Food & Drink

What’s Good Here? Libby’s of Lexington

What’s good here?

If the owner/cook likes it, it’s good. That is how owner Clint LaCoe determines what appears on the menu of his Libby’s of Lexington on Main Street. So far, the two-and-a-half-year-old restaurant has thrived on that philosophy. “I like to eat, and I like to combine ingredients,” says LaCoe. “So the food at Libby’s is what I like to eat.”

LaCoe’s favorite is Libby’s pizza. (“It’s what I had to eat last night,” he explains when interviewed.) The pizza sauce is homemade.

Some of the more interesting specialty pizzas are Libby’s, with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, Italian sausage, smoked ham, meatballs and bacon; and The Gamecock, with garlic infused olive oil topped with mozzarella cheese, fresh cilantro, red onion and grilled chicken basted in a homemade BBQ sauce.

When people ask LaCoe why something such as she-crab soup is not on the menu, he simply explains, “Because I don’t like she-crab soup.” LaCoe’s Shrimp Po boy is made with a twist: lime caper tartar sauce. He points out that Duke’s makes their mayonnaise and Heinz makes their ketchup, but every sauce, dressing and marinade is homemade.

The Bourbon BBQ Shrimp entrée has grilled Andouille sausage, jumbo shrimp and a homemade bourbon sauce. Children and adults both rave about the crunchy chicken tenders with the homemade honey mustard sauce. There are also daily specials which, again, are the result of LaCoe’s personal culinary interests.

What else?

LaCoe believes in using the freshest, most local ingredients possible. “The Fine Print” on his menu states this fact. “We make everything possible from scratch and to order,” he says. That includes the desserts, which are made by his mother-in-law. “I’ve long said she makes the best pecan pie in town. Now others know that because they’ve tasted it at Libby’s.” A specialty dessert is the carrot cake – served on a swirl of chocolate.

How did Libby’s get its start?

LaCoe says that 25 years of experience have culminated to result in Libby’s. He started working in the restaurant industry at age 15 and hasn’t stopped. For a while, he lived in Charleston, working at different restaurants and bars to learn how to cook, manage and bartend. At USC, he earned his degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management. When he decided that Lexington, where he has lived since 1985, needed a casual, but nice, restaurant that was affordable enough to regularly take a date or the family, he opened Libby’s.

The establishment is named not for his children nor his wife but for his dog – a lab mix – that he had for 17 years.

“She was my constant companion,” says LaCoe. She passed when his now 7-year-old twin girls were 2. He says that besides being able to design a menu around what he likes to eat, he is able to create a staff that includes people who are dedicated and fun to work with. “It’s a relaxed, easy-going atmosphere in the kitchen – and that reflects the atmosphere in the dining room.”

Who eats here?

LaCoe says because the kitchen is open, he can see most everyone who walks in. “I’m usually elbow deep into cooking, but I remember faces and mostly what regulars eat.” He says there are many people in Lexington who have made Libby’s their regular destination for eating out. Plus, with the location of the restaurant on Main Street in downtown Lexington, a myriad of business owners and their employees patronize Libby’s at lunchtime.

What is the décor?

Casual contemporary. A painted picture of Libby, the dog, greets customers at the door. Neutral-painted brick walls are the backdrop to interesting accessories such as a large wall clock that resembles a pocket watch and a black-and-white framed print of a guitar player. Touches of red provide accents. There are two dining rooms. One offers a long table for slightly larger parties.