Veah Larde, owner of Two Sisters Catering and Restaurant, proudly celebrated the opening of her first brick and mortar establishment, 4800 Chicago Ave., with a ribbon cutting ceremony on April 30.
The carry-out style restaurant would not have opened had it not been for the pandemic. Now, the counter service establishment is dishing up a rotating menu designed to appeal to creatures of habit by offering comfort foods while keeping eager eaters curious by putting a Two Sisters twist on traditional fare.
“This is an Austin girl comes home story and I am excited to be part of a revitalization effort,” said Larde. “As a business owner I want to speak to the community that I sit in and be an example of what can exist in the Soul City Corridor.”
Larde grew up just six blocks from Two Sisters new home and fondly remembers the walkable shopping district formerly seen on Chicago Avenue. She credits her family, especially her late father, Sammie Lee Hightower, for her love of cooking and entertaining. Hightower was a Chicago cook known for his ongoing attempts to expand the palates in his household. Serving up venison, frog legs and rabbit at family mealtimes fostered his daughter’s love of planning lavish events for friends and family.
Two Sisters Catering started in 2012 after Larde’s husband, Johnny Larde Jr., recognized “a light” in his wife whenever she helped people plan parties. He suggested she take that spark of energy and make it her life. Larde, who worked in retail management, followed the advice and her heart, and began taking on small to medium sized catering events and never looked back.
“My husband saw it before I did,” said Larde. “He is my biggest cheerleader, but he was clear if I started a business, I was going to need to do it for myself.”
One of three sisters, Larde, named the business in anticipation her younger sister would ultimately join her. Much to Larde’s surprise, it was in fact her older sister who found her way into the business through bookkeeping.
“She does all the things I don’t want to do,” laughed Larde. “I got a sister — just not the sister I expected.”
Thanks to Larde’s task-oriented mindset, Two Sisters grew gradually through referrals and positive word of mouth before finding a home in 2018 at The Hatchery — a food startup incubator on Chicago’s West Side. In time, Two Sisters became a preferred caterer at The Hatchery and Larde began working with Fooda, a provider of office lunch services in addition to catered meals at Rush Hospital through their Anchor Mission program. The trifecta of opportunities proved to be a recipe for success for both Larde and Two Sisters.
And then COVID hit.
“We were so busy that it was hard to keep track of everything going on with the virus, but we were serving a buffet at Rush in early March of last year and everything felt very ominous,” said Larde. “Not long after that event the cancellations started coming and we let our staff go.”
After COVID-19 forced Two Sisters Catering to close temporarily a call from Liz Abunaw, owner of Forty Acres Fresh Market, presented Larde with a new means of getting her food to the public — as a vendor at the Austin Farmers Market. It took some creative thinking, but Larde figured out how to prepackage her most popular menu items and hold them at safe temperatures. Her regular customers were thrilled to have her food back in the community and flooded the market to show their support.
“We sold out every week and fans of our food supported other vendors at the market,” said Larde. “Before long people started talking to our aldermen and asking why we didn’t have a space of our own. Then I received a call to look at this storefront.”
After considerable thought, Larde, who never saw herself owning a restaurant, decided to capitalize on the offer to operate out of the Chicago Avenue storefront which is housed near a dialysis center.
Two Sisters Catering and Restaurant, keeps caloric value down and prioritizes healthier eating. Larde’s husband is a dialysis patient himself and after his treatment began Larde focused on taking meat out of her recipes and opting to focus on lean proteins and vegetarian options. Two Sisters is known for their ground turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corn—a slimmed down version of Johnny’s favorite meal.
“He was mad until he tasted it,” laughed Larde who also makes her well-loved collard greens without meat or vinegar. In fact, the greens and cornbread meal at Two Sisters is entirely vegetarian and costs just $5.
Larde is a self-proclaimed “chicken head,” but does not offer fried chicken at Two Sisters. The chef-owner considers the dish too commonplace and prefers to offer jerk chicken, smothered chicken, baked chicken, and buffalo chicken to keep customers coming back.
Despite a series of health-conscious twists, there is still plenty of room for indulgence at Two Sisters. Fans clamor for classic banana pudding, crowd pleasing caramel apple cheesecake and lesser-known treats like Louisiana Crunch Cake. Made from a family recipe, the crunch cake, is a hybrid between yellow and white cake with an evaporated milk frosting. A generous sprinkling of coconut and pecans give the cake its signature crunch.
“We understand the community we serve, and we’ve got a little something for everybody,” said Larde. “We invite everyone to come and discover a new food memory.”
Two Sisters Catering and Restaurant is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will be open on certain Sundays for special pop-up events. Follow Two Sisters on Facebook and Instagram for menu and event details.