Thursday, October 4, 2012

Babalú: Taste all of Latin America in one place!

I’ve always dreamed of riding a motorcycle through the roads of Latin America like Che Guevara did in his youth.  Unlike Che, I wouldn’t record the plight of peasants or tend to the sick and downtrodden: I’d be eating at every restaurant or food kiosk I could find! Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of going on a culinary version of “Motor Cycle Diaries”, but whenever I crave the myriad flavors of Latin America I ride the 6 train, arguably safer than a motorcycle, to Babalú.

Located in the Throggs Neck section of the South Bronx, Babalú is a beautiful restaurant with ample floor space; outdoor seating in the front (in warm weather); a fully stocked bar on the left; and 2 big screen televisions, which play “I Love Lucy” reruns, on the right.  Babalú’s tropical décor is reminiscent of most restaurants in the Caribbean and reminds me of La Mesa Cubana, my favorite restaurant in Cuba.

Babalú’s ambiance is energetic and fun, but unfortunately, the service was not up to par.  My server was inattentive, unfriendly and couldn’t answer any questions about the food. My only saving grace was the busboy, who bussed my table throughout the night.

As Gillberto Santa Rosa’s “Dejate Querer” played, my server brought me tortilla chips and Babalu’s three signature dipping sauces.   Served on three bowls in a small rectangular wooden box (very Latin American street food style), the signature dipping sauces are: Ajillo (A creamy garlic and cilantro sauce); Charred Tomato Salsa (Spicy diced tomatoes); and Piquillo Mojo (Roasted red peppers with diced tomatoes in a white wine vinegrette sauce). 

All three are delicious, but the Ajillo was truly the stand out sauce.  It was rich, creamy, and the cilantro added a very unique and refreshing taste. I devoured my portion and asked my intial server for another helping.  That night my garlic breathe could melt plastic.

As Celia Cruz’s “El Negro Bembon” played, I looked over the menu, which is divided into 12 sections: Frituras (Fried snacks from Latin America), Chicarrones (Cracklings), Patacones (Flattened out plantain sandwiches or pizzas), Ensaladas (Salads), Babalú BBQ (Assorted meat and seafood dishes), A La Plancha (Grilled meat dishes), Especialidades (Special dishes from all over Latin America), Escabeches (Seafood dishes), Tamales (Central and South American dish made of steamed corn meal wrapped in a banana leaves or corn husks), Pinchos (Skewers with different meat), and Chucherias (Side dishes like roasted potatoes and rice dishes).  For more menu information go to:

Intrigued by it all, I asked the busboy what he recommended and he rattled off a list of dishes he thought were good.  He highly recommended the Viguron salad, tamales and tacos. His menu knowledge and attitude were superb; I made sure to note that on the evaluation card given to me with my check.

As Eddie Palmieri’s “Ritmo Caliente” played, I decided to treat myself and ordered dishes from all over Latin America.  I took my busboy’s advice and ordered the Viguron Salad (Nicaragua), and a Yapingacho (Equador) for my appetizers.  For my entrée, I ordered the Tamal Cubano (Cuba, duh!), a Pincho de Camaron (Shrimp skewer from Puerto Rico), and Arroz con Gandules (Rice with green pigeon peas from Puerto Rico and La Republica Dominicana).

The Viguron Salad, which is curtido (chopped cabbage, carrots, citrus, vinegar and salt) and steamed yuca, was excellent.  The curtido was crunchy and had that wonderful bitter vinegar taste that makes it famous.  The steamed yuca, cooked with garlic, balanced the curtido very well.

The Yapingacho, a small potato ball dumpling filled with chorizo (spicy sausage), was soft, savory and delicious.  I highly recommend dipping the dumplings in the Ajillo sauce; the combination is incredible.

As my busboy cleared my dishes and grooved to Tito Nieves’ “I Like it like that”, I raved about the salad and complimented his taste.  He assured me the Tamal Cubano and my orders would be good.  He was right again!  The Tamal Cubano was moist and sweet; the pork filling was seasoned to perfection. 

The Pincho de Camaron was good, but a bit salty and strong.  It was cooked with a dry spice rub and seasoned with two sauces (Chipotle and Chimichurri), which slightly overpowered the shrimp. I would recommend ordering it without the sauces or with less dry rub.

The Arroz con Gandules was moist, fluffy and delicious.  Babalú’s version of this classic Puerto Rican/Dominican dish features red and green peppers and chorizo.  The chorizo, not a typical ingredient in the dish, gave it an extra kick of heat that made it unique and interesting.

After having a heavy dinner, dessert wasn’t an option, but the menu did pique my curiosity because it featured: Flan (typical Latin American custard with tropical fruit salad); Tres Leches (Puerto Rican Coquito with white chocolate mousse); Budin (bread pudding with raisins and vanilla ice cream); and Mixed berry crema catalana (mixed berries, caramel, and sweet cream).

With incredible Salsa and food, Babalú is an amazing culinary tour through Latin America.  So if you’re ready to take your taste buds on an adventure south of the border head to Babalú and start your “Motorcycle Diary!”  Go taste for yourself!

¡Buen provecho!


3233 East Tremont Avenue  
Bronx, NY 10461
(718) 824-8400


Lunch // Monday - Friday 11AM - 3PM
Brunch // Saturday & Sunday 11AM - 3PM
Dinner // Monday - Wednesday & Sunday 3PM - 11PM
Thursday - Saturday 3PM - 12 Midnight
Late Night Menu // Friday & Saturday 12 Midnight - 3AM
LOUNGE // Friday & Saturday 11PM - 4AM

ATMOSPHERE: Laid back and relaxed.


SOUND LEVEL: Conversational, with nice ambient music.




PRICE RANGE:  Huge menu

1 comment:

  1. Last Friday I went there for dinner for the first time. The dinner was great, however I wasn't able to get the two for one drinks at the table, because it was only offered at the bar. I ended up eating at the bar, because I was not able to bring my drinks back to the table. On top of that, after dinner I was trying to socialize with my family sitting right behind me at the bar, but was told that I couldn't stand there because I was in the way. Mind you the guy was rude, too! Then, I suggest Babalu not putt tables right in the middle, preventing customers from freely socializing! That evening, chairs and tables were removed. Get this! You can't sit and hangout at the tables by the wall, unless you buy a $100 bottle. Babalu has too many ridiculous rules! NOT AGAIN! See ya at Havanas next Friday!