Several years ago, when I was still in college at ole Northwestern, my parents took me to eat at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba on one of their visits. I appreciated it then, as much as I could with my 19 year-old-palate, but I've been itching to go back ever since I moved "downtown" (read: south of Evanston), especially since its literally right down the street from my apartment. So when my friend Laurel said she was free for dinner last Wednesday night, the choice of where to go was clear.
Cafe Ba Ba Reeba had all the Spanish charm and atmosphere I remembered from my visit four years ago. At 7pm, the place was beginning to fill up with the Lincoln Park post-work dinner crowd, and the bar was already serving up Sangria and mojitos to happy hour revelers. The intricate decor of the place, especially the painted tile floors and colorful wall decorations, really adds to the authenticity of the experience, as does the dim, deep orange lighting.
Laurel and I were seated at a table in the back room, where we promptly began scrutinizing our menus. I love Tapas because everything comes in small portions, allowing you to taste many different flavors and dishes all in one meal. After much pondering, Laurel and I decided to skip the cold tapas, and choose five different hot dishes... and of course, a half-pitcher of the most LOVELY Sangria (pictured above). Here are some of our selections:
Patatas Bravas (Spicy Roasted Potatoes with Tomato Alioli)
Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Red Pepper Flakes)
(Seared Sea Scallops with Rasins, Couscous, Pesto & Pinenuts)
And for dessert, we had a mini "Platano al Caramelo": caramalized banana topped with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with what I think were crushed macadamia nuts. It was the PERFECT little morsel of a dessert. And I've gotta say, I always forget how well vanilla, bananas, and caramel go together-- and I'm pleasantly reminded every time I taste it! All in all, it was a LOVELY meal, and only came out to about $25 per person, which is pretty good considering all of the food and wine we got! I'll definitely plan to go back, probably when the weather is much warmer and they've got the outdoor patio open. A warm summer night, under the stars-- yeah, I think those times are when the place REALLY begins to feel like Spain.