Location: 2024 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60614
A Quick Word:
There aren't many restaurants that fill up night after night, time slot after time slot. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba is one of those restaurants. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, this tapas-style restaurant features many classic Spanish dishes, as well as their own creative takes on tapas. My girlfriend really enjoys eating here because you can try several dishes without spending a fortune. Some of their highly recommended dishes are listed below, and honestly, I would recommend just about every one I tried... they were all that good. One dish not to miss is the goat cheese in tomato sauce. The atmosphere is a little loud, but everyone is just having a good time. They have great sangria and a pretty extensive cocktail list. Their desserts are smaller, so it is possible to try them all. The staff is very attentive and they don't rush you at all (despite being swamped and people waiting). I rated it at 4.5-miles and I hope to frequent this Chicago favorite several more times in the near future!
What We Ate:
67. datiles con tocino
I think it was at least five years ago when bacon wrapped dates began being offered at more and more restaurants. And, if a place has them, I usually order the dish. Some are stuffed with strong cheeses, others with meat, but at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, they keep it simple. Their dish consists of a date wrapped in bacon and served in an apple vinaigrette. The dish comes with seven dates served in a small ramekin. The dates are perfect size because you get both the sweetness of the date without overwhelming the savory and crunchy bacon. I will say, that "apple vinaigrette" was more of an apple oil. It seemed way too oily, but that would never prevent me from ordering the dish. Simple and delicious. Highly recommended.
32. queso de cabra al horno
I happen to love goat cheese and any dip that includes it. Here, this dish is made up of a hot tomato sauce surrounding a huge chunk of creamy goat cheese. It is served with several slices of a toasted baguette basted in a basil butter. They are not stingy with the size of this dish. There is plenty of cheese and tomato sauce to cover all of the slices, and I even used the free bread to dip into the tasty creation. There is a heavy basil flavor throughout, but that sharp cheese breaks up the flavor. If you listen to me on any dishes, definitely order this one.
51. costillas de buey a la riojana
My girlfriend recommended ordering the short ribs. And I was glad she did. The dish comes with a sizable short rib that has been braised for quite some time. The tenderness shows that. It is served with manchego mashed potatoes, grilled onions, brussel sprouts, and ripened red jalapeños. The entire dish was incredible. A rich, tender chunk of meat literally breaks apart with the lightest touch of your fork. The mashed potatoes were cheesy enough, yet not overwhelming. I suggest eating a bite of the short rib with a piece of onion, a dollop of mashed potatoes, and one of those jalapeños. The depth of flavor is indescribable. And, don't worry, the jalapeño is not spicy... being red and ripe mellows them out and more of a sweet undertone is experienced.
46. vieras saltiadas, vinagreta de jamon iberico
Rather than ordering their recommended shrimp dish, we decided to try something new. We ordered dish 46 which was seared bay scallops cooked with an iberico ham vinaigrette. Lightly roasted scallions divided the plate into three sections. Once again, I was confused with the term vinaigrette. The entire dish was oily in a similar way to the bacon wrapped dates. I will say, the scallops were cooked well and had a slight meat flavor to them, most likely from that ham. This dish was just OK in my books. Probably will switch it up next time I dine here.
One reason I enjoy eating at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba is their tapas-sized and tapas-priced desserts. This allows us to order more than one dessert, especially at $3 a piece. For the first dessert, I chose the caramelized banana. It was served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, toasted pistachios, and a quince syrup. We both enjoyed the dessert, but didn't love it. The banana had been lightly caramelized with sugar before being covered in a rich caramel sauce. The ice cream had a strong vanilla bean flavor to it. Unfortunately, I didn't think the pistachio or quince syrup had any real impact on the dessert. Also, I believe the banana should have been served warm. It would have made the dessert significantly better.
Once again, at $3, how could we not order another dessert. Her choice was the mango sorbet. It is made in house and comes with three small scoops. We both really liked this dessert. The only flavor you taste is mango, which is what you expect in a sorbet. I liked how it was too watery and nothing else was served with it to mask the flavor of the fruit. This would have been enough for dessert and if I had to choose, I would have stuck with just this one.
- This place is all about sharing. So share!
- 2-3 tapas per person is a great number to start with. Remember, you can always order more as the meal progresses.
- Do make reservations. This place was packed even on a Sunday night. I even find reservations hard to get on weekdays. I suggest reserving at least 2 weeks in advance for those popular dinner times.
- Don't order the Patatas Bravas. These are their signature spicy potatoes, which in my opinion, are only fillers. They aren't anything special and aren't even spicy in my opinion.
How far would I walk for this food?