Mississippi Taco and Tapas Joint Coming to the Short North
By Dan Eaton, Columbus Business First – June 20, 2017
There will be no shortage of taco choices in the Short North come 2018.
Jackson, Mississippi-based Babalu Tapas & Tacos is the latest fast-growing eatery to snatch up Short North space for a new restaurant.
The six-unit (for now) brand (website here) will take around 5,000 square feet at 900 N. High St. in the Elford Development project on the old United Dairy Farmers site. It is expected to open next year.
“We looked at about three or four areas and (the Short North) really caught my eye,” co-founder and President Bill Latham told me Tuesday. “I’d never been to Columbus until we looked at the site. It reminded me a lot of Nashville.”
That Tennessee city is another expansion target for Babalu, which just opened a second restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee. It will open in Atlanta in the coming weeks and has sites lined up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Lexington, Kentucky.
Latham also got some local encouragement.
“I called Cameron Mitchell and told him we were thinking about the Short North,” he said. “He gave it the thumbs up.”
The Columbus-based restaurant operator knows the neighborhood well with three restaurants open and several more in the works.
The Babalu group didn’t have to be sold too hard. Latham said that in addition to being a good market for restaurants, the fact that it is a growing metropolitan area made it a good expansion target.
Though Babalu has only been around since 2010, Latham and co-founder Al Roberts have worked together since the 1980s and have started, operated and sold numerous restaurants. Eat Here Brands LLC, their current company, also owns Table 100 Restaurant & Bar in Flowood, Mississippi, and Interim Restaurant & Bar in Memphis.
Babalu — named for a song Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) sang on I Love Lucy— does do tacos, but it isn’t just a taco joint. The tapas portion of the menu includes crab cakes, chicken satay, shrimp and grits and assorted fish options. The varied selections include chicken wings, a burger and roasted potatoes with a teriyaki glaze too.
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