by Susan Hamilton & r & Branching Out RESTAURANTS & r & It's a problem most restaurants love to have -- growing so popular that they have to expand to fit all their customers. When a North Side bistro and bar, Twigs, recently faced such a problem, fortunately they had the space to expand the restaurant.

"We've really taken off in the last two years," explains Twigs Northside General Manager Trevor Blackwell. "Just last month, we finished extending the front of our dining room and opening a lounge area and additional seating in our new north room."

The new addition reflects Twigs' earth-toned d & eacute;cor in golds and browns accented by black features. A lounge area sports large leather chairs, a sofa and low table clustered in a cozy corner. Granite-topped tables and booths occupy the remainder of the rectangular room. Paintings of wine bottles adorn the walls, and warm lighting brightens the space.

Twigs' menu has also seen some changes. New items include appetizers such as artichoke heart fritz (fried, herb-marinated artichoke hearts with roasted garlic lemon aioli) and shrimp cocktail (tiger prawns poached in lemon, garlic and peppercorns, served with mango wasabi chutney and cilantro cocktail sauce). Twigs has also introduced two new pizzas. The bacon and artichoke pizza also includes sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, feta cheese and fresh basil. The fresh mozzarella pizza features smoked Italian sausage, mushrooms, red sauce and spinach. A grilled pesto portabella salad is also new.

Five new entrees star on Twigs' menu. The grilled pork loin is stuffed with Italian sausage, green apples, walnuts and onion. Baked penne also utilizes spicy sausage, along with mushrooms, marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella. Cilantro-crusted halibut filet and seafood penne pasta (with tiger prawns, halibut, salmon and a white wine fennel cream sauce) are new seafood additions. Twigs' stir-fry features a spicy teriyaki sauce and offers three variations -- chicken, steak or prawn. But that's not all.

"The martinis are huge," Blackwell says. "People come just for our martinis." And they have plenty to choose from -- 24, in fact. From the lemon drop to a chocolate-covered cherry to cilantro mojito, Twigs has branched out all over the martini scene.

Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar, 9820 N. Nevada St., is open daily from 11 am to close (10 pm or midnight). Call 465-8794.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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