Babo Farm Fresh Meals To Go is tucked into a small plaza on Boardwalk, in the shadow of the towering office buildings along Eisenhower and State. Kris Lelcaj, head of all Babo Market operations, expects the somewhat obscure location will be quickly discovered by the large community of cubicle workers in the area. “We want to give them some healthy alternatives to take back to the office–and also give some continuity with the original Babo Market downtown. If someone who lives or works downtown is headed out of town in a car, they can pick up some favorites without having to find a parking place.”
Kris’s older sister, Sava, owns the markets, as well as the restaurants Sava and Aventura. She used to be all about downtown living; now that she’s married and living in Superior Township, might she too have discovered how a parking spot can grease the retail skids? “Oh sure, you can absolutely say that!” laughs Kris, who’s twenty-five and the only sibling in his family not born in Albania. (By the way, he says the last syllable of the family name is pronounced “chai,” as in tea. When told that another Albanian pronounced the name “lel-tsai,” he explains: “For the size of the country, the number of dialects are ridiculous.” His family is from northern Albania. “You could talk to someone in the south, and eight out of ten words you wouldn’t understand.”)
This is a market only, with no place to eat. Much of the food for all the Babo markets is prepared in a commissary kitchen in back. Kris thinks the “snack pack” is destined to be a best seller: “It’s like Lunchables, for adults. Point Reyes blue cheese, celery, grapes, and carmelized pecans.” One case is devoted to Sava’s own line of juices, in combinations like Flamango (banana, orange, mango, ginger, lime, cayenne) and Chillionaire (watermelon, coconut water, strawberry, mint, lime). All are cold-pressed–Kris claims that “the heat of the motor of a regular juicing machine can strip the vitamins out.”
Not everything is so conspicuously healthy. Soups like potato/leek/pancetta look luxurious and creamy in their Ball jars, as do aiolis, sauces, and dips. Most of what is sold here is made in house, but Kris says he carries some “responsibly sourced, sustainable brands,” like Evol burritos and Chia Pods. Chia what? Kris explains these are little ready-to-eat dishes of cooked chia seeds, sort of a cross between oatmeal and ice cream, eaten cold. “The texture is a little bit foreign to most people,” he admits. They come in vanilla, blueberry, or banana.
At press time, a smaller version of the south side market, called Babo Real Food Fast, was due to open in Nickels Arcade, next to Comet Coffee. Though the big Babo is only a few blocks away, Kris says it’s off the radar of most students unless they live in high-rises near it. Babo Real Food Fast, he says, will probably only carry food made in the Babo kitchen.
Babo Farm Fresh Meals To Go, 2825 Boardwalk Dr., 669-3880. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sun.
Babo Real Food Fast, 12 Nickels Arcade, 669-3550. Daily 7 a.m.-8 p.m. baboannarbor.com