Snazzy, jazzy Babalú


Here’s the situation. You and your boyfriend or girl, husband or wife—whoever—have just had a nice time at, say, the movies. You’re not ready to call it a night, you want to wind things up with a very nice time, but you’re also not prepared to spend an arm and a leg to go someplace. Well, if you’re downtown Minneapolis you’re pretty much out of luck—especially if you bought any snacks at the movie and found yourself spending more at the concession stand than it cost to get in. There you stand, in the pleasant night air, about to resign yourselves to simply going on your way. Then, faster than a caped crusader to the rescue, Babalú’s got your back as you realize that right over in the nearby Warehouse District is the perfect snazzy, jazzy nightclub to suit your needs.

Babalú is at 800 Washington Ave N., Minneapolis. Phone: (612) 746-3158. Reservations aren’t required. They are, however, a good idea, as plenty of other people already know what you’ve just found out about this place.

The minute you set foot in the door, you know you’ve come to the right place—that is, if you like Latin jazz and good grub in a gorgeously romantic setting. It’s decked out like more someone’s nattily appointed living room than anybody’s club, with sizeable, cushy chairs, love seats, and sofas. That’s in the front, where you lounge in low-lit comfort, hoisting a glass of whatever, digging on the band. And they get top-flight entertainment. When R&B superstars Mint Condition aren’t gallivanting around the map, their spin-off unit Joto has been known to set up at Babalu on a weekly basis. Just recently, premier bassist Yohannes Tona did month-long stints there. Just past the lounge is an expansive array of linen-covered tables attended by expert, courteous staff. You’re close enough to see the band and hear the music, but far enough away to run your mouth without disturbing anyone.

Reflecting Spanish, Mexican, and Caribbean cultures, Babalú’s menu features a variety of tapas, family-recipe appetizers, house specialties, and desserts that will have your taste buds thinking they died and went to heaven. It’s an extensive menu, but it’s easy to navigate and features tropical specialties from “Mar y Tierra”: “Churrasco Argentino”, Cuban-style “Vaca Frita,” “Huachinango a la Veracruzana,” “Paella Valenciana,” and a whole bunch of other stuff that’s easier to eat than it is to pronounce. Here’s the even better news: drinks (for instance, a goblet of good cognac’s only $5) and dinner prices are not designed to put you in the poor house. Entrée options start at $14.95 and range from chicken and game to seafood, steak, or pork. Babalú’s instituted, as of late, a cover charge ($5 during the week, $10 on the weekend), probably because it’s become a real popular spot. To get a better deal for your entertainment dollar, you’ll have to go to McBurger Thing and bring your iPod.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet.