The owners of Twohey's, the classic diner founded in 1943 and still serving ice cream sundaes and burgers to legions of fans right on the edge of Alhambra and South Pasadena, have opened a sleek new branch of the restaurant called Twohey's Tavern. The interior is very of-the-moment, and the menu has some clever-sounding plays on diner classics that don't go too avant-garde, like Spencer steak with roasted turnips or fried chicken with cranberry beans. But no matter how good it might prove to be, the tavern will never outpace its older sibling.
The original Twohey's shares a parking lot with an In-N-Out, a scary proposition for a restaurant whose logo relates to its onion- and pickle-topped burger. (It's a guy with a clothespin on his nose. The restaurant never said its specialty smelled good.) But the burgers are quality creations with whatever accoutrements you choose. The diner, with its orange and teal color scheme and walls covered in memorabilia, is a classic for good reason.
Not all of the food here is outstanding. In fact, the kitchen would do well to cut the menu in half, focusing on the diner classics at which it excels and losing stuff like fettucine alfredo and chicken pesto with penne, items that probably were added to the menu in the '80s and are totally superfluous now.
Such a move would let the specialties shine. The burgers and sandwiches are good stuff, and the huge breakfasts, served until 2 p.m., are everything you want from a grease bomb.
And the ice cream. The whole soda fountain. It might make you delirious. There are shakes and malts, plus the lesser-seen ice cream sodas (ice cream, syrup, soda and optional whipped cream) and unique creations such as "frosted drinks," flavored sodas blended with ice cream. They come in root beer, orange, lemon and lime, and the citrus varieties might almost be called refreshing — it's a tumbler full of ice cream, sure, but it's bubbly and tart, too.
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The hot fudge sundae is best ordered with bittersweet chocolate (this is a known fact among Twohey's fans). The small is enormous, and it comes with toasted almond slivers and a sour — not maraschino — cherry. Whipped cream is standard but unnecessary, but with or without, this sundae will ruin you for all other soda fountains.
It's not groundbreaking, but when you stick to the heart of the menu, Twohey's is everything you need.
1224 N. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra; (626) 284-7387, twoheys.com.