WHAT I ATE: Given its name, you immediately gain an idea of what to expect and Tibby's appears to offer an array of New Orleans' best-known dishes. I stopped by for lunch and found a collection of midday specials reasonably priced under $10. I opted for the Chicken Pontchartrain while my guest picked from the list of "Classic Combinations," choosing a Bienville Salad and a cup of Seafood Gumbo. We added the Muffuletta Spring Rolls as an appetizer and closed the meal with traditional beignets.
WHAT IT COST: The spring rolls were $6.95, the Combination was $8.95, the Pontchartrain was $8.75 and the beignets clicked in at $3.
WHAT I THOUGHT: Tibby's, which originated in Orlando, first announced plans to come to Brandon in January but didn't open until this month. It's in a location at the corner of Brandon Boulevard and Lakewood Drive that has seen a number of other attempts sputter out, including a TGIFridays. Given the buzz of the lunch crowd on the day I dined there, however, Tibby's is off to a very good start. It includes tasteful, Mardi Gras-themed decorations, and the service was on point.
The quality of its meals should be able to sustain the buzz. The spring rolls — stuffed with salami, mortadella, ham, Swiss cheese, provolone cheese and olive salad — could have arrived with a bit more warmth, and, while tasty, they didn't overwhelm me. Another appetizer, the Shrimp and Alligator Cheesecake, sounded a bit more venturous, but the kitchen was out that day. Next time.
As for the entrees, we shared and raved about the taste. The Chicken Pontchartrain, pan sauteed and served with artichoke hearts in a sherry wine sauce, proved tender and flavorful. The Bienville Salad scored with a complement of walnuts, blackberries and strawberries in a burgundy vinaigrette, and the gumbo came with just the right touch of Old Bay seasoning and plenty of big pieces of seafood.
The combination special is clearly meant for those looking for a light lunch, but given the portions, I think we would have left satisfied even without the appetizer and dessert. Heartier appetites might be best served with one of the restaurant's Po Boy sandwiches, on sale for $9 on Mondays. Given that a shrimp po boy once saved my life in New Orleans, I'll be back to give it a try.
As the restaurant gains its sea legs, it plans to add daily specials, which should expand the variety. Brandon doesn't really have a restaurant specializing in New Orleans flavors, so it appears to be winning over an area clearly ready for something new. Laissez les bons temps rouler.
Times staff writer Ernest Hooper