Local breakfast and lunch spot focuses on made-from-scratch flavor and rethinks old favorites.
Originally printed in the September 2021 issue of Produce Business.
In 2018, Alex Reid and Joe Libby embarked on a venture to provide made-from-scratch fresh food after commiserating about pre-made foodservice trends.
“We wanted a focus on fresh, flavorful, quality food,” says Reid. “And we both always wanted our own breakfast and lunch spot.”
For an unassuming breakfast/lunch joint, this Philadelphia, PA, restaurant offers sophisticated flavor profiles bolstered by the credible foodservice resumes of its chefs. Reid (aka “Tank”) received a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management from the University of Delaware and continued his education at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, CA. He cooked his way across the country until settling down not too far from his hometown of Margate City, NJ.
Libby graduated from The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA, and spent most of his cooking career in the kitchen of the Four Seasons Philadelphia. A native of Drexel Hill, PA, he knew Delaware County was where he wanted to raise his family and continue his culinary profession.
In just a few short years, Tank & Libby’s has made its mark and serves a diverse customer base from around the region. “Some customers come from up to an hour away,” says Reid.
ESSENTIAL MENU FOUNDATION
The 100-seat restaurant serves classic American dishes with a twist and creative daily specials. Both chefs emphasize their philosophy of making everything from scratch.
“Almost every single dish we make has some fresh produce component in it from the sweet to the savory.”— Alex Reid
“Everything we make is fresh and from scratch, unlike some popular chain restaurants,” says Reid. “And almost every single dish we make has some fresh produce component in it from the sweet to the savory.”
Tank & Libby’s brings in over $1million annually in sales and spends about $4,000 each week on fresh produce. “Produce is a fundamental element of everything we do,” says Libby. “
Produce is used for freshness and for flavor. “The majority of our sauces are made with some type of produce,” says Reid. “Even our creamed chipped beef starts with onions. All our soups are made from scratch, too, so we start with fresh carrots, onions and celery for the broth.”
For its size, the restaurant pulls through impressive volume in some items. “We’re cooking about 100 pounds of potatoes per day,” says Reid. “We can go through 200 pounds a week of onions. And, we use about 80 pounds of mushrooms a week.”
The chefs source most of their produce from FarmArt in Folcroft, PA, and Sysco, their broadline distributor. “Freshness and quality are top of mind when sourcing,” says Libby. “We get produce delivered every day except Sunday. It’s essential to keeping our ingredients fresh and consistent. Our use of ripe, quality, fresh produce affects the flavor of our food.”
Eating at Tank & Libby’s yields a comforting, yet fun, experience as the menu boasts many familiar favorites with a delectable twist.
Libby describes a Greenland Shark Omelet they came up with for Shark Week that incorporated spinach, broccoli rabe, scallions and avocado. “When local blueberries were in season, we did a virgin blueberry mojito that was very popular.”
Omelets or frittatas serve up combinations of portabella mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, spinach, caramelized onions, peppers, broccoli rabe, long hots, and avocado, all paired with the appropriate cheese or meat. Rich French toast options include apple pie using a fresh apple compote, or crème brûlée, which melds bruléed challah stuffed with vanilla custard and topped with macerated raspberry and whipped cream.
The menu’s hot cakes include a Bananas Foster based on brown sugared bananas and dark rum; The Blues, uniting blueberry compote and lemon glaze; and The Libby, a deep dish pancake with caramelized apples and whipped cream. Bennies and egg sandwiches also offer a multitude of produce options.
For lunch, the menu presents a variety of salads and flavor-packed sandwiches that incorporate a produce component in each. Produce is the star of the Italian Veg, placing portabella mushroom, broccoli rabe, roasted peppers, onions, aged provolone and parmesan aioli on a seeded roll. A twist on an old favorite, the B.L.T.A. uses a flour tortilla to wrap thick cut bacon, beefsteak tomato, baby arugula and avocado.
The restaurant experiments with fresh juices including a fresh strawberry lemonade, and a popular green juice made with Granny Smith apples, fresh spinach, cucumber and ginger.
Topping off the meal with a little something sweet is easy with baked goods made to match available produce, such as one recent example of a melt-in-your mouth, buttery blueberry crumb cake boasting whole blueberries in the middle.
Tank & Libby’s
Pilgrim Gardens Shopping Center
1011 Pontiac Road, Drexel Hill, PA
Hours: Wednesday-Friday 8:30am-2pm; Saturday-Sunday 8am-2pm