22 Hawthorne St.
Cross: Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
27, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Some
restaurants have pulled some serious Cher-facelift magic the
past couple years, from the classic case study of Bizou into
COCO500, Cozmo’s into CIRCA, and now Hawthorne Lane into
~TWO~. (Sidebar: what’s with the all caps
on all three names? I see a trend.)
twist is that facelifts are supposed to make you tighter, but
TWO’s was all about gettin’ looser. Hawthorne Lane
was most definitely a special occasion restaurant, a no-brainer
for when your parents were in town or it was someone’s 50th
birthday. It was an important part of the city’s culinary
landscape, but as owner David Gingrass put it, “I felt like
I was running my dad’s restaurant.”
the imaginary dad has left for the retirement community—and
after a magical two weeks of closure, you’re now hanging
out in his stoner surfer son’s clubhouse. Dude. There are
certainly plenty more young things hanging around the restaurant,
starting with a primarily female crew of fun and funky servers.
Amongst the clientele, $200 jeans are de rigueur—say buh-bye
to the Armani suit. I’m curious if the hours will start running
later—with so much happening in SoMa, I’m surprised
at the 10pm close time. The vibe feels more late night to me.
former large booths upholstered in climbing vines are now contemporary
leather chairs and high-backed banquettes; the white tablecloths
have funk-ified into tabletops the color of French’s
mustard; the walls sport wood paneling; and the bar is now poured
concrete and copper, and twice the size. The kooky coconut light
fixtures remind me of hula skirts made of leather—perhaps
something else if I smoked out.
my first visit, I was like, whoa, it’s only all in the
front room? The back room remains as is for now (you can take a
peek if you want to see the “before” pictures) and
is used for private functions. The second room should be all updated
by the end of April, and the private dining rooms by June or so.
The TWO side is now moodier and clubbier, with dim lighting and
spunkier music. Although the sound system needs some help—there
are some dead corners in the room. I wanted a touch more of a musical presence, actually.
This would be the opportunity to do something really cool with
the small hits of color, like the orange pepper grinder, the
poppy check holder, and the punchy wallpaper in both the men’s
and women’s bathrooms (no, I didn’t sneak into the
men’s, but someone took a pic for me).
menu: it’s edict-long. (Like this write-up.) Executive
Chef Bridget Batson and Gingrass conspired on a menu that’s
chock-full of comfort favorites. It’s the kind of place you
could bring a picky friend and they’d find plenty to eat.
But, this is not the place where I’d bring a picky gourmand,
because the dishes are more about approachability than perfection.
But still tasty—almost
like when a friend who’s a really good cook is having you
over for dinner. Easy eats for any night of the week, really. As
a food writer friend put it, it’s like “haute stoner
food.” So surfer son says have a toke, unwind, and ride the
You’ll only spend a reasonable amount—one
night a friend and I fully feasted, with a cocktail, a glass
of wine, and a dessert wine each, and the total was just over
$100. It would be a good spot to take over the communal table
with a group of friends, which is flanked by wingback chairs
at each end, and an antler chandelier overhead. Oh, and the popular
happy hour with $2 bar bites and drink specials parties on (Mon-Fri
include a hearts of romaine salad ($9) with a soft-boiled egg
that comes a tad heavy with the lemon-anchovy dressing, but it’s in that “good-overdressed” kind of way.
Points to the house for splitting it on separate plates. The hot
Spanish-style onion soup ($7) unfortunately overcooked the egg
and made it tough, so the flavors didn’t fully meld.
the meatses partses lovers out there (holla!), there’s
a duo of marrowbones ($11) with crisp croutons and a spicy tomato
sauce that’s worthy of some pasta. I was all over the warm and
supple house-made headcheese ($8) with a vinegary slaw of sweet
onions and herbs to pause the music at the fatty animal party.
tried the pizzas over a couple visits: while the black olive,
goat cheese, and prosciutto ($14) left me craving more olives
and some hot oil to drizzle on top (must be the Calabrese in
me), the duck confit pizza with caramelized onions, Crescenza
cheese and fried sage ($13) hit flavor perfection. Salty, sweet,
savory, creamy: scrumptious. It only needed about one more minute
in (a hotter?) oven—the dough could be a hair crisper and
the cheese more blistered.
pastas are all hearty and come in two (heh) sizes, like the unique
and savory execution of spaghettini with sea urchin (!), brown
garlic, parsley, and chili ($10/$18—the spendier of
the bunch). The breadcrumbs tossed with the pasta could have been
toastier, but I dug all the flavors—almost like a luxe version
of clams and linguine. But the farfalle with cauliflower ($7/$13)
had so much garlic I could have killed Lestat with one (petite)
bacon and egg raviolo ($9) is one of those dishes that is a marvel
of kitchen ingenuity. It’s one big raviolo, with
spinach and bacon inside, plus an egg whose yolk runs out when
you cut it open. Oh, and the whole thing has a massive spoonful
of browned butter on top. Like, hold me. But both times the pasta
around the edge wasn’t very supple—but I see how it has to be hearty
enough to hold it all. I can also see how you don’t want
to overcook the raviolo because of the egg.
are hearty and incredibly affordable, from rich braised lamb
cheeks ($16) with a creamy and cheesy polenta or potato garlic
puree; or a pan-fried pork schnitzel ($18), or half a roasted
duck on the bone ($17). Hawthorne Lane always had a way with
duck, so why stop now? Only the Prime NY strip steak clocks in
at $36. A few dishes don’t have much in the way of sides, but there
are plenty of to choose from, like caramelized broccoli ($5) and
potato skins with bacon and crème fraîche ($4). Yo,
Spicoli, pass the pipe. Let’s party!
offer American classics like a Sprecher’s root
bear float, doughnut holes, and my personal fave, the banana cream
pie brûlée with banana caramel ice cream (all $7.50).
The mini ice-cream sandwiches were like the three bears: two had
cookies that were a little doughy, while the brownie with mint
version was just right, like a perfect little It’s It.
has small missteps, like forgetting to replace silverware, or
sometimes timing can feel a little brisk, but considering everything
going on, it’s pretty tight. Busboys are total hawk eyes—as
soon as you’re done, your empty plate is outta there. Fun
to dine at the bar—and you get a wooden woven placemat. I
almost wanted one at the table, actually. The cute oval plates
are challenging to balance your knife against the edge, and while
eating the complimentary warm biscuits and kicky cracker bread,
there’s nowhere to really put your uneaten pieces except
on the serving plate, or directly on the table. Maybe bread plates
will help all this.
cocktails are a bit zany, like The First Punch ($11)—muddled
cherry tomato and lime shaken with house-infused pepper-cucumber
vodka and a touch (too much) of Sambuca, or cilantro and ginger
martinis, or drinks with vodka AND gin in them. Lots of infused
boozes. Definitely original—the kinds of drinks you will
form an opinion about.
wine list is super-approachable. The Fifty Under Fifty has some
faves on there, and the wines by the glass also have some fab
choices for every palate. (I ordered the juicy ’05 Skylark
Red Belly Syrah both times—purr. Kitties like birds! John
Lancaster, the wine director of Boulevard, is behind this winner
of a wine.)
finally, a fun fact is the by-lottery “dinner
in the kitchen” concept where you can join other diners
and try out new dishes for $20.07. The Saturday
cooking classes to
are also back. I attended a lobster boil last year and had a blast.
It’s coming up July 14th. The lunch “TWO-go” program
should also be starting around mid-April, with $12 three-course
boxed lunches (with a choice of salad, sandwich, and dessert). And
with that, aloha, Mister Hand.