RESTAURANT REVIEW: Two Boroughs local, seasonal
Heather and Josh Keeler, former residents of Philadelphia, have brought their neighborhood restaurant concept of local, seasonal and regional foods to Charleston with Two Boroughs Larder.
They rehabbed two former structures on Coming Street. They recycled glass brick and barn wood; they reclaimed Alabama brick; they procured an antique countertop. They “imported” the concept of a loo and reconfigured an unusual property that houses their restaurant-cum-carryout-grocery store-gentrified meet-and-eat spot off Upper King. The color palette is subdued; weathered, worn. There are purse hooks at the bar.
Josh Keeler learned well the lessons of the New England Culinary Institute and benefitted from his experience with the Starr Restaurant Group in Philadelphia (Morimoto and Alma de Cuba) and the laser vision of Steven Starr when it comes to concepts. The Keelers pony up to high-quality ingredients and well-procured sources. Theirs is a kitchen of culinary purpose.
On the menu
So what can you expect as a voracious eater? Good food well-prepared and creative leaps such as a Livarot fondue on a Philly cheesesteak, sorghum semifreddo, rabbit roulade and the tastes of the Pennsylvania Dutch in the addition of scrapple to their menu and the inclusion of fried pork roll sandwiches — staples for many Philadelphians.
The look is casual; they have embraced the bucolic Brockism of our locally revered chef Sean Brock. They honor their animals — nose to tail. Braised oxtails ($11) are served with smears of boiled peanut paste and Asian seasoned fried Carolina rice; glands like sweetbreads ($12) anchored with celery root puree, their richness cut with sweet and sour onions. Pickles and pastas are made in-house. And breakfast sandwiches are served all day ($5-$6).
The “bowl-o-noodle” ($9) is a winner. The umami of porky goodness balanced by spicy kimchi, nutty sesame greens and the acidic lift of pickled mushrooms (additional charges) layers this dish with depths of flavor and satisfaction.
The menu offers ravioli with chestnut and ricotta filling ($17), hanger steak ($31) with smoked potatoes, pollo al Mattone ($28) tricked up with salsa verde and radishes — Mex-Italian on a plate.
A dish of braised veal breast ($25) plated a tender, braised slice of veal on a melting pool of polenta.
Sides ($3.50) range from duck fat-roasted potatoes to fried pigs ears along with seasonal greens and assorted radishes.
Room for improvement
This is a kitchen of creativity and risk-taking, but it is not a precious kind of place. It faltered with the cooking of calypso beans — al dente companions to a roasted beef salad ($9). A square of carrot cake ($7) was dry, but its elaboration and presentation in a bowl of carrot soup with candied diced red, white and orange carrots with a quenelle of sorghum semifreddo was a creative remix of a classic.
A side of broccoli rabe ($3.50) would have benefitted from a little more cooking time.
The expectation indices are a conundrum. The location, space and ambience parse the flavors, taste and deliciousness of the food. And this food does not come cheap.
But goodness always comes with cost. Dinner for two can easily reach three figures.
The beers and wines will please all palates. Mexican Coke can be had for sugar purists. Mr. Weed’s Cold Press Coffee ($5) is served with your choice of chocolate, soy or creamer.
The Design Form Furnishings’ chairs are a bit low for the table heights, and the two tables positioned in
the wings of the doorway will be cold spots as winter descends.
Two Boroughs Larder is a farm store of the 21st century, and the kitchen skills of the Keelers and their staff along with their Welsh corgi mascot, Walter, are welcome additions to any neighborhood. With their reliance on local and respect for community values, TBL is a book not to be judged by its cover.
And if stars were awarded for social media platforms, TBL has earned theirs. A PDF is posted daily for their changing menu. They update their calendar and keep you informed of what is going on in their restaurant. Kudos to them.