Tapas at Carmen’s Lunch Bar

Carmen's Lunch Bar

Carmen’s Lunch Bar – The Perfect Local Spot for Tapas and Those “Wanna Get Away” Moments

Do you ever have one of those “wanna get away” moments? Southwest certainly capitalized on a catchy and relatable tagline with that phrase. I think we all have those moments from time to time. Sometimes you just need a little break; a reprieve in the midst of a chaotic and stressful week. While Southwest has definitely made weekend get aways more financially feasible, mid-week get aways aren’t necessarily an easy feat to swing.

For those times when I can’t physically leave town, I’ve found a simple and practical solution: treating myself to tapas at Carmen’s Lunch Bar. It’s definitely kinder to your bank account. Not to mention, it’s infinitely easier to coordinate a food itinerary of tapas than it is to organize a travel itinerary. 

So next time you’re feeling that “need to get away” moment, look no further than Pensacola. Carmen’s Lunch Bar is an ideal spot to treat yourself to a “get away” moment that’s convenient and indulgent. Located at the corner of Palafox and Main Street, Carmen’s Lunch Bar is in the heart of downtown Pensacola. It’s a cozy bar and restaurant that serves outstanding tapas.

Mapping it Out

Inside the atmosphere exudes a posh, urban feel. Seating is predominantly around the main bar which is situated centrally in a squared-off U-shape. The atmosphere is warm and inviting; perfect for dining solo or meeting a friend. If your preference is indoor dining with a view, there is seating at a narrow table that runs the length of a window facing Palafox. There is also the option of dining outside. This is my preference and I often opt for this when the weather accommodates.

Carmen’s Lunch Bar offers a fixed menu as well as daily specials that revolve around seasonal, garden-fresh ingredients. The menu is a fusion of Southern and International influences that come together in a type of cuisine-nouveau. Vibrant and piquant culinary masterpieces that are pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.

On my most recent trip to Carmen’s Lunch Bar my food itinerary included the Creamy White Sweet Potato Soup, Tostas de Boquerones, and Carrot Whipped Potatoes with Kale and Feta. To finish it off: Butterscotch Cheesecake.

Creamy White Sweet Potato Soup

This dish sets the mood for your entire meal. Warm and rich, this soup addresses the elements of sweet and savory in unique symmetry. The white sweet potato gives the soup a slightly saccharine taste, yet not overly so. Less salt and starch than a traditional potato soup, yet not as bold as the typical sweet potato. The garnish of dried cranberries, chopped pistachios and sprinkling of cilantro give the soup a multi-dimensional flavor that arouses and delights the senses. Smooth, light, crunchy, chewy – there are so many textures going on in this soup. It’s hitting all the senses and creating a beautiful culinary symphony.

Carmen's Lunch Bar
Creamy White Sweet Potato Soup

Tostas de Boquerones

Boquerones are a popular Spanish tapa. Typically, it is a white fish such as an anchovy or sardine. Carmen’s Tostas de Boquerones are made with white anchovies and a creamy Romesco sauce. Romesco is a sauce of Spanish origin. It is traditionally made with roasted red pepper and almond. This lovely ruby-red Romesco sauce is a rustic purée that dresses the crisp crostini. Atop the Romesco sauce sit the thin, white anchovies. Last but not least, a generous dusting of parsley adds another bright and colorful pop to this plate.

The taste of these Tostas de Boquerones are pleasing in every way. The white anchovies deliver a rush of saltiness. This is tempered by the Romesco sauce which delivers a lively composition of lush red peppers, almonds and spices. The carrier for this saline bite, the tostas, add that quintessential lusty, buttery crunch. The perfect accompaniment to this savory small plate.

Carmen's Lunch Bar
Tostas de Boquerones

Carrot Whipped Potatoes With Kale and Feta

The elements of this dish are not ones I would have naturally paired together. Fortunately, Carmen saw the ingenuity in melding these ingredients into a dish that will change everything you think about carrots and kale. This warm, miniature tureen ushers in an experience for the taste buds.

The carrots and potatoes are beaten into a velvety, potato likeness. You taste the dimensions of butter, starch and salt, with a whisper of sweetness. Cutting through this fluffy cloud of carrot and potatoes are ribbons of hearty kale. The fibrous texture of the kale gives this dish a definitive chew. The suitable bitterness of the kale is further refined and slightly muted by the sharp, saline tanginess of the toasted feta. While this dish may not strike everyone’s fancy, I particularly enjoyed it.

Carmen's Lunch Bar
Carrot Whipped Potatoes with Kale and Feta

Butterscotch Cheesecake

A pure sweet ecstasy! And to think, I almost declined this delicious dessert! It would have been a mistake of epic proportions. This cheesecake has a silken texture. The cream cheese, egg and sugar are whisked together precisely so that the taste is rich and sweet and goes down effortlessly. Unique to this cheesecake is the absence of a crust. This aspect adds to the charm. The butterscotch sauce is a viscous amalgamation of butter and brown sugar. Shavings of bittersweet chocolate balances out the sweetness. When you finish this delight, you’re sad it’s over. So sad in fact, you’re tempted to order another so you can repeat this exquisite experience.

Carmen's Lunch Bar
Butterscotch Cheesecake


Carmen's Lunch Bar
Pure Delight

Next time you’re struck with a “wanna get away” moment consider traveling no further than a short drive to downtown Pensacola. A meal of tapas at Carmen’s Lunch Bar may be just the escape you need. Creative cuisine infused with international flavors can transport you to a serene get away, and all without the need to pack a suitcase.

Pensacola Mother’s Day Brunch

Mother's Day Brunch

Mother’s Day is just over two weeks away. What better way to show Mom your appreciation than by treating her to brunch? To help you select the perfect place to take Mom, I’ve put together a short list of some fabulous brunch spots. Here are five local restaurants that are rolling out the red carpet and making Mother’s Day a grand affair.

Mother’s Day Brunch at The Grand Marlin

Brunch on the beach. For the Mom who loves a waterfront view and superb seafood, treat her to The Grand Marlin. With elegant dining accommodations and tranquil views of the bay, this is the spot to pamper Mom.

The Grand Marlin, Mother's Day Brunch
The Grand Marlin (photo courtesy of The Grand Marlin)

The Grand Marlin is featuring a special brunch menu which includes: Pan Roasted Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast, Cedar Roasted Salmon and Main Lobster with Brie Quiche. In addition to the Mother’s Day Menu, they will offer their a la carte Sunday brunch from 9 am – 2 pm as well as a limited regular brunch menu. Reservations are limited and filling quickly. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this brunch! Make reservations today to ensure you have a table.

Mother's Day Brunch
Shrimp and Grits (photo courtesy of The Grand Marlin)

Mother's Day Brunch Pensacola

If your Mother’s Day plans don’t permit you to make it in time for brunch, the Grand Marlin will re-open for dinner at 4 pm with their regular menu and Mom can enjoy a sunset view overlooking the water. The Sunday Prime Rib Promotion will NOT be available on Mother’s Day as it is not available on holidays. Make your reservations by calling 850.677.9153 or by visiting www.thegrandmarlin.com.

Mother’s Day Brunch at Polonza Bistro

Located off of Palafox and Wright Street, Polonza Bistro is a locally owned and operated restaurant and coffee shop that prepares their meals in-house. From their freshly baked breads and homemade salad dressings, Polonza focuses on quality ingredients including locally sourcing when possible. Originally serving only breakfast and lunch, Polonza has recently added a dinner menu and is now open Thursday through Saturday from 5 pm until 9 pm.

For Mother’s Day, Polonza Bistro will open from 9 am until 3 pm. Their brunch menu features Gulf Coast Benedict (crab cakes on homemade English muffins), Grilled Salmon Hash, Stuffed French Toast (homemade brioche bread filled with whipped cream cheese and berry compote), and Chicken and Waffles among many other culinary delights. Be sure to treat yourself to a coffee or tea beverage while you’re there. Polonza boasts a full-service espresso bar that brews robust coffees and espresso-based drinks and offers a pleasing selection of teas.

Gulf Coast Benedict, Mother's Day Brunch
Gulf Coast Benedict (Photo courtesy of Polonza Bistro)

Polonza Bistro does NOT take reservations on the weekend and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Outdoor seating is also available. My recommendation would be to arrive early and opt for sitting outside – how lovely are these beautiful blue accented chairs?!? They even look like a holiday. Bring Mom to Polonza Bistro, treat her to a delicious brunch, and Polonza will have a little something special for all Moms this Mother’s Day.

Mother's Day Brunch
Exquisite Outdoor Dining (photo courtesy of Polonza Bistro)

Mother’s Day Brunch at Pot Roast and Pinot

Here is a rare occasion that you don’t want to let slip by you. For Mother’s Day only, Pot Roast and Pinot will be serving brunch from 11 am until 5 pm. I have certainly missed Pot Roast and Pinot’s brunch! When Pot Roast and Pinot first opened they served breakfast and brunch in addition to their dinner menu. Recently they changed their menu and hours and now open daily at 5 pm.

In addition to Pot Roast and Pinot’s Regular menu, they will be featuring the following brunch menu:

Eggs Benedict   

corned beef hash, hollandaise


chorizo, caramelized onion


gulf shrimp, spinach, feta

Cashew Belgian Waffle

local fruit compote

Chophouse Salad

lettuce, hearts of palm, arugula, bacon, lemon basil vinaigrette,

shaved fennel, fried onion straws

The menu will certainly tease and tempt your palate. Pot Roast and Pinot even  brought back their Cashew Belgian Waffles for Mother’s Day. Take advantage of this limited menu while it’s available. To ensure you have a table, you can make reservations by phone (850-607-7336 ) or through Yelp.

Mother’s Day Brunch at George Artisan Bakery and Bistro

Ah, George – a tried and true favorite brunch spot! Whether you’re in the mood for a fluffy omelette (check out the post on George’s Coastal Omelette), a lush salad lavished with vibrant, seasonal vegetables, something between the buns, a brunch classic, or a decadent pastry; you will find it at George.

George Artisan, Mother's Day Brunch

If you’re planning on brunching at George this Mother’s Day take note – George will be seating by reservation only. Don’t let Mother’s Day find you unprepared. Make your reservation as soon as possible to guarantee you have a seat. George will be premiering a unique Mother’s Day Menu and you don’t want this occasion to slip by you. For reservations and more information you can reach George at: (850) 912-4655.

Mother’s Day Brunch at O’Brien’s Bistro

Don’t let the unassuming exterior fool you. This charming bistro is a longtime local favorite – and for good reason! O’Brien’s Bistro presents an impressive array of appealing appetizers and enticing entrées. From salads, soups and sandwiches, to seafood, steak and pasta; O’Brien’s menu embraces it all with expertly constructed dishes. This Red Snapper Pontchartrain was a daily special I had the pleasure of enjoying and is representative of many of the elegant main courses you will find on the menu.

Mother's Day Brunch
Red Snapper Pontchartrain

For Mother’s Day, O’Brien’s will be open from  11 am until 2 pm. For this celebratory occasion they will be offering their dinner menu, which means you have the delight of choosing between tantalizing options such as Veal with Peppered Vodka Sauce, Lobster Stuffed Grouper, Blackberry Duck, Mint Rack of Lamb, or Steak O’Brien.

With these exceptional local dining options, Mother’s Day is certain to be a hit and an enjoyable outing for the entire family. For most of her life Mom has happily taken on the responsibility of putting food on the table. This Mother’s Day, alleviate her of that responsibility and treat her to a right and proper brunch where she is the guest of honor.