• DANA HOLLAND gave Spicy Bits three fun reasons for opening Babalu’s Snack Shack: “I didn’t have to borrow a gazillion dollars from the bank, I could prepare fun food, and I would team up with the guy who hired me 27 years ago.” When Dana and JOHN KEKERIS saw the shack at the Kirkwood Farmer’s Market, they decided to go for it! The partners work side by side in their tiny hut preparing tropical spicy snack treats, all hand-held, like gorditas, which Holland describes as Caribbean gyros. Dana is also firing up a big grill next to the shack for barbecue. The menu will grow over the coming months, and hours might expand, but for now Babalu’s is open Fridays through Sundays until 10 p.m.
• Early in June, ERIC HECKMAN will be bringing modern style and fusion food to Clayton in Tani Sushi Bistro at 16 S. Bemiston Ave. The sushi chef is Eric’s wife, EUN KYUNG, but call her Jenny. Her artistic sushi presentation skills come from 10 years of experience. Above the bar, a glowing scene of downtown Tokyo will hang to complement the specialty cocktails. Eric is experimenting with a sake martini. The sleek back dining room will seat 50. Tani’s chef is EISOON HECKMAN, Eric’s mom.
• A second location of Trattoria Branica is set to open in late June at 451 S. Kirkwood Road. Chef PEPPE PROFETA will be preparing the same Italian dishes that have won over diners at the Trattoria’s Frontenac location. Weekday lunch and daily dinner will be served, and next door at No. 449, Branica Wine Bar will set up shop. The light fare options at the Wine Bar will complement numerous wine by the glass choices, selected by owner SAM KACAR. The proximity to Ginger Bay Spa inspired Kacar to create the casual bar, which will be open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to midnight.
• Clearly things are happening at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Clayton, where a new patio is under construction. According to GM JEFF DANIELS, the transformation inside is in the bar area. To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Morton’s is introducing the Bar 12 • 21 concept. In addition to a separate illuminated bar entrance and windows overlooking the patio, Bar 12 • 21 will have its own Bar Bites menu served during happy hour and after the dinner hour. The dining room also will be updated with new furniture, carpet and lighting throughout. Morton’s is open during the renovation. The 40-seat patio should be completed by the end of June.
• Longing for the lemongrass beef from Zoë’s Pan-Asian Cafe? Come August, you will be able to satisfy that craving at Bobo. I Fratellini owner Zoe Robinson and chef Ny Vongsaly are creating an Asian noodle house that is glamorous, authentic and delicious. And it will reprieve some of the late cafe’s favorite dishes. The tiny space will seat only 30, so it’s basically counter service on very cool-looking plates. Designed by Space LLC, Bobo’s curved wall will have a leather banquette and lots of light from huge windows. Wash. U. students surely will be pasting the carryout menu up in their dorm rooms and walking over to 278 N. Skinker Blvd.
• From Araka to ZuZu, The Taste of Clayton has more than 20 restaurants participating in this, its 16th year. From 1:30 to 9:30 p.m., Sunday, June 1, in Shaw Park, happy eaters can go from booth to booth trading tickets for tastes. Tickets are four for $5, and tastes go for one to four tickets. Be sure to find distributor Frost on the Vine to try the wine ice cream! Paciugo Gran Caffe (which is not yet open in The Crescent) will be serving gelato. Also, be sure to wish the staff of Bistro Alexander a happy one-year anniversary, and stick around for the fireworks at 9 p.m.
Got something for Spicy Bits? Write to Amy Peck Abraham at firstname.lastname@example.org.