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Dual temptation: Two Cranes offers delightful blend of healthful, sinful

Two Cranes Bistro and Bar’s Cubano sandwich, with carnitas, honey ham, salami and Swiss cheese, gets some heat from red chile and spicy mustard. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

Eating out can bring the “angel on one shoulder, devil on the other” predicament to life. The angel tells you to eat your vegetables, asks why you’d order a $12 glass of wine when you can just have water; the devil says life is short, try the beer flight, say yes to dessert.

Two Cranes Bistro and Bar, on the west end of the Sawmill District, is like a physical manifestation of this conundrum. On one side, there’s a juice bar offering cold-pressed extracts from beets, carrots, kale and the like. On the other side is the bar, with beers and wines and green chile cheese fries. If the two cranes in the restaurant’s name took form, one would be sleek and healthy; the other would be taking Lipitor and considering an exercise regimen.

Two Cranes’ duality reflects an ambitious agenda. It’s open from early in the morning to late in the evening, offering breakfast and a rotating menu of bar snacks from its location in Rio Grande Plaza, a cluster of adobe-colored, pitched-roof buildings on Rio Grande just south of Interstate 40. In the evening, the space hosts live music and watch parties.

The food menu has decent variety, with most items falling in the $9-$15 range. The excellent relleno rolls ($9) swap out the battered coating of the traditional chile relleno for an egg roll wrapper. Fresh from the fryer, the three egg rolls are filled to bursting with New Mexico green chile and a runny cheddar cheese mix. There’s plenty to share and they go great with the chipotle ranch dipping sauce, at once cooling and spicy.

The spinach berry salad combines fruit and nuts for a sweet, crunchy mix at Two Cranes Bistro and Bar. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

A couple of salads are available, including a brightly colored spinach and berry version ($10) that combines fruit and nuts atop a bed of greens. It could have used some pungent cheese to cut the sweetness of the berries, mandarin oranges and candied walnuts. Also, the cumin in the citrus vinegar dressing was too assertive.

Two Cranes turns out an exemplary version of a Cubano sandwich ($13), the pressed bread forming a cocoon around tender carnitas, honey ham, salami and Swiss cheese. House pickles, red chile and spicy mustard add considerable zest to the mix. The waffle fries that come with it are middling.

The drink menu has a decent assortment of local beers and wines, as well as wine-based cocktails. A glass of Sandia black cherry cider ($3.50), amber-colored with slight carbonation and a subtle sour cherry finish, made for a refreshing choice on a hot summer night.

The juices at Two Cranes are cold-pressed, meaning the fruit and vegetables are shredded and mashed between two plates rather than run through a centrifugal juicer. The result is a unpasteurized, pulp-free juice with a shelf life of only a few days. Two Cranes’ varieties come in 12-ounce pours or as a flight of five smaller pours for $7. El Dorado ($5) gets its golden color from the juices of red and green apples, ginger and lime. The mix was quite sour, almost entirely erasing the ginger’s presence.

Two Cranes has a casual, welcoming ambiance and a menu diverse enough to please both the angel and the devil on your shoulders.