Soccer, dancing, and food?that's one plausible recipe for a happy life, and Babaluu has supplied all three ingredients for the past two decades. The restaurant is a celebration of Latin America's favorite pastimes, from the complimentary salsa classes Wednesday through Sunday to the aji panca spices in the marinade for the Peruvian-style chicken. As international soccer plays on TV, bartenders blend margaritas and deftly remove the corks and tiny ships from wines from Argentina and Chile.
Babaluu's ambience and food changes throughout the week. On Wednesdays and Sundays, chefs fill a tapas menu with the likes of Colombian empanadas and fish tacos. In the days between, they serve more substantial entrees, such as beef tenderloin in a red-wine demi-glace. No matter the night (except Monday and Tuesday, when the restaurant is closed), the setting transforms at the strike of 10 p.m. The lights dim, the twinkle of candlelight flecks the stone and wood walls, and a house DJ spins tunes for Babaluu's signature After Dark event. Come at another time, and the special event might be a regional wine tasting.
At Label 7, fresh ingredients such as crisp shaved fennel and gruyere cheese garnish entrees inspired by the light, healthy cuisine of California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Wicker chairs flank tables in the softly lit indoor dining room. Oversized white flowerboxes stand guard along the perimeter of a canal-side patio, where a brigade of umbrellas shields patrons from splashing during nearby diners’ attempts to literally wade through the wine list.