‘Talk of the Town’ on Urbanspoon Orlando listed Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen as the top 10 restaurants that Orlando critics and bloggers are discussing. My husband has had New Orleans on his bucket list for a long time. On further research I reckoned the menu seemed authentic enough to taste New Orleans much raved about Cajun cuisine.
Being a Sunday and as they are located in Winter Park (popular weekend brunch spot); I called them to make reservations for lunch. I was promptly informed that they are not accepting reservations as of yet. Well, they aren’t located on Park Avenue, how busy can they be? The hostess informed me that since there is ‘live music’ today, I should get there as early as possible. We eventually pulled over close to 1 o’clock.
The first thing that struck me was the lively jazz/blues music and energetic atmosphere unlike any I have seen in Orlando. Patrons were tapping their feet if not dancing. The patronage in itself was multi-facet. I saw elderly couples gently tapping their feet, little babies in their high chair mesmerized by the music, and college and high school kids having a blast. The walls were decorated with an eclectic mix of New Orleans paraphernalia setting the stage for a fun experience.
At the hostess desk, I was informed that are wait will be 45 minutes. Hmmm!! I have dragged my starving family; should I or shouldn’t I? Oh! What the heck, I decided to take a chance and stick around to experience what the fuss is about. I must state the music made the wait seem like minutes only.
If the music wasn’t sufficient to keep my hungry family distracted, I opted to order the infamous ‘beignets’ (family portion). The delicate and airy pillows of fried dough dusted with powdered sugar were sublime. Hey, I could even live of those and I hardly have a sweet tooth. I resisted the temptation to order another plate as we still had to actually be seated to eat our lunch.
For the table I ordered fried pickles. My eye caught the specialty drink menu and I ended up ordering a glass of Sazerac. Now I am diehard single malt on the rocks kind of gal, so Jim Beam made me nervous to say the least. One small sip and I was wide-eyed. It was perhaps the smoothest whiskey concoction I have had (keep in mind it was still afternoon).
The fried pickles were nothing out of the ordinary with the rich homemade remoulade sauce outshining the dish. The New Orleans Cheese Plank was a generous piece of pepper jack cheese with Creole sauce. An interesting twist to fried cheese fingers.
For the main course, we ordered Country Fried Steak, Crawfish PO Boy, Crawfish pie and Jambalaya, Red Beans and rice with grilled Cajun Sausage. The Andouille Jambalaya and Chicken Gumbo though not spicy as I anticipated Cajun food to be, did exude deep flavors. The red beans and rice was another hit. The grilled Cajun sausage had an unexpected kick of heat.
The fried Crawfish PO Boy even though had generous helpings of greens, dressing, and crawfish, left us unsatisfied. It left room for debate – what is the big deal about a Po boy; after all it is just a sandwich? And I for one am familiar with the endless possibilities of a great sandwich.
The Country fried steak had a nice cornmeal crust but lacked in flavor. As my daughter ordered this dish, all I got spared was a small miserly helping of the steak. On slicing the steak, I couldn’t help but notice the color of the steak was ‘white’. On the first bite, I realized that I was eating a chicken breast not a cut of beef tenderized and fried. Sheepishly, I asked my waiter if Tibby’s version of country fried steak was made of chicken. The waiter, embarrassed and taken aback, rapidly took the leftovers back. The manager and staff couldn’t stop apologizing. I could see how crazy busy they were today and after all we all our humans and prone to mistakes.
The staff turned what could have been a disappointing meal to a wonderful experience by handling this matter swiftly, delicately and with such graciousness. They comped the meal, offered free deserts and even insisted on taking home a goodie bag of the country fried steak and this time with beef. Thank you!!
In all this amusing chaos, for a minute I forgot about my grits. The andouille cheddar grits were heavenly, buttery, and creamy. The red wine gravy with bacon brought the entire dish together. For the finale, we ate the bread pudding. If I hadn’t tried the Beignets earlier, I just might have relished this dessert. The ‘must have’ menu item is without any doubts the Beignets. Be warned people, the beignets are ultra light, so if you, like many of us suffer from self restraint issues, this dish will make it impossible to resist. And, it will be so worth it!!
The vibrant and playful ambiance, flavorful food, and friendly staff make Tibby’s a wonderful addition to Orland dining scene and a fine introduction to Cajun cuisine. I am rather envious of Winter Park residents who get to visit this wonderful ‘neighborhood gem’ in there backyards.