sum up: The little sister to Blind Pig Bistro is big-time tasty. With fewer dishes than the number of fingers on your hand, Chef Charles Walpole proves that less can be more. Think bar snacks on culinary crack; food as hip and vibrant as graffiti with the technique of fine art. Named after a breed of pig, Babirusa is a rare oasis in Eastlake’s dining desert.
looks: Red walls and black wainscoting spruce up the strip mall space. An open kitchen hums as the hip hop soundtrack thumps. The small chalkboard menu rotates daily, but, like songs on a Pandora playlist, popular dishes return regularly. Though the décor is simple, Babirusa’s beauty lies in the artistically-plated fare.
ambiance: With only 23 seats, half of which are at the bar, Babirusa is as cozy as a dinner party. The affable staff contribute to this familial feel; you can add to the revelry by buying the kitchen beers for $5, my favorite, new menu trend.
Rhubarb-lovers will swoon for Rye or Reason: Overholt Rye, Zucca (rhubarb-based amaro), and rhubarb bitters.
The classic pub snack gets a brilliant beet bath. Paired with pickled beets and a mustard swoosh, these deviled eggs are divine.
Instead of using pork skin, a la traditional cracklins’, chunks of juicy pork are flash-fried to make for a succulent snack. Befitting Babirusa's porcine name, these pork nuggets are so phenom you'll want to get an order per person to prevent table tussles.
This winter classic is a clean, crunchy and fresh compliment to the richer dishes. Upon eating, my dining mate, Robin, aptly coos, "I could eat this everyday." Indeed.
Sometimes, unfamiliar flavor combos fall flat. In this case, the unique mix of smoked char, farro, and carrots hits a home run o’ taste. A favorite of the night.
Each bite of this Painted Hills burger delights with a smoky eggplant caponata, salsa verde, and caramelized onions. I dig the burger's respectable size, which leaves us room to savor the small plates instead of stuffing us sick. The fried potatoes are wonderfully fluffy and crisp; I could take a bath in the garlic aioli.
This bacon & liver slab is as hefty and luscious as a French pâté de campagne. Served with homemade lavash, the crispy bread gives good crunch while being less filling than a baguette.
In this Cajun classic, perfectly charred shrimp gets dunked in a cayenne-spiked broth. Love the addition of the South’s prized nut, the pecan.
Wonderfully tangy goat cheese panna cotta goes great with a buttery, pecan crumble, plus it's gluten free to boot. Save room for dessert - only one option per night means you can save the stress of choosing, too!