After a long-anticipated return of a regional diner staple, Twoheys — “The Home of the Stinko Burger” — was officially welcomed to South Pasadena on Wednesday with a ribbon cutting hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, brining city officials and enthused members of the community.
“We’re very grateful and blessed” Co-owner Tanya Christos told the South Pasadenan News, “It did take us a long time to get here, but they welcomed us with open arms.” The only second-hand owners after purchasing the restaurant from the Twoheys family themselves in 1997, Christos was joined by her husband Jim and brother, Gregory Mallis, fellow co-owners who share the same passion in keeping the spirit of the locally legendary restaurant alive.
Chamber CEO/President Laurie Wheeler, flanked by Chamber members Sam Hernandez and Andrew Berk, reveled in the palpable excitement, telling the owners “We’re here to support them. If they have any issues with anything, we’re here to help. Everybody’s happy they’re here, they’re such a long standing restaurant in this community and in the San Gabriel Valley that we’re so thrilled. They’ve done a great job with the interior, it’s bright and cheery,” said Wheeler, as she also presented a certificate from the office from Senator Anthony Portantino.
Savannah Moore, representing LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, presented a certificateas well, relating as an Alhambran who “grew up going to Twoheys” saying, “I’m very honored to be here today.”
February 1 will mark 3 years since the diner had closed the doors of it’s (technically second) original location in Alhambra, a place they had called home for 75 years since 1943. In an unfavorable development, the cause was the expiration of the building’s lease. Christos explained, “we were in negotiations with the landlords and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to work out an arrangement with them,” adding that this sparked a nearly 5-year long search for a suitable new home, eventually finding the building in the Ace Hardware complex.
Months later, after rumors had been serendipitously circulating around town that the former Carmine’s location was to host a second life for Twoheys, it was announced that it would see a late October 2018 opening. The date, however, continually delayed as the site’s public unveiling tarried. “The building itself was in a lot worse shape than we initially thought. We ended up doing a lot more work to the space than we had anticipated… [we] basically had to tear down the four walls,” laments Christos who ascribed the amount of renovative work compounded with the rapid onset of pandemic restrictions to the lengthy waiting time. Just one month shy of COVID-19’s seismic shift, Christos told the South Pasadenan last February that they were finally on the verge of opening, only to see more delays. Additionally, between May of 2018 and October of 2019, Twoheys pulled two building permits and one each for mechanical, electrical and plumbing, and had been subject to no fewer than ten inspections.
Well aware the timing wasn’t necessarily optimal — opening in the midst of a pandemic — Christos feels confident the new location will see success as they’ve already seen an outpouring of public support. “We feel that the reputation that we had, the loyal patrons that we’ve had, they’ve come out in force, and we’ve had nothing but positive reviews. Everybody loves the concept that we’ve created inside and, hopefully one day, we’ll actually get there. But we have expanded our seating outside in order to accommodate,” she said.
Christos also hopes to quell any customer fears, having incorporated safety mandates and safety features “from the gloves, the masks, the shields, we’re constantly sanitizing all high touch point areas. We have paper napkins, paper menus that are disposable or wipeable. We have we’ve moved all our tables six feet apart, to incorporate that we also have lots of airflow. We’re very diligent about all of our safety features.”
Outgoing Mayor, Bob Joe, lauded the restaurant for retaining its original charm while bringing in some new flair, saying “It think it’s fantastic to have them try to copy what it was at the old location. They did a great job, and they revamped it. Twoheys is a tradition… there are people remembering their first day eating there, their anniversaries, birthdays, and proposals. It’s very special to have them come to South Pasadena because it has a lot of tradition and history.”
“It’s still the same Twoheys” says Christos “But we’ve elevated the dining experience here,” admiring the new space’s potential. While she says the delectable line-up will incorporate “about 80% of the original menu”, they’ve also added “quite a few new items and fresher ingredients… a lot of vegetarian and vegan dishes, some lighter things.” A most noteworthy element, a proud Christos adds, is the sleekly designed full bar which boasts signature craft cocktails and locally brewed beers.
Providing menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Twoheys caters to both the savory and sweet without overcharging, while showcasing a revamped, New American chic atmosphere. “The [customers] really are impressed with the way that we’ve been able to incorporate the warmth, the tradition and the legacy of the old Twoheys. They were really in awe of a beautiful design that really is welcoming to everybody,” said Christos.
One loyal customer of an astonishing 65 years, John Kovak, recounts the days he spent frequenting the establishment. “I’ve been coming here since I was 12 years old,” he reminisces fondly, “I played football at South Pas High in the 50’s, so we’d always come here after our games” a tradition for SPHS Tigers that pervaded throughout the decades until present day. A man of classic taste, Kovak’s favorite remains “the Stinko burger, with pickles and onions. Yeah, that’s gotta be it!”
Christos, touched by the warm reception, says they are “overwhelmed and blessed to see everybody here and supporting us as well as the other restaurants that are still able to provide their services.”
Welcome to South Pasadena, finally!
Twohey’s is located at 424 Fair Oaks Ave in South Pasadena. They are also available for take out orders, call (626) 284-7387, and dial #1.
News Photographer Esteban Lopez contributed to this story