I have had this restaurant on my short-list since it opened in the former Cafeteria (and Figlio's) space at Calhoun Square in Uptown. I'd also recently seen it on a top new restaurants list. With all that in mind and a 40-degree December day, I thought timing couldn't be better. After an afternoon of window shopping and online work, I walked in to Libertine around 6pm and sat solo at the bar. Mind you, I wasn't the only patron at the bar, far from it. They already had almost all the stools filled with people grabbing happy hour cocktails (on a Saturday night?!) or having a drink before their table reservation.
I was in the mood for a drink and some dinner. After getting the female bartender's attention (seemed like an on-going issue on this very first visit), I was able to decide on a short (8oz.) beer and take a better look at the menu.
The menu isn't massive and it's laid out in a relatively simple manner. See...
I liked the way the meats are arranged by animal and they even left a spot for "Not Animal". I was all about animal on this visit, so I decided on the Merguez sausages (under Lamb for those playing along at home) and a side of their baby potatoes. Though it was warm outside by normal MN-winter standards, my brain is still well into winter mode - meat & potatoes do nicely in December. When I placed my order, the bartender also mentioned and made sure I would be ok with the sausages as they are produced in house and are a very "fine grind, almost like pate". I asked if they taste good, to which she replied positively - so I stayed with that choice. I couldn't wait.
When my plate and cast-iron skillet arrived I was pumped! I couldn't wait to dive in... so why would I? I gently cut a round off the first link I got my fork into and moved it to my waiting agape mouth. It was good. But the grind wasn't fine, from what I know about cased meats at least. I grabbed a bite of the potatoes, also delicious. I got the bartender's attention to mention the sausage grind she warned me about and as soon as she saw the plate, she knew she had ordered me the wrong sausage. I wasn't eating Merguez, I was enjoying their house-made Chorizo (from the choice that changes often and one I wasn't told about when I was given the menu or at ordering).
Oohh-kaayy. I'm fine with Chorizo and it really was delicious. So, I tucked back into my meat and potato, even though she offered to place the right order for me (who wants to wait again?). In the middle of the meal, I ran out of my short beer and wanted to pick a different one (the genius of the short pour, IMO). It took about 3-4 minutes to get the bartender's attention this time. It seemed like the bar staff was more interested in updating each other on their current events than paying attention to the patrons, but I guess that happens. Maybe the management of Libertine doesn't treat or train the bar staff the same as the servers. Maybe they don't tell them to go over specials when someone asks for a menu, or pay attention to the customers eating at their counter.
In any case, I got my second short beer order in and when she delivered it, she let me know it would be free, as a way to make up for the mistake on the sausage order. I'll take it.
Despite some interesting service, I would go back to Libertine for another try. You could see the quality, time, and care in the food I ate, and I'd like to sit at a normal table, see how their servers perform, and eat some of the dang Merguez!