Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have returned to TWO urban licks so soon after my initial visit. After all, it was a fairly expensive dining experience, and there are so many other places in Atlanta that I’d like to try. However, my parents were in the city for a meal, and they’d been hearing about the place for a long time and wanted to give it a go (and they were paying). Plus, since TUL is located right across from my building, it’s an enticing choice when you don’t want to deal with driving and parking.
The atmosphere felt very different on a Monday at 7 PM than it did on a Saturday at 9 PM (duh). I mean, the décor was obviously the same, but the light hit things differently and made it seem a lot less hip. In fact, my dad even said he was expecting the space to be more “shi-shi.” In any case, we sat at a table right near the open part of the kitchen, and we all ordered drinks (martinis for mom and dad, draft beer for me).
For appetizers, I let my parents pick. Interestingly enough, they chose the same two dishes (empanadas and calamari) that Jason and I enjoyed on our last visit. This time, instead of oxtail, the empanadas were filled with shortribs. Also, I asked for the crumbled queso on the side, since I remembered it overpowering the dish. The shortribs seemed a little less flavorful than the oxtail, but the meat was every bit as tender. Also, the smaller amount of cheese let us really taste the crust and the chipotle sauce, which was definitely a good thing. The calamari were, again, cooked perfectly and spiced nicely. I love that dish’s balance between spicy and sweet.
For entrees, mom went for the bronzed scallops with Gouda grits and smoked tomato broth, the same dish that Jason raved about during our previous dinner. The dish once again got a wonderful review. Perfectly cooked scallops and creamy cheese grits? How can you go wrong?! Dad got the Maple Leaf Farms duck breast, which was stuffed with italian sausage and served with cayenne sweet potato puree and ancho BBQ jus. By far the best dish of the night, the flavors and textures were just amazing, even though the duck itself was just a touch overcooked. I went for the wahoo (a nice, firm, white fish) with summer squash and sunchokes; it was light and tasty, but the fish was a little dry. With dinner, my parents opted for a half-carafe of chardonnay that the server recommended, and it managed to be both oaky and acidic (though I found it a bit flat, but that might be personal preference).
Speaking of the server: he was WONDERFUL. He was friendly, engaging, non-intrusive, non-awkward, and just generally a fun and interesting human being. He made great recommendations and chatted with us about other restaurants we’ve enjoyed (notably, The French Laundry, where my parents just dined last month). He talked about his travel to Asia. We debated about food blogging and molecular gastronomy and whether or not cupcakes have jumped the shark (they have). He was such a pleasant part of our dining experience, and I will certainly ask for him when I return.
I only wanted to order one or two desserts, but because we were all in disagreement about what to choose, well, we went for three. Mom got the chocolate mousse rice crispy treat that Jason and I enjoyed last time, and she really loved the chocolate malt ice cream. Dad got the bread pudding (which I would have ordered, had it not contained raisins) and said it was good but not great. I got the cupcake plate (previous conversation with the waiter be damned), which had three varieties: chocolate on chocolate, carrot cake and cream cheese icing, and banana caramel with (I think) lemon icing. The chocolate treat went right in the doggie bag for later, and I don’t really dig on carrot cake, so that one went to my parents and they reported that it was one of the best versions of carrot cake they’d ever had. The banana lemon cupcake was incredibly moist and delicately flavored, and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. The brown sugar ice cream that accompanied the cakes was absolutely amazing-I could eat bowls of it just on its own.
So, another very nice meal at TWO. I don’t know why people love to hate this place–it’s tasty food in an interesting atmosphere with (in my experience, anyway) attentive service. It’s not necessarily a dining revelation, and it definitely has small flaws that keep it out of the foodie upper echelons, but it’s a reliable and fun neighborhood joint and I am not ashamed to be a fan.