Arts & Entertainment

Commentary: Share Some Plates During Restaurant Week at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!

Leslie Owen | The PhoenixChicago 13th annual Restaurant Week began on Jan. 24. The week-long event features more than 400 restaurants that will offer fixed prices for their meals in hopes to attract new diners to the culinary scene.

Chicago’s Restaurant Week kicked off Jan. 24 and more than 400 restaurants are participating. Running until Feb. 9, this city-wide event celebrates Chicago’s culinary scene, offering fixed-price menus that restaurants curate to showcase their food and attract diners.

Located in Lincoln Park, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! (2024 N. Halsted St.) is only a 10-minute trek from the North/Clybourn Red Line stop. The Spanish tapas restaurant serves authentic Spanish cuisine. 

This restaurant is offering brunch and dinner options during Chicago’s Restaurant Week. Spanish tapas are traditionally small-plate meals meant to be shared. While Spanish tapas were not the first fare that popped into my head when I thought of brunch, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! and its morning crowd proved this wrong.

On this particular morning, Cafe Ba-Ba Reeba! was packed with diners. As we were being led through the restaurant to our table, I noticed almost everyone seated seemed to be of the younger crowd. 

After arriving at our seats, we were offered the Restaurant Week menu. This consisted of drink choices, brunch tapas and dessert tapas. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! offered many drink choices, including a trip to the bloody Mary bar, a mimosa and sangria. Skipping over the drink choices, I was overwhelmed with how many food options I could choose from. Their Restaurant Week menu allowed us to choose two brunch tapas and one dessert tapas. 

Instantly, the sausage-fried paella rice and bacon mac and cheese caught my eye. Both dishes are interesting options for a morning meal, however, my waitress informed us that each menu item is tailored to be a brunch interpretation. 

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!’s dishes are bigger than what you would expect from a tapas restaurant. My friends and I each ordered different options and six substantial plates were placed in front of us. 

My first dish was the paella rice topped with a perfectly poached egg. When broken, the egg yolk covered the rice, making a savory addition to the brunch menu. While most might not choose to eat bacon mac and cheese before 11 a.m., I thought that it complimented the meal surprisingly well. There was just the right amount of cheese and crunch to the dish.

The Spanish cubano bocadillo consisted of juicy braised pork shoulder and mac and cheese sandwiched between an english muffin. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!’s breakfast interpretation of this classic sandwich is taken to another level with a side of potatoes. These potatoes were well-seasoned and almost outshine the sandwich. 

Even though I was stuffed from the brunch tapas I just had, the last course of the meal was ultimately my favorite. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! offered three dessert options for Restaurant Week —  chocolate truffle cake, natilla flan and a marcona almond-caramel bar. While the chocolate truffle cake and the marcona almond-caramel bar were delicious in their own way, the natilla flan stood out from the group. Natilla is a Spanish term for a custard dish made with milk and eggs. This sweet, creamy dessert had hints of cinnamon. The flan was a great way to top off the meal, ending on a not-too-overwhelming sweet note. 

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! provided a generous amount of food for an affordable price of $24. Shared among a group of people, there’s more than enough to go around. The fixed price offered through Restaurant Week at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! was $24. This included drink options, two choices for brunch tapas and one dessert tapa. For the Restaurant Week menu, curious foodies can over head to Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!’s website

To find more restaurant options for Chicago’s Restaurant Week, Choose Chicago’s website provides a comprehensive list of all participating venues.

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