Two of my favorite things are tacos and small plates, so I was so excited to hear about the opening of Babalu, a tacos and tapas restaurant in Chapel Hill. The first Babalu location was opened in Jackson, Mississippi in 2010 by restaurant partners Bill Latham and Al Roberts. The restaurant is named after the signature song of Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy, so there is a constant loop of I Love Lucy playing in the restaurant. Babalu began expanding in 2013, opened a restaurant in Charlotte in 2016, and has now opened its first restaurant in the Triangle. As you walk up to the restaurant it is hard to ignore the beautiful outdoor space, which would be perfect for sitting with friends and a margarita as the nights begin to cool down. Inside, the restaurant feels very modern and upscale, but still casual. There are plenty of high-top tables and booths lining the walls. We were sat in a booth and greeted by our server, Graceé, who walked us through the menu and told us a few of her favorite items. Although it is awesome to be able to attend soft openings, it is sometimes obvious that restaurants are trying to work out the kinks before opening. I definitely did not feel that this was the case at Babalu. Our service was phenomenal and, spoiler alert, so was our meal. There were so many delicious looking options to choose from that it took us a while to decide.
We started our meal with the Table-side Guacamole ($10.50), which made my non-guacamole loving boyfriend into a believer. The guac tasted so fresh, and since it was made in front of us we could chose if we wanted it smooth or chunky, and add jalapenos or bacon if we wanted as well.
Next, we moved on to a couple sides. We couldn’t choose between the Grilled Broccolini with Goat Cheese ($5.50) and the Garlic Rosti Potatoes with Teriyaki Glaze ($4.75), so we just got both! The Broccolini was good, but the potatoes really stole the show. They were cut into very small cubes and cooked to be perfectly crispy. I wasn’t sure how Teriyaki Glaze would go on potatoes, but it tasted amazing! Our plate was definitely cleared within minutes of ordering these guys.
For my main course I decided to go with the Fierce Shrimp ($11.25), after it came highly recommended from our waitress. I was between this and the Pollo Tacos, and I’m certainly glad I went with the Fierce Shrimp. These were similar to Bang Bang shrimp, but better! The sauce had the perfect amount of spice, and they certainly didn’t skimp on the amount of sauce either. It was also a huge portion, which would be great for sharing. My boyfriend decided to go with the Enchilada of the Day, which was a meat lovers enchilada stuffed with Pork Belly, Chorizo, and Short Rib. I was a little bit worried because the dish only contained two enchiladas, and my boyfriend eats a lot, but he was thoroughly stuffed by the end of his meal.
Finally, we ended our meal with a sample of each of Babalu’s desserts. The platter contained a Dulce De Leche Cheesecake Bite, Cayenne Chocolate Truffle, Cinnamon Bread Pudding, and Tres Leches Cake. All four of these samples were amazing, but I think my favorite was the Cinnamon Bread Pudding. I also loved the unique spiciness of the Cayenne Chocolate Truffle.
Overall I was very impressed with our meal at Babalu. I know I’m the foodie here, but when you have a picky boyfriend who says he would drive to Chapel Hill to come back to Babalu…you know it’s good. Babalu is now open in Chapel Hill, and I personally can’t wait until they (hopefully) come to Raleigh!
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to an event or to try a restaurant or certain products. This meal or items are usually comped, as this was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.
Melissa Guido is currently a dietetic intern in the Triangle area. She studied nutrition at NC State and Meredith College. Her favorite part about nutrition is showing people that healthy food can be exciting and delicious. Melissa loves traveling and learning about how food fits into different cultures. In her free time she loves trying new restaurants, cooking, and obsessing over her dogs. Follow her on Instagram @made2order and at www.madeorder.wordpress.com.