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An Evening at 2 Doors Down

A popular downtown Halifax restaurant shines with some hearty, local, comfort-food mainstays, but doesn't deliver on consistency.

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Kale Caesar salad. All photographs provided by 2 Doors Down by Michael Stack

Kale Caesar salad. All photographs provided by 2 Doors Down by Michael Stack

Price: $$
Parking: No
Reservations: No

2 Doors Down, is the casual neighbourhood style restaurant located on the same Barrington Street block as it’s famous sister restaurant and predecessor, Chives. As a person who likes to eat out, maybe too much, I was happy for a restaurant like Two Doors Down to appear in the city last year.

I’ve eaten at 2 Doors Down probably seven times now, so, I’ve been able to absorb its style and process, and eat a considerable amount from its revolving menu. Each time I go there are a few new, seasonal menu items and a good portion of mainstays. My overall satisfaction climbs with every visit. I think it’s important to look at every restaurant fairly, measuring within the limits of what it aims to be. In this case, 2 Doors Down present itself as the type of restaurant where anyone can go and find mostly familiar items, some with a twist, and a few that are slightly adventurous. It offers slightly elevated comfort food.

A few weeks ago, myself and three food industry friends got a Sunday evening table. When we asked about a wine by the glass, the server listed off helpful tasting notes and the style of the wine. He was casual, quick, informed about the menu items, and made relaxed conversation.

The cocktail list is vast and even includes a few local beer cocktails. The Spicy Mango Blast, a tequila cocktail with grapefruit, jalapeño syrup and mango juice, was my choice, but was unbalanced and overly sweet, and the rest of the table agreed. The mango juice overwhelmed the tequila and the pink grapefruit juice.

The by-the-glass wine list had a nice selection and variety of recognizable and more obscure varietals and producers. And any bourbon fan will be pleased with the 10 affordable choices.

We ordered four appetizers and three main courses to share, because I was interested in tasting an array of menu items.

As far as favorite mainstays, I’ve had the meaty meatless burger, the kale caesar salad and the Oulton’s smoked pork chop in the past and thought each deservedly has a place permanently on the menu.

Of the appetizers ordered the hot crab and lobster spinach dip was the most enjoyed, it was enough to share, and had large pieces of seafood in the goat’s cheese and spinach. The top of the cheese dip was slightly crispy and the inside was soft and spreadable. The dip was well seasoned, and the lemon, and perhaps dill, added freshness and acidity.

Hot crab and lobster dip.

Hot crab and lobster dip.

The buttermilk calamari came out with some spicy chili dip, and was garnished with green onions and sesame seeds. The large helping of small calamari rounds themselves were slightly overcooked. The buttermilk breading on the calamari was light, and texturally pleasant, but under seasoned, and the fish bites from the bar menu went along the same way. I like to think of dipping sauce as an option, not a necessity, to eating those types of foods.

The ploughman, a traditional English cold meal in this case meant for sharing, consisted of house pickles, house made pork terrine, tomato, bread, grainy mustard, local sliced ham, grainy bread, Urban Blue (a very mild blue cheese from Halifax,) and Farmer’s cheddar. The narrow cutting board was overflowing with food, and it was a good, hearty selection, but left us wanting for something a bit more adventurous, sharp or peppery. The two meats were mild, and the choice of Farmer’s cheddar, with so many artisan cheese producers in the area, seemed like an uninspired addition.

The ploughman.

The ploughman.

The main courses—a crispy haddock burger, the sea-scallop spaghetti and the braised Prince Edward Island beef short rib—all looked enticing, arriving hot with large portions.

The short rib was perfectly cooked, easily pulling and flaking apart, but still moist with enough buttery, tender fat. The jus reduction was salty, savoury and rich, and the potato, vegetable and onion rings that came alongside soaked up all the beef pieces and drippings nicely.

The sea-scallop spaghetti was more disappointing. It was unbalanced, with the walnut and arugula making the whole dish bitter, and masking any of the sweet, salty and delicate flavors from the scallops. There was almost as much roasted red pepper in the dish as there was pasta, making the overall texture less pleasant. The pasta and scallops were well cooked, but there seemed to be too many dominating, distinct flavors fighting more attention rather than finding harmony.

The large, crunchy, well-battered and seasoned piece of fish on the haddock burger married well with the richness of the bacon, and the acidity from the pickles and arugula. The fries were just right: salty, golden and hot.

With the portions being so large we didn’t have any room for dessert, but I’ve had many there in the past, and they’ve always stood out.

The evening overall was enjoyable, with good company, professional service and a few memorable dishes, but I feel there’s a lack of consistency with the food, albeit it hasn’t stopped me from returning because the memory of those well executed dishes have made the visits, with friends from near and far, worth some of the gamble.

 

 

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