If there’s one thing I missed being away for so many years, its Southern hospitality. And, yesterday, two friendly young ladies helped bring back some of that by guiding me to a place I’d never been before: The Babalu Tacos & Tapas restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi.
I was told the crab cakes and margaritas are “to die for” and that the restaurants located in a super hip area called the Fondren District with lots of creative people, a place that I’d definitely fall in love with and feel at home again.
So, away I went bouncing down the pothole-ridden streets of Jackson like on some kind of special mission to “find my people” or something…
A few minutes later I was smack dab in the heart of Jackson in the Fondren. One of several historic areas in the US that’s made a major come back from earlier days of roaming streetwalkers, drug dealers and thugs, the Fondren District is special. It’s an artsy-tartsy-creative place that’s alive, full of soul and deep-rooted with history. An area where voices of the past can be heard once again through the hard work of dedicated citizens with a cause to revitalize what once was.
The Babalu is located in an old school building, its façade overflowing with character. Approaching the entrance I thought to myself, “I’m hungry and this could be the perfect medicine to ease my suffering”.
As soon as the door opened, I was greeted by Ms. Kila Mae, her friendly personality gleaming through a Southern “twang.”
And, while still holding a straight face from the humbleness of it all, my eyes began to scan the open air layout of this cool and unusual place, taking it all in…
With a light industrial ambience, a friendly staff and aromatics from the kitchen that would get anyones attention, I just had a gut feeling that this would be a memory of a lifetime.
From the moment the waiter placed the scrumptious Crab Cakes and Margarita on the table, I realized that Babalu is an institution of originality with a passion of excellence that Chef Ferris and owners Bill Latham & Al Roberts have created from their love of food, one that will hopefully continue for generations to come.
During the week from 4:00-6:00 pm is happy hour, so I sampled the Pescado of the day, a grilled black drum with smoked corn & black bean salsa, poblano vinaigrette and radish…
And, I also sampled the Barbacoa, a braised beef short rib, horseradish crema with pickled red onion and micro-cilantro. In my little heaven floating above the table in Babalu Utopia, I silently thanked the two strangers whom guided me here.
Distinct flavors from each item, pared with a tasty hand-made margarita, simply complimented what already existed: An original, healthy-creative awesome meal that will absolutely keep me coming back for more and telling the world about!
Check out Babalu for daily specials Monday-Friday 4:00-6:00 pm-$2.00 tacos & $5.00 house margaritas
622 Duling Ave Jackson, MS 39216
“Click” on one of the Gallery photos below to enlarge.
Yesterday, I took the bus from Sun-Coast Hotel & Casino thirty minutes away from the strip, to yet another “traveling on a budget” adventure, to check out some cool and weird destinations around downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. Little did I know Booze, a Dog and a Tongue would be the guiding force…
The one hour bus ride through the Vegas concrete jungle was a perfect excuse to stop at a great watering hole in the shopping center of Aria Hotel & Casino downtown. The stout (I think it was), stronger than braided horse hair, brought me into a wobbling hypnotic state in a very short time…
And, near the brink of hallucinating, I staggered down multiple hallways in a casino where tripped out carpet and other weird things on the walls and ceiling had my head spinning.
Turning the corner of the hallway, my eyes squinted, because suddenly, there was a pack of dogs sitting in a circle and chatting.
Bizarre as it sounds, I listened carefully. The leader, Lord Dog, spoke softly to the others then, suddenly turned toward me and said-LICK!
Instantly I darted away from the pack terrified and within moments everything around me began to change. It was like running through Alice and Wonderland, an Adult Disney Land of sorts. I think the Lord Dog put a “Mo Jo” on me.
The hallway I was running down was actually the back of a giant prehistoric dinosaur looking thing. And, there was water flowing between all of its scales as I hopped between them like crisscrossing a river.
Staring into the imaginary sky I heard music in the distance. What seemed far away was a flower garden, with an array of colors, butterflies and birds, music drumming into my ears from ancient tribes before the time of man.
Floating through the garden, I began to think about Lord Dog and the meaning of the word LICK?
Suddenly, it hit me!
Should I be fearful of this for crying out loud? NO, Lord Dog seemed like an old soul! I should take a chance. Hungry, I devoured everything I put my lips on. And, I put my lips on a lot!
EVERYTHING WAS SOOOooooo SWEET AND DELICIOUS!
I couldn’t help myself and LICKED everything!
And, I couldn’t help but think that Lord Dog guided me this way for a reason, but, what could it be?
Surely this was not just for entertainment or some joke? As I ate the last piece of candy, “POOF” a mysterious and magical force created a travel map inside my head, like a GPS of where to go, what to write and photograph. It was amazing, I could see the map so clearly in my head and instantly, I knew that Lord Dog was responsible for all of this. After-all, the things I’d done up to this point was all on the road map. The only way to find out new surprises would be visit each and every one of the locations on the map inside my head.
The Worlds Largest Chocolate Fountain, a Guinness Book of World Records holder, a behemoth that circulates 2 tons of white and dark confectionary grade chocolate at a rate of 120 quarts per minute was instantly in front of my eyes!
Suddenly, everything seemed normal again but, was it really? I mean, is this normal, a chocolate fountain four times the height of an average man?
I was getting weak and needed another piece of chocolate to press on. Of Course Chocolate is the necessary fuel to write a nutty travel piece, so down the sweet sensation went…
According to the road map, the bus stop located at the base of The Eiffel Tower would whisk me away to yet another attraction!
Oh by the way, reflections and shadows cast within architecture in Las Vegas is stunning if you pay attention.
The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is a “Museum of the Mind,” a community auditorium and one of my favorite pieces of architecture in the United States. Founded by Larry Ruvo who started the foundation in memory of his father Lou Ruvo along with Bobby Baldwin, CEO of Mirage Resorts, who both lost their fathers to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Opened in May 21, 2010 and designed by the world-renowned architect, Frank Gehry of Gehry Partners in Santa Monica, California.
Gehry’s best-known works include the titanium-covered Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain;
MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; Experience Music Project in Seattle; Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis; Dancing House in Prague; the Vitra Design Museum and
MARTa Museum in Germany; the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto; the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris; and 8 Spruce Street in New York City. But it was his private residence in Santa Monica, California, which jump-started his career, lifting it from the status of “paper architecture”-a phenomenon that many famous architects have experienced in their formative decades through experimentation almost exclusively on paper before receiving their first major commission in later years.
One of Las Vegas’ most important charity initiatives and a key participant in the national fight against Alzheimer’s disease; since its inception the event has raised more than $20 million towards achieving its goal-the realization of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
While, there are critics of the architecture, it was built to mimic the human brain.
It was kind of weird seeing all of this after being key witness to a talking dog earlier in the day.
Anyway, kudos to all involved in this project and other charities.
Traveling around Vegas, chipping away at my road map list of attractions from Lord Dog, I realized that there’s so much more to see and experience than the ole’ “Sin City” – the World renown adult entertainment hub. Like Binion’s “Licker” bar, of course. After-all, it was on the list.
And, on the way home, I stopped at old Fremont Street where the World’s largest TV screen is located. See the big upside down “U” looking thing in the photo.
And, got to check out some of the old Neon Signs left from back in the day…
The city has done amazing things to revitalize this area of history.
Well, its time to say goodbye. I’m down to the last attraction on Lord Dogs list and I’m wanting to LICK something delicious. When you have a chance, you should too.