My coworkers have an obsession with Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! So I was shocked when I saw that the brunch review on Bitches Who Brunch in 2016 did not reflect the hype. This tapas restaurant is always packed to the brim and people seem to love it. So I decided there was only one thing to do. It was time for a re-review.
The restaurant kindly agreed to host me and my friend Jess for round two.
We went on a gross, rainy day and the restaurant was still bustling with people. There was a traffic jam of people trying to get out of the rain and to the front of the host stand. Definitely make reservations if you have a group.
The restaurant is shockingly expansive, with twists and turns and separate rooms. It sprawls much more than I thought, based on the storefront. It has a dark, pub-like feel to it, which on a rainy day was ideal. We were seated in a back corner. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! can be noisy, which is something to keep in mind if that’s something that will bother any of your brunch companions.
Jess and I were happy to read the menu in compatible silence and decide what to split. Our waitress warned us to order one to two plates per person. We put our order in for everything, and the waitstaff nicely staggered our plates so food kept coming.
Though I’m usually a mimosa girl through and through, the bloody Mary bar looked too good to pass up. Jess and I both ordered a glass of Tito’s vodka and made our way to the bar to build our creations. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!’s extensive DIY station for bloody Marys has three base options, gazpacho, an organic tomato, and a spicy one, labeled ‘torpedo juice.’ I went with the spicy one, though it was not off-the-charts spicy. Then I added shrimp, bacon, cocktail onions, beef broth, lime juice, a full pickle spear, and some green olives. Jess and I joked that we could have skipped entrées and just made a meal out of our drinks. There were even more options, but my glass was full and I returned to our table.
We started with the deviled eggs. If you order this dish, please bear in mind that each order is one egg half, so it’s hard to share. We ordered two. They’re filled with a whipped yolk and topped with crispy ham bites. While hard boiled eggs can be divisive, we were united in our love for this dish.
Before we had even finished admiring our eggs, our second and third tapas appeared. We had the bacon mac and cheese alongside the sausage-fried paella with a poached egg.
We were disappointed the bacon mac and cheese was topped with two long strips of bacon, instead of the meat incorporated throughout. While it was tasty, unless you’re dining with kids or picky eaters, you can find better, more authentic options on the extensive menu.
The chefs brought serious depth of flavor to the sausage-fried paella. The peas provided a burst of freshness into the savory rice dish. I’d put this dish on the must-order list, and it quickly made its way to the top of our favorites.
Before coming to Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!, my coworker Megan exalted the potatoes at this restaurant. She booked her birthday dinner here, simply so she could have the “patatas bravas.” Jess and I ordered a side of them to share, and I immediately understood why Megan was obsessed with these potatoes. They come with a tomato aioli for dipping that is bright and acidic, mellowing out the spicy potatoes.
Next we went off the brunch menu to try the burrata with Catalan tomato bread. I have a love affair with burrata, and the combination of crunchy toast, tart tomatoes, and creamy cheese was excellent. While I wouldn’t insist on having it for brunch again, I would get a group of friends together after work for wine and this cheese plate.
For a healthy palate cleanser, we split the Brussels sprout salad with almonds and Manchego cheese. After Joe’s Imports transformed celery into a great salad, I had high hopes for what Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! could do with shaved Brussels. Unfortunately, the salad was dry and lackluster. You can go ahead and skip this in favor of other dishes that pack more punch.
Our last dish was the citrus French toast. It was plated beautifully and had two thick slices of bread topped with powdered sugar and honey drizzle, a stack of fresh berries, and a goat cheese butter spread. It was the ideal dish to end on because it tasted like dessert without being overpoweringly sweet. Also, goat cheese butter should be mass marketed and sold in stores if it’s not already. I immediately started a list of everything I could put it on… bagels, pasta, green beans, butternut squash…
All in all, I definitely suggest sticking to the recommended one to two plates per person. We were both uncomfortably full by the end of the meal, and suffered from our eyes being bigger than our stomachs. Ultimately, the bloody Mary full of accoutrements proved to be too much food on top of the tapas we ordered, and neither of us finished them. If you’re planning a big brunch, perhaps look at the enticing sangria collection.
The Bitches Say: Four Champagne Flutes
It’s easy to see why Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! is so popular. Good food, a lively atmosphere, and strong drinks. Gather a group and split the more traditional tapas options and a carafe or two of sangria.
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! serves brunch Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.