Even on a Monday night, Libertine is packed.
The lively mood is apparent the second I walk into the restaurant. Immediately I’m struck by how colorful the restaurant looks. It's overwhelmingly pink—pink chairs, pink benches, and even pink napkins. Gawking at the abrasive color scheme, we take our seats, ready to see what other surprises Libertine has in store for us.
To begin, we ask our server for recommendations from the quirky, seasonal menu. Appetizers are listed as “snacks,” with entrées under “smaller” or “larger commitments.” He doesn’t skip a beat—“get the burger. The bun is to die for.” As a victim of peer–pressure, I abide.
While we wait for our food, a man clad in black approaches our table with a plate of complimentary (and delicious) steak tartare. We later realize that he is none other than owner/head chef Derek Davis. We watch him float from table to table, greeting every guest in the restaurant and delivering free bite–sized delights. If that’s not service, I don’t know what is.
For our appetizer, we order the panko–crusted Thai chicken buns. These mini sliders are a twist on the classic American fare—substituting papaya slaw for coleslaw and umami sauce for ketchup. The sauce hits my tongue and my taste buds go wild—it’s spicy, but not too spicy, and full of flavor.
The entrées arrive and my eyes grow as big as my burger, which is as big as my head. Our waiter is right—the brioche bun is slightly sweet and ties the whole burger together. Topped with crispy fried onions and an absurd amount of aged cheddar, it is a sight to behold.
We also ordered the handmade spaghetti topped with jumbo lump crabmeat and chili—another twist on a classic dish. The photographer looks at me with wide eyes—”the tomatoes are so juicy.” At $24, the pasta is more expensive than my burger, but definitely worth it. It is no surprise that it is one of the more popular dishes on the menu.
As our meal winds down, I look around the restaurant to see Davis still meandering about the tables. Don’t let the loud decor fool you; Libertine is simply about providing a great meal with great service. It definitely does not disappoint.
TL;DR: Classic American dishes with a contemporary twist, and outstanding service.
Location: 261 S. 13th Street
Hours: Dinner: Sunday–Thursday 5 p.m.–10 p.m., Friday & Saturday 5 p.m.–11 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday & Sunday 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m.