February 27, 2024

Opinion: Babalu Tacos & Tapas brings Mexican flair to the Scruffy City

EIC, Jessica Carr, continues her food blog from last semester with her review of the fairly new restaurant on S. Gay Street Babalu Tacos & Tapas.

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What even is tapas–you might ask yourself. Well, tapas is a word to describe small plates of culinary deliciousness. It is a way for foodies to experience multiple flavor combinations without spending too much money.

My friends and I decided to try Babalu located on S. Gay Street just before we caught a late night showing of “Hail, Ceasar!” It was a Friday night so, as you can imagine the wait was about 30-45 minutes. Babalu was filled to the brim with young and old people alike waiting for food that featured Mexican flair.

Babalu is located on S. Gay Street in Knoxville, Tenn.
Babalu is located on S. Gay Street in Knoxville, Tenn.//Photo by Jessy Alva

Once we were seated we were told that the menu featured tapas that we could all share and sides that we could all share as well. Some of my friends decided to go the tapas sharing route and some did not. It really depends on whom you dine with when you eat here. Personally, the tapas route is a gamble because you might not like what others order and then you have to share your dish with them (which you might really like). This happened to me when I had to fork over my filet on a stick featuring cubed potatoes and broccolini. I enjoyed the other two small plates–crusted seared tuna and chicken satay–but I loved mine so much that I immediately felt sad when I had to give it away.

However, learning to share is a part of life. I really enjoyed the experience of sharing small plates with my friends. It was a lovely bonding experience that you couldn’t really get at all restaurants. We also got to share some tableside guacamole. It was cool to see them make it in front of us and my friends 0000 and ahh’d the whole time. We also got a surprise plate of fries that we were mistakenly given. It was a pleasant surprise and I kid you not, one of my friends ordered Mexican street corn, but when the manager brought it over he said, “Did you guys order these fries?” We replied no because we didn’t want to take another table’s fries again. Come to find out he was actually holding the corn that she had ordered. It was a funny mix-up and they took the corn off my friend’s check since she never actually got it. What I gathered was that the staff at Babalu were incredibly nice and maybe a little sleep deprived. Our waitress quickly apologized for any inconvenience and we still all had a great meal with some free fries.

Filet on a stick small plate paired with broccolini and cubed potatoes.//Photo by Jessica Carr
Filet on a stick small plate paired with broccolini and cubed potatoes.//Photo by Jessica Carr

Babalu also features an awesome cocktail menu with signature margaritas and my personal new favorite the strawberry martinez which consists of house-infused strawberry tequila, fresh-squeezed sour mix, triple sec, agave nectar and salt foam.

So, if you are looking for a good time with friends and you are willing to not only share, but spend a little extra money then, Babalu Tacos & Tapas is the next spot for you.

Score: 17/20

Ambiance-5

Food-4

Presentation-5

Price-3

Babalu Tacos & Tapas is located at 412 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902

Jessica Carr is a senior majoring in journalism and electronic media at UT. She is an independent food blogger. You can check out her blog by clicking here.

Featured Image by Jessy Alva

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