The restaurant's name comes from Ricky Ricardo – the fictional character played by Desi Arnaz in the TV sitcom I Love Lucy – whose signature song was "Babalu." Old I Love Lucy videos play on the TV screens inside the restaurant, but don't expect to hear any of the audio. The restaurant is loud most of the time, and even raucous, on weekend evenings.
Yes, this cavernous new dining spot has taken Overton Square by storm, both for its food and its festive atmosphere.
The patio at Babalu, in a rare moment of underuse — Photo courtesy of Memphis CVB
Babalu is basically one giant open room, with booths along one wall and tables that can be reconfigured to accommodate a crowd throughout the restaurant. The bar takes up almost the entire west wall, and there's counter seating there, too.
The bar has a rolling door – ta-da! – that opens to the patio, so patrons outside can belly up for a craft cocktail while they wait for a table. A smattering of cocktail high-tops and lounge-y furniture fill the patio: when it's busy, even those are under the control of the hostess up front.
So, to the tacos and tapas portion of the name.
Yes, there are tacos, loads of 'em. They're served up on small blue corn tortillas and filled with everything from pork belly to fried oysters to lamb to fish of the day. All feature a different, lip-smacking slaw on top; tacos are served up three to a plate.
Alligator tacos, a recent daily taco special at Babalu — Photo courtesy of Babalu Tacos & Tapas
Yes, there are tapas, the small plates you find all over Spain. But unlike the Spanish versions – with the exception of the patatas bravas on the "Sides to Share" portion of the menu – you won't find any of their offerings at a Spanish tapas bar: steak on a stick, garlic shrimp and grits and Mississippi tamales are just a few of the tapas offered.
No visit would be complete without the guacamole, made right at your table and to your specifications. Add or subtract whatever you want. Add the bacon, which is seriously to die for.
And there's so much more on the menu than tacos and tapas. There's a killer hamburger and other bar food, a huge list of sipping tequilas and fizzy and creative cocktails. Regardless of what you're drinking, the food is really, truly meant to be shared. Even if you order up a storm, you may feel compelled to order a second Baba Burger for the table: it's that good.