Lunch at Libby’s Cafe and Bar

, by jberg, 3 Comments, Subscribe via Email

Do you have a particular food that you dream about?  Something you crave (as in crrraaaaaavve!) whether you’re feeling stressed, lonely, bored or deliriously happy and want your mouth to celebrate with you?  For me the singular dish to invade my dreams and create inescapable cravings is always the Urbani White Truffle Parmesan French Fries at Libby’s Cafe and Bar on Osprey in the Hillview entertainment district.  Nothing beats Libby’s truffle fries!

Mart’s Libby’s cravings revolve around the one and only Libbstacker sandwich; a truffled Kobe meatloaf club sandwich covered in sugar smoked ham, melted white cheddar, shoestring onion rings, roasted mushrooms, lettuce and tomatoes with a side of truffle Aioli.  Large enough that he can eat half and save some for later, Mart thinks the Libbstacker is simply THE best sandwich in town.  Consequently we’re always in agreement when the idea to dine at Libby’s comes up.  We know we’ll both be happy!

So it was no surprise when Libby’s earned a Zagat rating among “America’s Top Restaurants” in 2011.   The secret?  Chef Fran Casciato has no idea how to make food that doesn’t rock your taste-buds!  Their Urbani White Truffle Parmesan Fries are only a side dish, for heavens sake!  I keep their Crispy Grouper Soft Tacos and Four Cheese and Pear Tortelloni in heavy rotation on my play list when we go to Libbys – just don’t ask me to share.  My answer will pretty much be – “Get your own!”  (though I’ll gladly taste whatever you’re having!) Case in point?  Libby’s got me to love Brussels sprouts — as in their Bacon Shaved Brussels Sprouts.  Seriously yummy!  Oh the arguments my mom could have saved if only she’d only served these when I was growing up!

Not long ago I met with one of Sarasota’s local champions for children, Jennifer Bailes-Fretz, at Libby’s for a little Junior League charity work and a fair amount of girl talk.  I thought I knew all about Libby’s and their various special menus, but Jennifer introduced me to Libby’s Lunch Prix Fixe Menu, which – for only $15 plus tax and gratuity, we had our choice of 4 different starters, 7 different main courses and 3 different desserts.  There is even a Chef Wine Pairing for $15 a bottle for guests who may be on vacation from work or otherwise won’t need a nap after splitting a bottle of wine at lunch!  They think of everything!

All four starters looked good, and Jennifer was ‘all about’ the Jersey Boardwalk Egg Roll, right off the bat.  This is truly a delightful twist on the egg roll.   How clever is this?  Instead of an Asian flair with vegetables and seafood, this tasty bite is made with Heritage meatball filling, mozzarella and provolone cheese with a San Marzano dipping sauce.  Manga!

I decided to play safe, “diet-wise” (and remove some guilt about having dessert at lunch) so I ordered Libby’s “Nice Little House Salad” for my starter.  I don’t usually take photos of a side salad, but this deserves special notice since it was every bit as refreshing as it looks! Featuring dark organic greens, cucumber, marinated grape tomatoes, ricotta salata and a golden balsamic dressing that was just the right touch to highlight the bright flavors of the fresh veggies, this Nice Little Salad was nicely perfect!

Besides, since I was soooo conservative with my starter, I got a little decadent with my entree, the Bulgogi Beef Stir Fry.  Any other day of the week, I’d imagine a stir fry so meaty and delicious as this would cost over $12 on its own – certainly not part of a $15 Prix Fixe menu.  A heapng bowl full of goodness, the fillet tips just exploded with flavor from the Korean brown sugar barbecue sauce and shiitake mushrooms surrounding a mound of steamed Jasmine Rice.  I so thoroughly enjoyed this dish that, believe it or not, I boxed up just enough to take some back to the office so Mart could taste it.  That’s saying something. Although I really, really wanted to eat the entire portion myself, I didn’t want Mart to miss out.  That’s how good it was.

When Jennifer looked over the main entrees, she was inspired to try Libby’s homemade potato chips, which provided the tipping point needed for her to  order the Crispy Pit Ham & Swiss Roll-Up, which came with ruffle chips and a side of Ranch dressing.  There was a moment she considered the Deviled Egg Salad Sandwich or the Soul Kitchen Chicken Lettuce Cups, but they didn’t come with the homemade fries.  Just like me with the Truffle Fries — sometimes it’s the side dish that calls out to you.  Happily for Jennifer, few places make homemade potato chips as well as Libby’s.  Sometimes it’s the simple things that create simple pleasures.

With the starter and main courses out of the way, both of us zoned in on the Chocolate Truffle Cake. (Again . . . the word truffle.  This time the chocolate variety)

Get a load of this de-lish-ous Chocolate Truffle cake with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a strawberry slice on the side.  Even though more ‘reasonable’ (diet friendly) choices like raspberry sorbet and key lime pie were offered, nothing was going to stop either of us from indulging in this chocolate fantasy.  I did note that the Key Lime pie came with Gummi Bears.  The menu says “Of course” when mentioning them, though I don’t know why.  Do you?

I guess it’s only fair that Libby’s lunches have taken on the same popular appeal as their Sunday brunch and dinner menus.  Libbys has created one buzz after another since they opened a few years back.  For some, Libby’s is all about their quality cocktails and downtown crowd at Libby’s popular Happy Hour, which takes place every day of the week from 4:00 – 7:00.  For others Libby’s offers the chance to glam up and get  lively at Gals Night Out every Thursday evening from 8:00 – 11:00.  Now we can add their various lunch specials to the list.  Check their website for details.

For me . . . Libby’s is all that, and an order of Urbani White Truffle Parmesan French Fries.  I can’t say it enough!  I can’t eat them enough!  And I won’t share!


3 Responses

  1. Jennifer Bailes says:

    Just read this. Thank you for the great comments.

    • jberg says:

      So enjoyed some one-on-one time with you! We’ll have to do it again sometime! You pick the place again – you did great picking Libbys!

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