Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010 | 3 p.m.
As I walked into the Fashion Show Mall for my final supper at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, I was overcome with nostalgia. Many happy hours with the girls. My last birthday celebration with close friends. With terrific food, delicious sangria, wonderful atmosphere and affordable prices, this place, now closed, embodied great times.
Lettuce Entertain You, the restaurant's management company, is "reconcepting" the space from a Spanish/Mediterranean tapas bar to a Mexican cantina called El Segundo Sol — which translates to the second sun, or in this case, the second restaurant.
I decided that, for my last supper I would enjoy some of my favorite things on the menu: a half-pitcher of black-raspberry sangria, baked goat cheese and roasted dates and bacon. Delicious. I will miss this place, and so will others.
At the bar, I started talking to the lady next to me: Yvonne, a semi-regular at Ba Ba Reeba for five years. She started frequenting it on family visits from California before moving to Vegas.
Yvonne and I sat at the bar, me with my sangria and her with a glass of red wine, and reminisced about past Ba Ba Reeba experiences. "There really aren't that many tapas bars in Las Vegas," she said. "The old Firefly is small and crowded. The new one Downtown is nice, but it's not in the greatest area."
Roxanne, the bartender, told us many of her regulars are distraught. "We get a lot of locals who regularly attend our happy hour. Those people are really upset," she said. "I'm really upset, too. I've been working here the past three years, and this is my family."
The transformation to El Segundo Sol shouldn't surprise many. The space has been changing. Stripburger, an outdoor restaurant and bar adjacent to Ba Ba Reeba, needed indoor space to accommodate the cold winter and harsh summer — so it took over a corner of the tapas café. Traditional Spanish music was replaced with Top 40.
Reconcepting and construction is set to be completed March 15. "Lettuce Entertain You always does a great job, so I'm sure this will be great," Roxanne said. The jury is still out. Yvonne already has two favorite Mexican restaurants on the Strip: Dos Caminos at Palazzo and Tacos and Tequila at Luxor. "I'll try it out, but I can't see us coming as regularly as we did when it was Cafe Ba Ba Reeba," she said.
To that we toasted. I'm sad to see a favorite go. But such is the nature of Las Vegas — always something being torn down, to be replaced with something bigger and newer. Hopefully, the second sun can rise and live up to Cafe Ba Ba Reeba.