Carmen’s Lunch Bar Cafe

Carmen's Lunch Box Cafe Sidewalk Dining Pensacola Florida
Sidewalk dining and socializing outside of Carmen's Lunchbox Cafe.

Carmen’s is rated among the Best Pensacola Restaurants

Carmen’s is located on historic Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola, Florida. We’ve been by Carmen’s many times and noted there’s always a few people enjoying food, beverages, and conversation at one of the tables set up outside the entrance to the cafe. So we made a note to ourselves to take time to eat there one of these days. Well that happened in February of 2020.

Outside Carmen's Lunch Bar
While a sunny day, it was a little too cool for us to sit outside. Also we wanted to see what was inside Carmen’s!

We didn’t realize how literally true was the name “Carmen’s Lunch Bar” until we arrived inside. Take three steps from the door and you are at a U shaped bar with seating for 18 diners around the perimeter. Not your usual café lunch bar table setting however. Seating at the bar was on comfortable, padded high back stools and dinnerware was high quality china, cloth napkins, and silverware utensils. Two tiny upright tables near the bar provide room for 4 more diners and if it is decent weather outside, there’s room for a few more diners out on the sidewalk.

With their reputation for an excellent lunch and limited seating, Carmen’s cooking and wait staff need to be sharp and on their game to competently meet the dining demand. They were up to the task. It is easily apparent the staff at Carmen’s dress and perform as seasoned hospitality professionals.

Busy wait staff at Carmen's Lunch Bar
We arrived just in time because a few minutes later every seat in the “house” was filled

Our Menu Selections

Jo chose their Straccotto Slow Roasted Beef – which Carmen’s advertises as Italy’s version of pot roast. It is slow-cooked, melt-in-your mouth beef chuck roast that is marinated in red wine, with onions, garlic, porcini mushrooms, thyme, and rosemary. Jo combined the Roasted Beef with a side bed of rice with arugula and mozzarella cheese as opposed a Ciabatta Roll which is their standard service. Outstandingly delicious and a generous portion, so much so that the left over provided an encore for dinner in the motorhome later that day.

I elected a generous bowl of Carmen’s Soup of the Day, which on this day happened to be their Mardi Gras special – Red Beans and Rice with carrots and sausage in a spicy pepper sauce. Not too spicy hot but with a nice little zing to the traditional red beans and rice dish with generous chunks of carrots and sausage. I almost ordered a small salad to go with the soup but lucky I didn’t because the soup was very filling. If you want Carmen’s soup and something else for variety or balance, I suggest electing a “cup” of soup versus the bowl. The bowl is meal-sized!

Carmen's Straccotto Slow Roasted Beef
Jo’s Straccotto Slow Roasted Beef
Carmens Mardi Gras Bean and Rice Chili with hot sauce
My Mardi Gras “Chili”

While waiting for our meal we treated ourselves to an order of their famous soda bread, baked fresh daily, with dried cranberries, with a sprig of rosemary, and a huge pad of sweet butter. Super yummy, not even a crumb was left.

Carmens Soda Bread
Carmen’s soda bread with dried cranberries

Our Rating of Carmen’s Lunch Bar Café

Carmen’s is easily one the top places to eat in Pensacola. Food Quality – 5 stars, Service – 5 stars, Comfort – 5 stars. Located on historic Palafox Street, our experience matched Carmen’s reputation as one of the top places for lunch in Pensacola. They are open for lunch from 11 am to 4 pm (See Carmen’s Day Menu here) and then close for two hours and re-open as an evening Tapas Bar. We’ll have to try their tapas some evening.

Carmen's Lunch Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

If you skipped dessert at Carmen’s, you have another chance to satisfy your sweet tooth across the street at Bubba’s Sweet Spot Candy and Ice Cream Parlor, owned by golf pro Bubba Watson.

Bubba's Sweet Shop on Palafox St.
Outside Bubba’s Sweet Shoppe
inside Bubba's Sweet Shop
Candy and Sweets Galore

Visiting and Dinning in Pensacola