11 Jan Babalu isn’t just your usual taco joint
Megan Patterson, UT Daily Beacon – Jan 2016
The first time I went to Babalu Tacos & Tapas, it was finals week, and my dinner date and I approached the restaurant sporting sweatpants and below the acceptable personal hygiene standards.
One glance inside told us that our current garb wasn’t going to cut it. The grungy, grimy college style may fly at Taco Bell and even Soccer Taco, but Babalu, with a sleek, modern interior and an open kitchen, seemed to require some level of class. We turned away before entering the door.
The second time I went to Babalu, I was wearing real pants and entered the doors confidently. After a short wait, we were seated and our server, Gregg, came to the table. After deciding on coffees and water, my dinner companion and I struggled to decide where to even start with the menu. We decided that we couldn’t go wrong with tacos, but before we could finalize our meals, Gregg returned.
We each ordered a coffee, but we didn’t just receive a mug poured from the coffee pot in the back. Gregg placed two cups and saucers, a pot of hot water and two French presses on the table. He chatted while preparing our individual coffees and advised us on his favorite tacos: the redfish and the vegetal.
Feeling fully pampered, my companion and I ordered three tacos each, along with a starter of table side guacamole. I took Gregg’s advice and went with the redfish taco but branched on my own with the chicken taco and the duck taco.
Gregg informed us before leaving the table that our food may come out at different times since the restaurant doesn’t use heat lamps and serves everything fresh immediately.
While awaiting the arrival of our guacamole, my companion and I took in our surroundings, happily sipping on our coffee and giddily looking forward to what promised to be a delicious meal.
Fresh fruit and vegetables sat in carefully chosen spots around the restaurant, backing up the claim that all the food is freshly prepared. Behind the hostess stand, “I Love Lucy” episodes ran continuously.
At the time, I thought that was simply an odd but quirky touch; however, I learned afterwards that the restaurant got its name from Lucy’s nickname for her husband Ricky — Babalu.
Our table side guacamole was carried over by Gregg who proceeded to ask if we prefer our dip smooth or chunky. We asked for a mix of both, and he continued to scoop out the avocados and mash them in a decorative bowl along with red and green onion, salt, cilantro, lime juice and the ingredient that Gregg thinks distinguishes their guacamole: sundried tomatoes.
We munched on the house-made chips and continued to rave about Babalu before our food even arrived. After a trip to the restroom, my companion returned amazed by the mouthwash dispensers with mini plastic cups. This place has class.
However, don’t be scared away. Despite the slightly upscale feel, the serving staff is friendly and welcoming, and the vibe remains informal.
I could go on raving about the tacos, but I’ll keep it short. They may have been small portions, but after the guacamole as an appetizer, I could hardly finish.
The third time I went to Babalu, I enjoyed it just as much and can’t wait to go again.