I remember reading one of those “Best Places to Live” pieces stating that Santa Fe has one of the highest restaurant to capita ratios in the county. The “city different” loves its eats. But despite the volume of restaurants, there’s always an infectious buzz around news of a new place opening.
The possibility of new flavors and experiences in a new place is irresistible – especially in a 400 year old city, where so much of the local heritage and aesthetic is based on tradition (that is – things that stay the same).
I’m personally especially giddy when the new menu offers cuisine otherwise unavailable here. (Santa Fe has a tragic dearth of great southeast asian food, but that’s for another post altogether).
Suffice to say, I was thrilled when Local Flavor sent me out to cover a new Cuban restaurant called Babaluu’s way out on Highway 14, nearly midway between Santa Fe and Madrid.
The location is classic idiosyncratic, Santa Fe style. My hunch is that it used to be a ranch house – mostly because it’s farming territory out there – just a mile or two from the San Marcos Feed Store, and across from the only landmark most of us know out there – the Lonne Butte General Store. It doesn’t get much more semi-rural authentic – so much so that half the building is in use as a location for the Longmire TV series currently filming around Santa Fe.
I think it used to be a hamburger joint, and before that, another restaurant of indeterminate food type – basically one of those locations that is so far out there, it never quite survives the ebbs and flows of restaurant traffic. But Babaluu’s is clearly about to buck that trend.
Chef Amaury Torres fled his native Cuba on a homemade raft nearly 20 years ago, and retains his love for his country’s culture and flavors with the menu at Babaluu. He was classically trained in Portland, where he met his exuberant wife, Mary Kline. Their first foray to New Mexico was a few years ago, to run a short-lived Cuban sandwich joint in Madrid. The Tocororo Cafe didn’t last, but of course, the draw of New Mexico did.
They eventually found their current location and now they’re luring diners by the dozens down Highway 14. They’ve got the local Cuban band Savor performing on the dance platform on the weekends, when they serve dinner menus that are custom designed weekly. It’s vibrant and delicious. I’ve already been back twice, and looking forward to the next time…