Greetings, fellow Chowhounds! I just got back from Tibby's New Orleans Kitchen, which opened for business today at 2203 Aloma Avenue in Winter Park. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of going at 6:30, during my dinner break at work, and the place was SLAMMED. Standing-room only around the bar, and a 45-minute wait for a table for two. Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled to see them so busy on their first day, but my colleague and I had to order our food to go. The bartender was very attentive and the kitchen hustled, I'm happy to report. He was pouring beers into giant goblets and mixing drinks the entire time (while committing our orders to memory), and we probably only waited 15 minutes for our to-go orders.
The food is excellent, I'm happy to say. I ordered a half-muffuletta sandwich (served cold, although you can also get it hot), a cup of seafood gumbo, and a small order of beignets to share with my colleague. As an obsessive fan of Italian subs, hoagies, grinders, heros, or whatever else the local parlance may be, I had to try it. I've enjoyed muffulettas at the iconic Central Grocery Store in the French Quarter on all my past trips to New Orleans, and this one can definitely hold its own. The round French loaf was covered with sesame seeds, but it was quite soft, not as crusty as the bread out there. They give you quite a bit of genoa salami, ham, and cheese, and the piquant chopped olive salad completed the sandwich, with lots of oil soaking into the bread to soften it further. Even if you're not a big olive fan (I'm typically not), the olive salad works perfectly with the spicy cured meats and cheeses, and really sets the muff apart from your typical Italian sub sandwich.
The gumbo was delicious -- it had quite a few shrimp in it, nice diced pieces of andouille sausage, and plenty of soft, fresh vegetables. It wasn't very spicy, but we could have kicked it up with two different hot sauces had we eaten at the restaurant. It came with several pieces of buttery, crisp garlic bread, which reminded me of Cole's (the frozen kind). I'm not saying that to be nasty -- I love Cole's garlic bread, if that is indeed what they use. The small order of beignets comes with three perfect squarish pastries, crispy on the outside but pillowy-soft on the inside, snowed under mounds of powdered sugar.
My friend let me sample her bowl of andouille sausage jambalaya, which might have been my favorite thing of all. If you like jambalaya, you'll love Tibby's version. They definitely don't skimp on the andouille, and they aren't trying to pass off the Zatarain's boxed kind as something authentic. She also got an order of cheesy grits, which also had some diced sausage mixed in, and were covered with green onions. I'm not the biggest grits fan in the world, but she loved them, and even I can say they were pretty good.
Just to let everyone know, while Tibby's was founded by the owners of Tijuana Flats, it is a table-service restaurant, not a fast-casual, order at the counter place like Tijuana Flats. They also have a full bar, and for those that drink (sadly, I don't anymore), the bartenders are awesome. They have a wide variety of Abita beers in bottles, and a few on tap. The room itself is not as big as I expected, but they maximized the space as much as possible, with plenty of tables but no booths. The decor is bright and colorful, like a sanitized version of New Orleans without going overboard into cliched Mardi Gras madness. It's a great place, and I wish them all the luck and success in the world. If the first night is any indication, I'm sure they won't even need it!
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