Babalu is the brainchild of successful restaurateurs Bill Latham and Al Roberts. Collectively, the two business partners have owned or operated various restaurants both in and outside of Jackson, Miss., for more than 30 years.
After selling two very successful restaurants, the partners decided to move forward with their latest concept – upscale Latin-inspired cuisine. They named their new restaurant Babalu, after the signature song of the fictional television character Ricky Ricardo, played by Desi Arnaz in the television comedy series I Love Lucy.
Roberts began conceptualizing the menu, while Latham began scouting possible locations. At the time, Jackson’s historic Fondren neighborhood was undergoing a rebirth as the hub of the city’s arts district. Latham found the perfect location in Duling Hall – a former elementary school that had been converted into retail shops and an event venue. Babalu renovated the school’s former first grade classroom (coincidentally, Latham’s wife Betsy attended first grade here). Great care was put into preserving as much of the original architecture as possible, while still creating a fun and relaxing space for guests. In 2010, the first Babalu location opened in Jackson with great success.
Little did Latham and Roberts know, but setting up shop in neighborhoods experiencing revitalization would become as much a part of the Babalu brand as their signature bright orange logo. In early 2012, Latham and Roberts formed a new restaurant holding company, Eat Here Brands. Under the new holding company, plans immediately got underway to expand Babalu into other markets.
In late 2013, Babalu Memphis opened in the former TGI Friday’s at Overton Square. A third location in Birmingham’s Lakeview District followed in 2014. The fourth Babalu opened in the renovated JC Penney building on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville, Tenn., in 2015. Babalu Charlotte opened in July of 2016 in historic Dilworth.
Look closely, a Babalu may open in your neighborhood soon. No matter where you are, you can be assured every Babalu consistently serves the freshest ingredients. We invest in our staff because we believe happy employees translates to great service. We also take pride in our communities by investing our time and talents into making them great. The next time you are in the mood for food and fun, let us show you how great Babalu can be.