This past weekend was the Golden Birthday celebration of Courtney, one of my closest friends. We wanted to make the weekend special so her sister, Nicki, and I took her to the ballet, followed by a Lincoln Park restaurant called Café Ba-ba-reeba. When Nicki told me we should find a tapas place… I thought oh Mylanta… what are tapas? I was nervous but asked my Chicago native roommate for a good tapas place anyway. Café Ba-ba-reeba was what came to mind.
We got to the restaurant about five minutes before our 5 PM reservation. After waiting for about 5-10 minutes, we were seated at the back of the restaurant in a room that hosted six tables, which made the atmosphere quiet and relaxing.
We took our seats and were greeted rather promptly. We were given a brief introduction to the menu, specials and waiter favorites. Turns out that tapas are simply small plates of food that the table shares. I like to compare it to family style eating. For every dish you can use a new tiny plate and don’t worry, with a stack of about 10-15 plates on the table at any time, you won’t run out!
The three of us were then left with an extensive, two-sided, menu. One side was devoted solely to beverages. None of us are big drinkers so I can’t attest to much on that side. They did have tasty water and kept our glasses filled! Trust me; this is a huge deal to us. We like water!
The other side was for food and was broken down by cheese and bread, pork and chicken, seafood and beef and lamb. Courtney loves tapas and had been to Café Ba-ba-reeba before, so she had some suggestions. We selected four dishes to start.
What I liked is that they bring the plates out as they are ready. There is no waiting for everyone’s food to be ready to start eating. Think of the friend who always has to order the steak that takes forever to cook! The first dish that came out, and quite possibly one of my favorites was #27 Ensalada de Patatas Con Alioli (Garlic Potato Salad). It was delightful.
The salad, as you may have guessed, is served cold. The potatoes are tossed in a delicious garlic aioli. Alioli is a type of homemade mayonnaise, that to put it in the easiest terms, is to die for!
After that, we were served one of Courtney’s favorites, #32 Queso de Cabra al Horno (Goat Cheese Baked in Tomato Sauce). It was my first time trying goat cheese (who knew it was creamy!) and I’m not a huge fan of tomato sauce so it wasn’t my favorite dish. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but with so many menu options, I don’t think I would get it again.
Then came #29 Tortilla Espanola (Warm Potato and Onion Omellete). This was definitely the other favorite. I never realized how much I loved potatoes! I can’t believe something so simple was so good. It came out in one patty and we cut it into thirds.
While Nicki did not care for this one as much as the other tapas, I was in heaven. It is potatoes, onions, eggs, and oil all cooked together in one patty. It had a taste similar to a hash brown, but so much better. I highly recommend trying this dish, and unlike #32, I will get this probably every time I eat at Café Ba-ba-reeba.
After the tortilla, we were feeling rough and full but the journey went on. As Courtney said, if you keep eating fast, your brain won’t register that you’re full yet. As I started wondering how I was going to fit another bite, #62 Empanada de Pollo (Roasted Chicken Empanada) was delivered to the table. The crust of the empanada was flaky heaven. The filling was good, reminiscent of a chicken pot pie. I ate my small portion as it was pretty scrumptious, however, I don’t know if I will order this again. I’d like to try other items on the menu.
Then came an item we had all been waiting for which was the Paella con Pollo y Verduras, or Chicken Paella. Boy, do I love rice! Mix in some vegetables and chicken cooked to perfection and you have Paella.
Warning, serving sizes are large and there is a minimum of two servings to order Paella but it is worth it. It reheats well so leftovers are no issue here. I highly recommend the Paella. Even though I was about as full as a human can get, I still made room for this tasteful dish.
We completed the evening by checking into Café Ba-ba-reeba on facebook for a free dessert. We got a chocolate truffle cake to share. It came out and was a bit smaller than expected but after filling up on tapas, it was just the taste we needed. And at only $3, if we had to pay for it, the cake was well worth it.
All in all, I suggest making reservations and getting a bite at Café Ba-ba-reeba sometime. There is something on the menu for everyone including vegetarians, gluten-free diets, picky eaters (ahem myself) and more. Try it out and let me know what you think!
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