Short Orders: The Libertine

The Libertine
2101 Greenville Ave.

Not so many years ago, when a pub served food--and happened to have a skilled hand in the kitchen--people would call it a "good place."

But that sort of straightforward simplicity just won't do it these days. I mean, "good place"--what the hell? No way to tell from that description if the pub adheres to 'locavore' standards, meets with the approval of 'slow foods' activists, will appeal to self-styled 'foodies'...You can't even tell what sort of fusion cuisine they've developed.

Along with America's food knowledge renaissance came the labels we find so necessary. How else will we know what's hot or which group to identify with? And so, there are no longer good places. Nope--these joints have been redefined as 'gastro-pubs.'

Well, The Libertine is a good place, dammit.

The menu roams around shared plates territory, into burgers and even entrees. Their seafood trio plate combines smoked salmon, a couple strips of sesame-crusted tuna and shrimp ceviche with sauces and 'Asian' slaw. The ceviche, in particular, stands out, thanks to sharp, tangy citrus backed by a lot of cilantro. Another trio presents French fries (unfortunately droopy), sweet potato fries and strips of tempura portabello mushrooms--the latter quite a departure from its neighbors on the platter.

Chicken pot pie features a thick, herbaceous soup between biscuit-style crusts. It's a warm and comforting dish, ranging from sweet through earthy, backed by just enough pepper. Although their pulled pork sandwich carries a spread of cole slaw, it lacks the sour punch that makes this stuff so compelling. But the pub doesn't specify Carolina-style, so you end up with a rich, meaty layer of pork countered only by the crisp snap of cabbage. Nice and simple. Barbecue sauce, presented on the side, packs enough tang to satisfy some traditionalists, as well.

Then there's...oh, well. You get the picture.

But it's also a pub--one with 15 Belgian ales typically in stock, one that lists organic brews separately, and one that earns national acclaim. They even hold regular five-course beer pairing dinners, just to prove that the plebeian pint can be every bit as refined as Pinot Noir.

So to hell with trendy designations. The Libertine is simply a very good place to hang out.

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