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.
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.
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.
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.
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.