Two Buroughs Larder Hits the Spot
Situated near the cusp of Ansonborough and Elliotborough on the middle to upper reaches of the Charleston peninsula, this delightful new bistro strikes a winning balance between rustic, old-fashioned food preparations (think schnitzel and pork chops) and modern, cosmopolitan sophistication (think roasted radishes to go with said schnitzel and beer mustard with said pork chop). It’s fitting, then, that husband/wife co-owners Josh and Heather Keeler borrowed from the past with old-fashioned words like "borough" and "larder" (these days referred to as "neighborhood" or "pantry") to form the restaurant’s apt name.
Like so many of their local restaurant brethren, Two Boroughs Larder leans heavily on the localvore theme, sourcing from popular farming titans like Keegan Fillion, and buying only SC milk and local farm eggs. But, unlike The Macintosh and HUSK, for example, the theme isn’t wholly or even largely Southern. The food pairings hit global notes, with Korean inspired Bowl-O-Noodle and the Italian Veal Ragu Bianco, while the heaping Beef Brisket Sandwich With Spicy/Sweet Country Mustard would be at happily at home in any Jewish deli.
Sampled on my very first visit here, this sky-high sandwich featured fork-tender, full-flavored brisket with cool, crunchy house-made pickles and a pungent, sweet/hot mustard that popped with rustic mustard seeds.
It’s the reason I came back, again, and again. It took a couple passes for the service, which was a bit frosty at the first pass, and the decor, simultaneously rustic and cosmopolitan and mildly uncomfortable with somewhat confined spacing, to grow on me. Reclaimed and old wood covers the walls and forms the tables, while sleek metallic chairs provide slightly edgy seating. In the end, the convivial setting and warming neighborhood feel of the place won me over. Once you settle in, hopefully in the company of a few good friends, it’s all about the deftly prepared food by the New England Culinary Institute grad, Keeler, and a sip or two of the restaurant’s extensive and revolving craft beer and respectable wine selection.
The menu “standard” includes the Bowl-O-Noodle ($9), a steaming bowl of buckwheat noodles, pork broth, pork and egg (kimchi, greens and pickled mushrooms can be added for a little extra) and a selection of breakfast sandwiches ($5-$6) that can be ordered day or night. These beauties sit on gorgeous hard rolls and are filled with the likes of Nueske’s bacon, peperonata, or house-made pork scrapple along with gooey, melting cheddar cheese and a fried egg.
Other than that, the menu revolves with what’s arrived in the kitchen that day and the chef’s formidable sense of whimsy, talent, and creativity. Though the main dishes can be pricey, particularly for lunch (ranging from $14–$25), one’s appetite can be thoroughly sated for much less by combining a couple of the wonderful sides and a starter (such as the stellar Szechuan Oxtail, $13).
That’s what I did on my most recent trip, settling into a couple of sides and a mostly vegetarian feast, including this incredible Salsify Gratin, which balanced the nutty, briny taste of the root vegetable, with ample cream and a crisp, broiled finish on top.
Also being served that day, a warm, satisfying Catalan Chickpea “main,” which offered a guilt-free trip to the flavors of Spain with background hints of sherry vinegar; roasted red peppers; soft, sweet onion; and fryer-hot puffs of fried, chickpea puree. This was chickpea perfection!
Two Boroughs proves its worthy and diverse larder—which often counts house-made pickles, charred lemon, kimchi, Mornay sauce, lentilles du Puy, parsnip broth, Marcona almond pesto in its ranks—works in new, wonderful ways and and with a sense of style and flavor pairings Charleston has not yet experienced before.
In the hands of a less talented chef, the diversity of ingredients and international culinary influences risk getting jumbled. Not so with Keeler at Two Boroughs Larder. His combination hits the sum of its parts just about perfectly. There are even locally made YesUMay ice cream cookie sandwiches for dessert.
Two Boroughs Larder
186 Coming Street, Charleston SC
Visit www.twoboroughslarder.com for daily menu postings, hours and more information.