Read the table tent placards at the Two Fools Tavern and you’ll learn that this is where the craic is mighty. An old Gaelic term pronounced “crack”, craic refers to the lively essence of the pub experience, a unique and sometimes loud combination of good friends, good times and of course, good pints. Craic is a word for which there is no exact English translation even though there are some 9,000 pubs in the Emerald Isle. In Ireland, pubs, or public houses, are a focal point of the community–as much as the local church. It’s where friends gather for camaraderie and commiseration.
The sale and consumption of alcoholic libations is perhaps the pub function with which most Americans are familiar. Most public houses offer a range of beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks with beer tending to be the most popular adult beverage. In recent years, serving food has become a more important function of the public house throughout the British Isles. Yeah, I know what you’re saying. Good food at an Irish pub is an oxymoron.
When it comes to the culinary arts, Ireland (just like England) is the Rodney Dangerfield of Europe; its cuisine receives absolutely no respect. Irish food is regarded as bland and unimaginative, especially when compared with the haute (and haughty) cuisine of France. Having spent three years in England partaking of wonderful pub food throughout the British Isles, I rise to the defense of this maligned region’s food, especially “pub grub” which is actually quite good. Even 30 years ago, we found many pubs serving restaurant quality meals.
A defining element of a pub’s identity is its exterior signage. Public houses throughout the British Isles have been required since the 12th century to erect signs outside their premises. Typically, a pub’s signage will include both the pub’s name and a graphical element (essential because in the Middle Ages, a large percentage of the population was illiterate). A pub’s name and graphical identity tell a lot about its character. The name Two Fools Tavern along with its graphical identity of two harlequin-style buffoons seems to convey a fun and relaxed ambiance. In that respect, it fits right into the Nob Hill district.
In the British Isles where I’ve seen pubs named The Spread Eagle and Cow & Snuffer’s, the name Two Fools probably wouldn’t warrant a double-take, but it’s pretty unique for Burque. The Two Fools Tavern exemplifies the Irish pub concept that in recent years has caught on like wildfire in America. It’s a concept not without its detractors. One European Web site denounces the “Irish Pub Plague,” equating the Irish pub template as “the McDonalds of the pub trade.” Talk about no sense of humor.
The Two Fools Tavern could not possibly hope to duplicate the authentic Irish pub experience (especially not without the garrulous Irish), but it’s about 4700 miles from Dublin for gosh sakes. For Anglophiles like me, it’s only a few miles away and for that we’re grateful. Besides, the Two Fools Tavern provides just about the most European feel of any tavern in Albuquerque. It’s possible American culture will never lend itself to any pub becoming a social hub for an extended community, but most visitors should enjoy their experience and even the food.
From the outside, the Two Fools Tavern could pass for a pub in the British Isles with its bright blue facade, potted plants in box-shaped planters, Old English signage and Tudor style use of wooden planks. The theme continues inside the pub where dark wood accents and Irish bric-a-brac add a homey but masculine feel. Even the small, stylish tables and chairs are traditional and lend an authentic Irish feel. The Tavern is the braintrust of entrepreneurial Tom White and the fine folks who have given New Mexico such dining establishments as Scalo’s Italian Grill, Pranzo’s Italian Grill (Santa Fe) and Il Vicino.
Adult libations include Guinness, the world-famous Irish beer brewed since 1759. At only ten calories per ounce, Guinness (which claims to have bottled the craic) is the favorite beer of the Emerald Isle. Also available are beers brewed in New Mexico, Mexico, England, Oregon, Holland and Ireland. On tap are Magners Irish Cider and other popular favorites.
The menu is more akin to what we were familiar at Irish restaurants than what most pubs serve. That means such appetizers as Scotch eggs, hard boiled eggs encased in sausage and covered in bread crumbs then deep-fried to a golden brown and served with pub (Boar’s Head) mustard. Contrary to its name, Scottish eggs are far from being Scottish. They were originally created in 1738 by a London-based department store. More often than not, Scotch eggs are served cold and even though that isn’t the case at the Tavern, these are more than passable. The sausage is mildly spicy with notable herbaceous qualities and the bread crumb covering is not too thick and has a crispy texture. The hard-boiled egg is perfectly prepared.
Another appetizer which honors Irish ingredients and traditions is the Cashel blue cheese dip served with housemade Irish brown bread and Irish potato chips. Cashel blue cheese is the original Irish Farmhouse cow’s milk blue cheese and one of the few blue cheeses made across the British Isles. It’s a soft, mild blue cheese which is quite a contrast to the much stronger Stilton cheese. The Two Fools dip is creamy, rich and just slightly salty. The housemade Irish potato chips are formidable enough to scoop up generous portions of the dip without breaking. These are terrific chips, much less salty than many restaurant chips. Then there’s the Irish brown bread which, being quite dense doesn’t so much sop up the dip as it does serve as a vehicle upon which to spoon the dip.
For generations, the most popular working class take-away food has been fish and chips which in Ireland are usually served in paper-bags with grease-proof inner-lining. Not surprisingly, fish and chips are the most popular item on the Two Fools menu. At the Tavern, fish and chips are served in a platter with a faux newspaper lining. Portion sizes range from “one and one,” the traditional Irish way of ordering one piece of fish with chips. You can order as many as three pieces of fish with chips if you’ve got a larger appetite. The fish is a house ale-battered haddock. It is lightly battered to a golden brown hue.
Diners in Ireland normally eat their chips with salt and vinegar. The chips at the Tavern are very much Americanized (thin and crispy) and don’t sop up the vinegar as well as the flaccid white potatoes used for chips throughout the British Isles. Still, good fish and chips in America are hard to find and these are better than we’ve had at other so-called Irish taverns in New Mexico. The homemade tartar sauce is equally sweet and savory and in the whole, very good (though you can also drench your fish in vinegar as we did). Served with the fish and chips is a sweet coleslaw with tangy bits of apple. It, too, is quite good.
On Sundays, a traditional all-day Irish breakfast is a welcome sight indeed. If you’ve never had an Irish breakfast, you’re in for a real treat. At the Tavern, this breakfast consists of two eggs cooked your way, Irish rashers (bacon), breakfast bangers (sausages), mushrooms, grilled tomato, black and white puddings (sausage made from pigs’ blood, suet and seasonings) and Irish brown bread.
Irish rashers is an elite class of bacon, some of the very best in the world. Rashers are made with a meatier belly cut than the streaky American bacon and have an almost ham-like appearance. Even in the British Isles, many people never acquire a taste for black and white puddings based solely on its composition. Seasoned well, these puddings can become addictive. Among the seasonings easily discernible on the Tavern’s pudding is allspice which has a taste reminiscent of cinnamon or nutmeg. For a pittance you can add English baked beans to the Irish breakfast. Unlike American baked beans which use molasses, English baked beans are made with a tomato sauce. It’s what we enjoyed least in our meal.
One section of the menu is entitled Sandwiches That You Will Like, just like the wonderful book written by my great friend Becky Mercuri and the terrific PBS special from the uber-talented Rick Sebak. Whether coincidence or to take advantage of the popularity of a book and video every serious foodie should have, the menu does indeed have several sandwiches to like. The Paddy O’ Malley Melt, a fresh, hand-formed eight ounce all-natural beef burger dressed with grilled onions, 1000 island dressing and Swiss on grilled rye bread is certainly near the top of that list. The grilled rye bread is a wonderfully flavored canvas for the generous toppings though it wilts and droops on account of their moistness. Two Fools is a rarity in that it will prepare your burger to your exacting degree of doneness (a nice pink center at medium).
The Traditional Favorites section of the menu showcases such favorites as the Ploughman’s Lunch, bangers & mash, fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage and a Guinness beef boxty. The latter is two housemade potato pancakes filled with slow-simmered Guinness beef stew. The Two Fools rendition is quite dissimilar to the boxy dish offered by O’Niell’s Irish Pub, but it is no less delightful. The Guinness beef stew is especially noteworthy. It’s the type of stew that’s especially heart-warming on a cold wintery day when a cold, tired body seeks the warmth of comfort food. The Guinness-based beef stock is rich and savory, so good you would enjoy it by itself. You won’t have to because the the stock is replete with carrots, potatoes and onions, all perfectly prepared. The potato pancakes have a lot more elasticity than most potato pancakes which tend to fall apart easily.
Five homemade sweets are available with which to finish a grand meal. The bread pudding, made with Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson whiskey sauce is roughly the size of a small meatloaf. It’s big enough for a family of four to share, but so good the most you might want to do is give your dining companions a small spoonful so they can see for themselves how good it is. Unlike so many bread puddings this dense, this one is very moist, courteously of the apple slices and sultanas baked right in. The Jameson whiskey sauce lends its distinctively smooth characteristics. Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate, likes this bread pudding enough to place it on his bread pudding hall of fame. It’s well worthy!
Few desserts in the Duke City warrant being carded to verify your age. Two Fools’ Scotch Ice Cream can only be enjoyed if you’re 21 years old or more seasoned. That’s because it’s topped with Auchentoshan triple wood Scotch and coffee liqueur. Even to read about this unique single malt Scotch whiskey on the Auchentoshan Web site, you’ve got to be of legal drinking age. Scotch ice cream is a wonderfully indulgent adult ice cream coupling the sweet richness of a very good vanilla bean ice cream with two smooth adult beverages. There’s enough Scotch and liqueur to be noticeable, but certainly not enough to make you tipsy in the least. It’s an ice cream so good you’ll wish you could buy it by the half-gallon.
About the only thing missing at the Two Fools Tavern are the ubiquitous dartboards you find in public houses throughout the British Isles. Certainly not missing is a lively ambiance that while not entirely authentic is about as close as you’ll get in Albuquerque.
Two Fools Tavern
3211 Central Avenue, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 17 November 2012
1st VISIT: 19 August 2007
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Fish and Chips, Scotch Eggs, Bread Pudding
24 thoughts on “Two Fools Tavern – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
I hope someone else has been of late or will be to negate my review!
OMG! CoVid has kept me away. I hope my Fish n Chips experience is not a harbinger of things to come at many restaurants post CoVid! In my1/19 visit, I exalted the FnC. Today, I’d give them a C-D. The plank was a fair length, but the fish was half the thickness/kinda dry/nothing to note of flavor , and the coating appropriately crisp but not ‘hearty’. Seriously…and IMHO…half the ‘flavor’ of the fish is due to a rich, golden, tasty coating. The fries were fine for a change of pace…i.e. being the more thinish cut variety. Blessing for offering another ketchup, i.e. Golden, instead of Heinz. Alas, I forgot it was an apple coleslaw, but on reflection, don’t recall that. The least I can say, they are adequately staffed and are tending to ML-G’s CoVid strictures.
Got here around 6 per Daughter/Grandson invite to a half full place where, in a 1/2 hour tho, craic and “Irish” filled the pub on a Monday night! (Parked right across the street!)
My G-son gave a Thumbs Up and evidenced an empty clean plate for his Portabello sangwich and my Daughter did the same for a mega looking Jester’s (chicken) Pot Pie which she said had a bit of a tang and is her husband’s FAV.
I had the single plank option for the Fish n Chips which I’ve previously noted as second to the former Fat Squirrel’s which has been replaced by 1933 Brewing Co. which I’ve tried twice without success; seems telling there are no other rave reviews of anything.
Anyway, Two Fools have indeed found their way in time to my heart…the plank’s size was great; the fried batter was a beautiful/enchanting golden and crispy to compliment what to me is a rather mild tasting(?) fish…haddock…i.e. the fried batter and a great tartar sauce is why ya…well I… have F&C…LOL The apple slaw is a well done and nice compliment and the chips are nice chips. Overall? A superb Fish n Chips meal…best in town!
Shared a Scotch Ice Cream…alas, this was fine, but I’m not much into dessert…well…. except for the Nutella Semifreddo thing at Scalo’s, wherein its hiatus is worrisome!
Service? Timely with the cordiality of a pub whose 13th year Anniversary is coming up! Would think a slightly larger one would do well on the WestSide.
Nasty place. My son and I went here after a Lobos game and I was harassed by the woman manning the door, who accused me of being drunk and didn’t want to let me in. Funny thing, I haven’t had a drink this century. This after I’d been in the place maybe a minute. I do not know what the minimum skill set is for door personnel but being able to distinguish between a drunk and a person who hasn’t had a drink in 17 years comes to mind. And, no, I do not look or act remotely homeless, weird or problematic. We were wearing our UNM fan garb and just wanted some fish dinners. There is an account of this sorry episode on Yelp. Fools, indeed.
Joined Sensei for lunch for some Irish deliciousness. Bob, where were you? I heard you might be here, maybe next time…I had 2 pieces of fish and it was seasoned very well. I do have to say that I had wish my pieces had more fish but it was some of the best fish and chips I have had. What was most wonderful was the dark Irish bread served on plates. It was amazing to the point I had to ask for more. It was very jumpy at lunch today and will have you bring Senorita Plata next next time. A lot of cool places in Nob Hill…
Update: “By happenstance”, had 2Fs’ Fish n Chips one day after having it at Fat Squirrel. Alas, 2Fs continues to be good, “for the Eastside” (as bolstered by the chips, traditional slaw, n Craic), but I still bend to Fat Squirrel’s albeit’s Saturday night crowd was noticeably less than 2Fs on a Sunday night!
its too bad you ruined the best fish&chips in new mexico. your new haddock is terrible.. ate at one today. still sick from meatless battered fish.want some fish with your batter? service good, fish, totally disgusting..greed over quality, right… never again…..
Slawncheh! (as in Slainte!) i.e. Salud! Skol! Na zdrowie! JM&J has it been that long in getting back to Two Fools for a 2nd time comparison of Fish n Chips??!! I’m sorry.
– Whoa! going for lunch? Best a few minutes B 4 as this obviusly appreciated place on Route 66’s in Nob Hill fills up quick for The Craig, food, and munificent offerings of brewskis (pardon more mingling of ethnicities.) As my daughter was fronting the feast and I didn’t have to watch me dollars….I opted for a Carlsberg brew from long ago instead of me usual PBR or Hamm’s…afterall, ain’t they all the same? Whoa, besides producing fine Blonds and furniture (Ok, I’ll throw in my Danish Ex), them Danes produce a superbly tasty as well as hearty/full bodied brew!!! Quite a contrast to a smooooooth Guiness.
– But I digress: Chips/Fries: don’t know what they be thinking….McD’s beats ’em hands down! Slaw: nice, but needs a bigger ramekin thereof. Fish Batter and tartar sauce: fine if ya live on the Eastside, but if U B really honestly “into” FnC, ya gotta take 528 up to Southern in Rio Rancho to go left 2ish blocks to The Fat Squirrel to try at least a one planker (add more later per appetite if ya agree)…tell ’em ya came all that way as I sent ya. (I’m neither akin, nor having a tete-a-tete, nor un affaire de coeur with any of them!!!and stand to be corrected.) Took a bite of my offspring’s Reuben…nice. At least could get my mouth open for it. (Alas, doesn’t beat the NY Stage Deli’s!!! Eeek! I now see they’re closed after 75 years http://tinyurl.com/d5e3v6l …Shalom! Hopefully, its offspring that started at the Forum Shoppes in Vegas is fairing well having had to move to the MGM nowadays!!! (As stated elsewhere, I envision their Reuben approximates for a Guy, what a piece of chocolate does for a Gal at times!!!!)
– Be all that as it may and again, I’d really welcome 2s into the Village if not reviving the old Cooperage West (Elliot’s now)at 528/Coors-Corrales, as I’m sure some of The Visionary Gumbas would come down from the hilltop at night for good Craig and food! as well as Pocket-Protector types from Intel at Noon.)
Bob of the Village People, my old friend, just wanted to say thanks to all the truth and clarity you brought to us under the yum-yum tree. Korean Fried Chicken would be a blessing to our fair city, yes, ask Sensei (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensei); at times Boomer and Beeeeal have been true NM Friends who Feast affectionados. We need some real eateries in Rio Rancho, we need real Vision in our Food. Anythoughts how to breath new life and bring both coasts, KFC and some totally awesome B.B.Q to his state that needs more. You know, Los Ranchos really needs a good Deli, its time to show your wares.
– Great alliteration Effort*, but I have a bias for KISS…
Keep It Simple Schuyler
as elaborated upon herein: http://tinyurl.com/crpnt . Ergo, I’d go for….are ya ready for this? Yummy for the Tummy! which would, now that you bring it to my attention, make it so much easier to refer folks to His website when in conversation, i.e. yummyforthetummy.org (as ‘dot com’ is already taken!)
*Be Safe & Hilarious!
That was hilarious, Bob of the Village People. In Gil’s beloved alliterative form, would you say he is the Sensei of the soiree, raconteur of the repast, the gastronome god, deity of dining or divinity of diet?
Well, there it is Folks…Sr Plata’s masquerade of referring to Gil as “Sensei” is unmasked.
Morgain writes above: ” God, I miss this place.” and look who answers!!!! Geesh…Talk about being into yourself!!! LOL
Thanks so much. I have indeed. Six months ago, I moved down to Las Cruces, and, most recently, have moved to Ruidoso to be with family. Don’t worry, though, I’ll be back to visit and eat all the food. Perhaps we could grab breakfast some time.
Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving.
God, I miss this place…
I’ve missed hearing from you. Have you left the Duke City?
The Child Bride and I became the last people in Albuquerque to go by Two Fools Tavern last night. We usually go to Gecko’s on Academy for Tapas Tuesday even though we only get tapas about half the time and about half the time hit Wings Wednesday at Barley Room (being cheap apparently goes along with being old and 25-cent wings is hard to beat with an unreasonably hot buffalo sauce which is the way I like it). We had avoided it because we had been to so many sub mediocre Irish pubs around the country and the world.
We of course had trouble getting in as they wanted our ID’s to prove such obviously ancient folks were indeed 21. They would not accept the Child Bride’s assurances that no alcohol had ever passed her sweet lips. After carefully examining them they waved us on so I gave them an exam. “What year was I born?” Since they had only pretended to check them they failed miserably. I am pretty sure that this checking of IDs for obvious very old folks started in Chicago. A Pub Master explained it to me as because Mayor Daily wanted to close every bar in the city and the only way he could do it was by catching them all in some violation.
On to the Food; I ordered the Guinness Beef Boxty (full order). When it arrived it was so huge that I was prepared to let loose with my usual rant. Then I ate the whole thing like I was in a horse race for drugged horses and proceeded to lick the plate (embarrassing but necessary when it is that good). The Child Bride had the “New York Style Pastrami.” If you give Katz’s a 28, as I would, this one rated a 12.
I think Two Fools will start to alternate with Barley Room on our Wednesday tour.
Went to 2 fools today for Sunday lunch. Packed. Had to wait. By far one the best restaurants in ABQ. They had a Celtic band playing music. Nice. Of course we had the fish and chips. Best in ABQ. Seems like the fish is bigger. Crispy to perfection. Coleslaw is the best in town. Mi padre had Guiness beef boxy which is potato pancakes stuffed with beef stew. Excellent!
Had the fish and chips for lunch and the fish was really good. The chips were just average fries as I’d hoped for fried potato wedges. Tartar sauce was good but I prefer Malt Vinegar. Coleslaw was fresh, crip and tasty with my only complaint about portion size, too little. I’m going back for another meal and may break my rule about dessert for the Irish Bread Pudding.
At a gathering of La Familia for brunch following the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, a niece and her Squeeze gave a thumbs up regarding dining at Two Fools in general which reminded me that “Jen” would have given them a best-around for their Fish n Chips until trying Fat Squirrel’s (FS). Trying to be Fair n Balanced, I hit 2 Fools last night.
Hands down, I’ll give 2 Fools a huge A+ for their interior setting AND colorful facade for adding a nice touch to the funky (are we still using that word?) neo-deco of Nob Hill’s stretch of Route 66. As an early evening venture in mid week, t‘was a lite crowd which still let me feel the craic, as Gil noted. I’d love to have 2 Fools 2 close by in the North Valley. Mature folks might feel intimidated to venture in per it seeming to be a college crowd place as its close to UNM, i.e. as they fondly remember Casa Luna or Jacks or…OMG, Oakies!….LOL. They need not hesitate however, as there were several of us on-scene. Alas, re the Fish n Chips: a nice size piece, but a bit on the thin side. The batter: doesn’t come close to The Squirrel’s for taste, thickness, and texture which makes this classic what it is. In contrast to Jen’s note re “greasy”, I’d checked once that they do use ’healthy’ cooking oil and besides, I’d rather not have a dry batter. (At another local place, I swear on me mother’s gravestone, that the batter they used was what you find on a typical corn dog….oooeee!)
To me, haddock, cod, whatever tends to be a bit blah which is why, I suspect, the batter comes in to play as an inducement to eat the fish. In addition, there is the tartar sauce. Alas, I don’t know what accompanied mine at 2 Fools; I would’ve even preferred having brought a jar from a store. FS’ is like no other and with a tang of New Mexico. And the Chips? Again, FS’ hand-cut Chips with the skin, stands supreme. The Apple-Cole Slaw at 2’s is a nice touch however. Nevertheless, and with a Thanks to me niece, I will have to go back to try another of Two’s fun-looking fare as well as for the craic. Slaan-cheh
I really like this place because of the very reasonable single malt scotch whisky selection. I heard that they may even bring back a scotch tasting event they used to host so I’m looking forward to that.
I’ve heard great things about their fish and chips, I used to live in Alaska so I was used to great fresh fish. These didn’t disappoint at all. The only other food I’ve had there is the green chile cheese fries and I have to say that these are some of my favorite in the whole city. It’s not particularly spicy, but “spicy” with whisky isn’t the best idea. They have a great flavor, the shredded cheese is melted perfectly and the chile is present in a healthy amount. It’s topped with just a little basil but I shared them with a friend, each with our own scotch on the side, and it was a perfect lunch portion for the two of us. Looking forward to trying some of their other food and even more selections of single malt scotch.
For the time I spent in Ireland and England, the traditional Irish breakfast is what I longed for, Ive been back for roughly 12 years, thats a long time to go without something you made a point to have as many times as possible, it was the last thing I had at Heathrow airport before leaving the country. I have to say I was disappointed. Mainly in the black and white pudding, thats what I was missing most and it didn’t have the flavor. Oh well the search continues.
PS, what a beautiful decor! I’ll have to go back and try the fish and chips.
Sorry to pick nits but Glasgow is in Scotland… For a Scot like myself aligning an Irish pub with Scotland is slightly disporportionate. My last name is Lesley. There are Irish Leslies and Scottish Lesley’s. We feel kindred yet distinctly different. Hence the pub situation is analogous with Irish Pub/Scot whiskey house.
Not certain why I went through this exercise as I am sure it was a simple oversight while writing your review…
Never the mind, Two Fools’ fish and chips are the best in the city!!!
Went here the other night with some friends. I love the decor of Two Fools. The service was awesome. We just ordered the pulled pork sandwich with Guinness bbq sauce and the burger– my friend said the burger was a little overdone, but the pulled pork sandwich was right on and was served with coleslaw on top. The Guinness BBQ sauce was mild, but gave really flavor. The fries weren’t impressive– standard frozen fries. I ordered the house hard cider was a good compliment. One of the only complaints is that I didn’t like the font on the menu, I had a little bit of a hard time making out some of the letters. I had a delightful experience at Two Fools. Can’t wait to go back and introduce it to new people! I definitely want to leave room next time and try their desserts– the bread pudding looked amazing.
Aah Yes The Dog House ! Hard to add much more to Gil’s description. Well Ok…after about 400 ft. long chile cheese dogs with onions in almost 40 years, I could note that the dogs are split to be cooked on the flat plate grille which I’m guessing is the original. Going that extra mile of splitting obviously brings out the true essence of hot dog flavor which is obviously also enhanced by the grille being seasoned after so many years. Newbies should eat inside till they master not slopping chile all over their fingers and thus, possibly their clothes by eating in a car. Ketchup with one’s fries will help cut the heat for newbies. Wait till after 1 to avoid the lunch crowd. Lastly, a coke to accompany your meal is sooo gauche; besides, its sweetness clashes with the chile. I recommend the orange soda (any year is fine) to really enhance the chile’s flavor ! Muy Sabroso ! You won’t find a better chile cheese dog with onions at the likes of Scalo, Artichoke Café, Yanni’s yada yada.