Two Fools v. O'Niells
By Steve “Mo” Fye
The Irish and English are not historically famous for their cuisines. What you get is typically boiled or fried, but involves big portions and all the food you can stomach.
British Isle-themed pubs have been popular across the U.S. for centuries. We have a handful here, and the most visible Irish pubs are Two Fools Tavern and O’Neill’s.
Two Fools sits in the heart of Nob Hill, and O’Neill’s rests on its edge.
Like many of the Food Fight! comparisons, the two restaurants have the same culinary theme, but with very different applications.
Two Fools is a traditional Irish pub, and O’Neill’s is a pub-themed restaurant.
Each has its strengths and weaknesses. While Two Fools has traditional atmosphere, it can be dark and cramped. O’Neill’s is large, spacious and well-lit, but only feels like a pub right at the giant bar.
To properly compare two Irish pubs, the traditional fish-and-chips is the go-to entrée.
O’Neill’s offers wild-caught Alaskan cod. The fish was tender and delicious, but the batter was pale and soggy, as were the food-service chips.
The dish tasted a bit of old fryer oil and did not sit well on my stomach. The tartar sauce was uninspired, but acceptable, as was the ever-present coleslaw. My companions were more pleased with their entrées: One had the steak salad, and the other chose the Buffalo chicken salad.
The steak was cooked to a perfect medium-rare and came with fried onion garnish. Order the salad with the bleu cheese dressing on the side, as the cooks are a bit heavy-handed. The Buffalo chicken salad, while definitely not traditional Irish fare, was delicious.
Two Fools’ fish and chips are made from North Atlantic haddock, the more traditional Irish favorite. The batter was crispy and dark and the chips were cooked perfectly from hand-cut potatoes. The house-made tartar sauce was terrific as well. Two Fools’ coleslaw includes apples and is sweet, tangy and crisp.
The Guinness Beef Boxty is a true elevation of Irish cuisine. Beef and vegetables are braised in stout until fall-apart tender and served in an Irish potato pancake. The boxty is light and fluffy, almost crepe-like.
As far as appetizers go, it’s a tough call. O’Neill’s crispy corned beef and cabbage eggrolls are among my favorite apps in town. The Irish favorites are terrific in a Chinese format with spicy Asian mustard. At ten bucks for three, they are a bit pricey, but I can’t say no.
Two Fools offers Irish nachos, a giant mound of house-made thick-cut potato chips loaded with beef and veggies used in the cottage pie, cheese, sour cream and green chile. Tipping the scale at more than two pounds, and running only $8.99, the appetizer is actually enough to feed a couple of people over drinks. We begged the server to box it up so we could have room for the rest of our meal.
Both restaurants host Celtic bands from time to time, which can add to the atmosphere. Later at night, Two Fools is often packed with folks drinking, watching soccer and just enjoying the Craic (Irish for convivial fun, pronounced “crack”).
Both places have an extensive selection of Irish and Scotch whiskies as well as plenty of beer choices. Dog-, kid- and family-friendly, O’Neill’s is the better choice for large groups or those who want to enjoy dining al fresco.
Two Fools is great for smaller groups and those looking for the more traditional pub experience or are just there for the food. Both are excellent choices for a trip to the pub, but I will choose Two Fools for the best Irish pub visit.
Steve “Mo” Fye is an Instructional Tech in the Culinary Arts program at Central New Mexico Community College and is of Irish-American descent, which he will blather on about every time he drinks Guinness.
4310 Central Ave. SE
Two Fools Tavern
3211 Central Ave. NE