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Bahia Social Club

Bahia Social Club's watermelon-jalapeno-vodka mojito. (Aug. 6, 2011)

Bahia Social Club's watermelon-jalapeno-vodka mojito. (Aug. 6, 2011) Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Does a watermelon jalapeño vodka mojito taste fruitier and more potent outdoors? Is grilled calamari especially tender when bathed in early evening sunlight? These are questions to ponder at a sidewalk table at Long Beach's Bahia Social Club, where the vibe is decidedly social.

Chatter flows as easily as the sangria as we dig into exemplary fish tacos topped with slaw and chili-spiked mayonnaise. While sinking our teeth into smoky-spicy roasted corn-on-the-cob may be messy, it's certainly gratifying.

We talk about how great it is to eat this way, ordering up whatever small plates we want as the evening unwinds. But that discussion is suddenly cut short, drowned out by recorded music from inside the restaurant. It blares out the open window next to our table. Since our waitress is unable to hear what we're trying to order, she goes inside and has the volume turned down. Much better.

As the sky darkens, I note that every table is occupied on a sidewalk that winds around the corner restaurant. And that the crunchy-crusted salt-cod croquettes have just the right salty edge.

Soon, a singer-guitarist launches into his set, and amped-up bluesy rock takes over the night. Because the music is good, we resign ourselves to its volume and focus on dessert: moist tres leches cake and fudgy chocolate balls called brigadieros.

Before departing, I go inside and observe an appreciative crowd at the bar and around the performance space. On the edge of the dance floor, one woman boogies, solo. She looks happy and -- like most everyone at Bahia Social Club -- very much in the moment.

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