Baru, despite its offbeat cuisine and tight quarters, has three qualities that explain its popularity. First, it's on Magazine Street, certainly the hippest address in town for restaurants these days. Second, at least half of its menu is composed of tapas. We all love those small portions. The Spanish heritage makes it all entirely honest. Third--and this is a strange one--they have no alcoholoic beverages to sell. You bring your own whatever. Why this constitutes an attraction in these times in inexplicable, but hardly a day goes by when someone doesn't ask me for a list of restaurants where you can bring your own wine. (The answer to that, by the way, is that they all do.)
Baru serves the food of Colombia, which has similarities to Central American, South American, and Caribbean food. There are even aspects of the cuisine that remind one of New Orleans. The small restaurant has an engaging, romantic quality that doesn't seem obvious, but it's clear that the many couples who dine here are charmed by the place and its food.
Owner-chef Edgar Caro came here from Cartagena, Colombia, and his food accurately reflects that provenance. Baru is the name of a beach-lined island off the Colombian coast. As is common for certain addresses around New Orleans, a licensing problem keep Baru from serving alcohol, but their fresh fruit drinks are terrific.
The restaurant is in a colorful, mostly-lavender corner building where a small grocery store operated for decades. The interior is gaudier than the exterior, in tones of bright greens and yellows. Most of the tables are along two pillow-softened banquettes of minimal comfort. A half-dozen or so tables on the sidewalk under the balcony are popular, and sometimes fill before the dining room does.
Make a reservation. This is a small, popular place. Be prepared to sit very close to someone else if you dine indoors. Try dishes that don't sound quite right; they're the best in the house. Bring your own wine, and be prepared to pay an $8 corkage fee per bottle.