Babalu Tacos and Tapas taps into Kentucky taste buds

Opening day of the Babalu Tapas and Tacos restaurant at the Summit at Fritz Farm on Monday, October 23, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo By Genna Melendez | Staff

Noah Oldham

Babalu Tacos and Tapas—try saying that five times fast— is getting ready to serve up appetizers with a Spanish flair at a new location in the Summit at Fritz Farm.

Bill Latham and Al Roberts founded the first Babalu restaurant in 2010 in Jackson, Mississipi.

“Tapas are really where the industry is headed right now, or as we like to call it, small plates,” Roberts said. “There was really nothing in our neck of the woods here that even compared to that.” And so, Roberts and Latham created Babalu, a tacos and tapas restaurant with both Southeastern and Latin cuisine influences.

“It’s totally different than anything we’ve done before,” Latham said. “It’s very casual; we’ve got small plates with a southern flair.”

Some of that southern flair comes from Babalu’s locally sourced, made-from-scratch food and cocktails. Roberts explained that Babalu is registered with Kentucky Proud, an organization promoting foods grown and processed in Kentucky.

According to the owners, guests can expect a vibrant and active atmosphere. The kitchen is open so guests can watch the chefs cook their meal.

“There’s nothing boring about a Babalu restaurant,” Roberts said.

Aaron Watson is the Executive Chef of Babalu in Lexington. Roberts described Watson as “very talented and energetic.” Roberts said that Watson is outgoing with the public and enjoys going to tables and talking about their food.

“He was very emphatic about working with local suppliers,” Roberts said.

According to Roberts, Watson was instrumental in Babalu’s involvement in Kentucky Proud.

When it comes to what dishes you need to try, Latham recommended several dishes including the Costilla taco, which comes with braised short rib, the Carne de Cerdo taco made with smoked pork belly and the Baba Burger. Roberts recommended the guacamole and queso with chips, the yellowfin ceviche and the Baba-Rita. 

Babalu opened its doors Monday, joining the Summit at Fritz Farm’s growing list of high-end shopping and dining. Try it yourself and find out if the food is as interesting of a mouthful as the name.