New Yorkers are picky about their cafes and their options are endless, a combination which makes it nearly impossible for establishments to build a devoted following. But Two Hands—which sits on the border between Little Italy and Chinatown and has arguably the most Instagrammed avocado toast in town (no small feat)—has done exactly that, cultivating legions of fans obsessed with its awesomely low-key approach to healthy eating.
Now, its Aussie owners have opened a second, more ambitious location in Tribeca, this one a full-blown restaurant. Much of what made Two Hands cafe a smash remains, but there’s also a much larger menu (yay!) and alcohol (double yay!). The goal with Two Hands Restaurant and Bar is to really introduce New Yorkers to what co-owner Henry Roberts calls “modern Australian” cuisine. Basically, stealth health food.
“Rather than screaming ‘organic’ or ‘vegan’ or shoving raw kale down your throat, we’re primarily letting the produce speak for itself,” Roberts says.
“I really dislike going to a health food restaurant and reading a menu and it saying, ‘gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, free free free,’ you know?” echoes Two Hands’ other owner, Giles Russell. “For a customer that’s really daunting.”
Two Hands’ new menu is fresh, vegetable-focused, and healthful—but also satisfying. Case in point: The brassicas bowl with charred broccolini, Brussels sprouts, kale, hummus, egg, and avocado, topped with pickled shallots. Sure, it’s gluten-free, but that’s not the focus; the goal is simply to celebrate the type of nourishing dishes and flavors Two Hands’ owners grew up loving.
“Australian food is really simple. We eat fresh vegetables with really good grass-fed and free-range meats with eggs, and that’s the style of food that we want to do here,” says Russell. The restaurant is currently open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but a dinner service will be starting soon (no hard date yet). Head chef Frankie Cox, also an Aussie, has been busy fine-tuning a menu that highlights the flavors of the season.
As for the space itself, it’s significantly larger than the Mott Street spot, and gorgeously bright and airy. There’s also a distinctly friendly, laid-back vibe shared by the staff that Russell and Roberts take a lot of pride in.
“When [customers] walk out and feel good on the inside and on the outside…it’s super epic that you have that ability to affect someone like that,” Russell says. “From a restaurant standpoint, that’s the number-one goal.” It’s also a good way to establish a hardcore following.
Two Hands Tribeca, 251 Church St., New York, NY, 10013, twohandsnyc.com/restaurant/
If healthy exports are your thing, check out the jackfruit—it may just be the next big thing in plant-based protein.