I use this saying so often when talking about restaurants that my peers often mock me with it: It is what it is.
The reason I use it, however, is because it is so true in the industry. A hot dog place is a hot dog place and a pizza joint is a pizza joint, and you have to take that into account when it comes to your expectations. You cant expect to have the same kind of experience at Coney Island that you had at Eddie Merlots.
My recent visits to 2 Brothers Bar and Restaurant in Decatur reminded me of that.
Just a block from the courthouse square on West Monroe Street, 2 Brothers has been serving cold beer and bar fare to customers since 1947. The menu states, Our food is cooked to order the same way it was 50 years ago. Those 50-plus years of service show in the dark, rustic atmosphere featuring all sorts of antique items on the walls from guns to giant turtle shells. The barroom is where you want to see the best of the collection. Rusty, dusty old beer cans and liquor bottles are lined up at the top of the walls, and a comical series of rather fittingly named framed cartoons called One Brother, Tother Brother will make you smile. They feature one brother hard at work in a restaurant while tother fishes, hunts or enjoys the company of a few lovely ladies.
The huge, heavy glass goblets my draft beers were served in just added to the sentimental feel of the place, and there was no other beverage I would have rather had to wash down the great burger combination called the Big Brother. A deluxe version of 2 Brothers signature Dagwood, its a double-decker with a sausage patty on the bottom and a hamburger on top with a solid slice of onion in between. It had a layer of Swiss cheese on the sausage and a layer of American on the hamburger.
Both patties were thick and juicy and made the sandwich stand rather tall. With a side of crispy french fries or, better yet, some sweet potato fries, which came highly recommended from one of my servers, I was in bar food heaven. The server, who said she used to live above the bar and, therefore, had tried about everything on the menu, brought out those sweet potato fries, which were dusted with brown sugar and provided some apple butter for dipping. Both condiments were fantastic, especially when combined, and so were the crisp, not-at-all-greasy fries.
The same server also touted the breaded tenderloin because the meat for it is bought at a local grocery and is breaded on site. A somewhat thin tenderloin, it was lightly coated with a fine breading mix that crisped up perfectly. Despite being pounded rather thin for my liking, the flavor of the pork came through, and it proved to be a solid choice.
Although I ordered it as kind of a throw-in with some soup, I was surprised at how good 2 Brothers grilled cheese was. It was buttery, and the bread was thick and perfectly grilled to have an ultra-crisp exterior while still soft next to the gooey American cheese.
The soups also all found favor. Homemade chili, vegetable beef, bean, and beef and noodle are available daily. The chili was thick and hearty with a smattering of kidney beans and lots of beef. It had almost no heat, but the strong flavor of the meat made that a non-issue. The vegetable also was aided by its beef. The chunks of stringy roast were necessary for the sweet tomato broth, which was full of diced potatoes, green beans, peas, corn and lima beans. The bean was thick and had a starchy, murky broth that just needed a little salt to be perfect. The beef and noodle was pretty straightforward and probably the most forgettable, but I still found little fault with it.
The biggest faults I found with 2 Brothers Bar & Restaurant were with more upscale offerings. Flat iron steaks, New York strips and rib-eyes are only available on Friday and Saturday, and all disappointed. The flat iron was the best of the lot, thanks mostly to the perfectly sautéed onions and mushrooms I topped it with, but all three steaks were stringy and tough. They all looked decent with a nice sear from a flat top, but my 4-year-old steak lover said it best as he gnawed his way through a piece of New York strip: Dad, this steak is hard.
I was also shocked at how poor the hot wings were, given the luck I had with the other bar-friendly fare. They were heavily coated with an orange-colored breading, had nary a drop of sauce on them and were obviously from a freezer bag.
So, in the end, my favorite line held true when it came to 2 Brothers. It is what it is – an old bar with cold beer, great burgers and good tenderloins. And as long as you dont expect – or order – anything else, you should be happy.
Restaurant: 2 Brothers Bar & Restaurant
Address: 239 W. Monroe St., Decatur
Hours: 5 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol served: Full bar
Credit cards accepted: Yes
Menu: Soup ($1.50 cup; $2.25 bowl), Big Brother ($4.75), grilled cheese ($2), flat iron steak ($11.95), New York strip ($13.95), rib-eye ($11.95 8-ounce; $17.95 16-ounce), breaded tenderloin ($3.75), sweet potato fries ($2.25), hot wings ($3.50)
* 1/2 (3 star maximum);
atmosphere: 0 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)
Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).