Have you ever tried Spanish tapas? You should.
I say this as someone who, after trying tapas last month when we were in D.C., liked them so much that I was perfectly satisfied to have them again the next two nights. (And we did.) Also, since I’m making commands, here’s another for those of you in Chicago: when you’re in Lincoln Park, you really ought to visit Café Ba-Ba-Reeba.
See, tapas are perfect for people like me, who like to try many new things but might not have the stomach capacity to try a lot of each of those new things. Essentially, tapas are small plates, like appetizers: reduced portions that allow you to order a little of this, a little of that, sharing them all at the table, dipping your bread and taking spoonfuls of side dishes to your dish. You get the opportunity to taste not just one entrée but lots of little ones: it is grazing at its best.
As for Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, I first heard of it when I was going to school in Lincoln Park, then later when my brother visited with a friend and told me about it, and again when @CafeBaBaReeba started following me on Twitter. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I actually stepped inside. At around 9:30 PM on a Saturday. Because the wait that night was over an hour, we ended up at nearby Nookies instead, which, by the way, is a great place for diner food on the weekends, since it’s open 24/7 on Fridays and Saturdays. But this last Saturday night, we had the chance to try Ba-Ba-Reeba again, this time with reservations made through OpenTable.com, which was a very good thing since the place was jam-packed just like before.
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba is part of the Lettuce Entertain You chain of restaurants, which includes popular Chicago destinations like Maggiano’s, Mon Ami Gabi, Big Bowl, Wildfire and Shaw’s Crab House. It provides a fun, crowded atmosphere that’s great for big parties: this weekend, there were at least three bachelorette/wedding groups, as well as many crowded tables, and a week earlier, when we didn’t stay, I heard a woman raving to the manager about how fantastic her friend’s 40th birthday dinner had gone. (Although, full disclosure, she was a little tipsy, so it could have been the sangria talking.)
Here are the small plates we tried: chicken curry salad made with sweet red grapes and spices reminiscent of Indian food; crispy spicy potatoes with sun-dried tomato alioli; baked goat cheese with tomato sauce and little toasts; sweet bacon-wrapped dates in a lovely apple vinaigrette; and, for dessert, a marcona caramel tart that was better than any pastry and a tiny dish of almond sorbet with amaretto.
On the down side, Ba-Ba-Reeba is loud (!), and there are just two single-person bathrooms, one for men and one for women, set right between the kitchen and wherever they take out trash, which is awkward when you’re waiting in line.
But on the plus side: the food! the variety! the experience! I liked it enough that I’m willing to post about it, even with these photos taken in dim lighting.
And when we walked outside afterward, the air still bright with daylight and the summer air turning slightly cooler, it was slowly, happily and with satisfaction.
2024 N. Halsted
Chicago, IL 60614
ph. (773) 935-5000