Being out of touch is a great motivator to be spurred into action.
In the past few weeks I’ve managed to get a car inspection sticker (apparently it’s a Mississippi requirement), upgrade to a smart phone (hellooo 2011) and drink my first Baba-rita.
Now I can avoid a hefty ticket violation, play Words with Friends, and not be quite so un-hip in casual conversation because Babalu pops up as often as the paparazzi shadows Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Babalu opened late last year and is one of the newest additions to the ever expanding Fondren area. I don’t know why it took me so long to get there. Paying a lot of money for a little meal had me balking at the idea of tapas, but mostly the opportunity hadn’t presented itself.
Thankfully, the perfect occasion finally arrived when my co-workers and I recently celebrated a friend’s retirement. Our large group slowly filtered into the restaurant on a Friday evening after work.
Entering the door you are greeted by “I Love Lucy” episodes projected on a large wall, separating the main dining room on the left, from the bar on the right. It has a clean, industrial feel and due to the cavernous space sound echos easily. We settled in next to the Babalu branded wall, ordered our first round of drinks and the infamous guacamole.
People gush over the guacamole like a newborn baby. They coo about it. They can’t get enough. It’s made table-side (!), a concept I find amusing considering I cook fewer than five feet from our kitchen table most every night.
Nevertheless, the show is part of the fun and we observed as a server brought out a tray of various sized silver bowls and got to work. Their version includes sun-dried tomatoes which is the only slight variant from a traditional recipe. It’s good guacamole but the accompanying fresh, thick chips make it fantastic.
In addition to the guacamole, I had received many dish recommendations on and off-line prior to our visit. Ben and I narrowed our selections to Carne le Vaca Tacos, a Pork Enchilada of the day, and the Braised Beef Short Rib tapa. Friends were also kind enough to let us taste their Tamales and Garlic Shrimp tapa.
His favorite dish was the Carne le Vaca Tacos (2) which features tender flat iron steak and a spicy kick from the salsa roja. I kept going back and forth between the enchilada and the short rib. The enchilada was filled with smokey meat and covered in bubbling cheese. The short rib was falling apart at the seams into a pool of savory grits.
Each dish we nibbled on was great but also grew saltier as the night went on. The Baba-rita had a salted rim, the chips were generously sprinkled and salt nearly overwhelmed the enchilada. Maybe they compounded on each other.
Initially I was worried we didn’t order enough knowing how tapas can be such small plates, but the richness of each dish contributed to our fullness. If you’re hungry, bring a well padded wallet because our meal for two people was around $60.
Babalu is unique. Go there for drinks, to soak up the fun atmosphere with friends, and nosh on a bite or two. Don’t go expecting to order one item as a full meal, traditional Mexican/Tex-Mex food, or a quiet dining room.
Babalu Tacos & Tapas
622 Duling Avenue
Jackson, MS 39216