that dance across the horizon and run as far as the eye can see. The trip, in and of itself, to a landscape like this is amazing. This restaurant evokes a similar feeling, but fortunately you don’t have to leave our beloved city of Chicago.
You enter through the front doors to antique kitchen equipment. Equipment that is so worn for wear it may have been in a family for four generations and the fifth just didn’t have the heart to retire it. As we ventured to our table the walls looked like they had been washed in salt water. Their accent wall behind the bar had a horizontal flat stone accent wall that gave the room a warmth that evoked a sign of welcoming. Then there were the washcloths for handkerchiefs and the wooden chairs and tables to finish the look. I have to admit, the decor made me feel like I had just finished my shift at the docks and I was famished!
This adventure begins with a Charcuterie Plate.
It is as if the Wild West pioneers traveled northwest and settled on the shores of Oregon. Their Homemade Beef jerky is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon during dusk. Not subtle in the least bit and its flavors mimic a Spanish-inspired campfire. If they bagged and sold their jerky in stores, I’d be in line to buy it.
Then there is the Homemade Pickles, the villain of the group. It makes you cringe by starting out sour, then shows signs of being sweet and endearing. But in the end, they shove you into the land of hotness. And when in the land of hotness, there is nothing better than something creamy.
Enter the supporting cast, the Sartori Parmesan. It was creamy indeed, but also salty and sharp. A very rare combination.
Next we meet the co-star of the Beef Jerky, the Homemade Chicken Liver Mousse. It was a chameleon of sorts and unsure whether it’s helping the hero or planning its demise. By itself, it changed flavors to match the environment. The moment it hits your tongue it went from sweet and earthy to salty and creamy. But, when you team it up with anything else on the plate, the flavor becomes something entirely different, and simply something that words cannot explain.
What story is complete without the shocker? Enter the surprise, Stone Ground Mustard. The way mustard should be. A spread with a crunch that surprises your senses. The initial impact to the taste buds are spicy but within reason so there is no need for a fire extinguisher, but watch out for smoke. Then, it shifts to a sweetness like the comfort of a cashmere sweater only it changes yet again to a subtle lingering vinegar finish.
Now comes the twist. Unfortunately, this one is awkward. It comes in the form of that character that doesn’t fit in and tends to confuse the audience. This would be the house made duck rillette, which was tasty but nothing to write home about and didn’t quite belong.
What says nurture by nature as good as a freshly prepared salad? Not much. It is as if this salad was hand picked, moments before it hit our plate. That is what you get from the Heirloom Tomato Salad (whose greens are provided by The Plant in Chicago, an urban farming initiative). This salad may be short on intensity, but delivers on complexity. If they served the tomatoes themselves, it would be amazing. They were juicy and filled with flavors of earthiness and sweetness. The cheese was creamy but not overwhelming and an excellent complement to the tomatoes acidity. All that, only to be drizzled with yet another layer, the candy onion vinaigrette. Something that should also be bottled and sold individually.
This adventure is getting intense and it just got started. Let’s ramp up those taste buds.
Grilling seafood pushes unique flavors out of it and the Grilled Octopus is no exception. It’s a true representation of a wonderful balance of flavors. Tomatoes give it some sweetness and acidity that enhance the sauce’s spiciness. The creaminess of the cheese teams up with herbs in the sauce to give the smoky octopus a true contrasting counterpart. Something the tongue will be excited about. It was so delicious, that it begs the question: “Can we have a duo on this one?”
Next up is the Hanger Steak (provided by George Rasmussen of Swan Creek Farms which raises Grass-fed beef). The steak has been swarmed by the deliciousness of the harems called mushrooms. It was majestic. Beef that just melts with the opposition of the carbonara and sweetness from the bed of green onions… just wish I had more of that glaze!
Two provides both tasty dishes and truly local and sustainable products.
1132 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642