The new, brick-and-mortar Bickering Twins

I’m claustrophobic, so walking down a set of steep, solid stone steps into a restaurant that is below ground and doesn’t have any windows never seemed appealing. This explains why I hadn’t visited Bickering Twins since its May 1 opening. However, since I had been asked to write a review of this restaurant, I no longer had a choice and therefore ate my first of several meals there a few weeks ago. I’m happy to report that I felt totally comfortable. The current owners (the bickering twins) have obviously taken care to create an atmosphere that is bright and cheery.  The dining room is open and brightly lit and the tile tables, add a warm feeling. It never occurred to me that I was underground.

A word on the steps, though, since I know it will matter: These dozen steep steps are the only practical entrance and egress to the restaurant. When I recently walked the alternate route, through a side alley to an entrance in the rear, the passageway through the kitchen was crowded with various supplies that would have blocked access to a wheelchair. However, if you can make it that far, there’s a rather dingy elevator that can take you to the basement and then, voila! You’ll be adjacent to the restaurant. 

There are two permanent lunch specials: Three tacos for $10 or three tacos and two sides for $13.50. I find the latter a better value if you have the appetite. You’ll have a choice between a half dozen tacos including chicken tinga which includes stewed tomatoes, chipotle peppers, and bits of avocado. I liked this one. I also enjoyed the garlic shrimp taco with pan seared shrimp and green cabbage slaw. I thought the homemade chorizo taco which consisted of ground pork sausage was rather bland. For sides I chose black beans and fried plantains. Both were tasty and served in generous portions.

Most of the Mexican dishes are accompanied by extra condiments which include a spicy verde sauce, pickled onions and pickled jalapenos. Although I’m satisfied with the herbs and spices (cilantro and onions) already offered with the tacos, I can imagine these additions will be welcomed by some diners.

Taco textures vary regionally. Some restaurants serve a hard shell that folds and encloses the ingredients. Many Mexican food aficionados believe the more authentic kind is the soft shell that lays flat on the plate. Bickering Twins serves soft tacos.

The dinner menu is an extension of the lunch menu with more choices and larger portions. I recently enjoyed an entrée of shrimp ceviche tostadas. A narrow plate was partially covered with three tostadas topped with a generous portion of chopped shrimp. There were also bits of red onion, cilantro, and bell peppers which had been marinated in lime juice and collectively added a welcome pungent flavor. Often, ceviche dishes are overwhelmed by a strong, tongue-biting citric acid from fresh lemons or limes but here the lime juice marinade was used with judicious moderation.

Bickering Twins’ cuisine lends itself to beer, not wine. There are a half dozen rotating (when one keg is empty, it’s replaced by another selection) local choices of beer on draught and I’ve enjoyed several. The servers have been most helpful in steering me to the “hoppy” kind I like. There are about a dozen other beers that stay on the menu and are served in cans and bottles. The wine menu, on the other hand, is considerably less interesting. Fewer than ten selections are offered, and the descriptions lack any indication of a vintage or a country of origin. The good news is that the prices fit well with the entrees, ranging from $22-$34/bottle.

Even though the twins hail from New Jersey, which is a long way from Mexico, they seem to know what they’re doing. Bottom line: despite their self-admitted bickering, they are somehow able to operate a pleasant restaurant.•

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