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Oak Lawn’s Bacari Tabu Has Great Music and Even Better Tapas

Julian Barsotti's latest concept is a revamped jazz bar with elevated fare and cool cocktails that take center stage.
| |Photography by Brittany Conerly
Bacari Tabu
Live music and jazzy cocktails in vintage glassware help Bacari Tabu create its luxurious throwback mood—a tribute to long-running Dallas bar Strictly Tabu, which formerly occupied the same space. Brittany Conerly

For more than four decades, Dallas spent its nights packed into the multi-storied Strictly TaBu on Lomo Alto Drive for stiff drinks and great jazz. It closed in the late ‘90s, with remnants of the bar only to be found in fleeting conversations and eBay listings. Now former regulars have found their way back with Julian Barsotti’s Bacari Tabu, a tapas restaurant in the same space.  

Bacari Tabu has been a passion project for years, Barsotti says, and connecting the new concept to the old jazz bar was a unique creative opportunity for him.  

“From older generations, almost universally, I would hear incredibly positive nostalgia for the original Strictly TaBu,” Barsotti says. “I thought the idea of reinventing something that I hadn’t been to that was a Dallas institution for more than 55 years—I thought it was a really cool endeavor to embark on.” 

The interiors are funky. The coral and navy leaf-patterned wallpaper is almost iridescent. The carpet is as wildly patterned as the wallpaper, with light green palm leaves on a dark turquoise background. The bathroom has ornate gold swan faucets. In the middle of the dining room, heavy velvet curtains are pulled back, revealing a stage for live music performers. 

But despite the old club’s reputation, Barsotti says he doesn’t want the reinvented Tabu to be known as a jazz bar. The food and drinks are the priority, and they take center stage the moment you walk through the door.  

If you can’t snag a reservation, get there early and head for the bar. Start with a crisp, clarified gin and cranberry cocktail or a glass of Chianti from the extensive wine list. They go perfectly with the complimentary feta-stuffed fried olives and the tomatillo-drenched, thinly sliced octopus carpaccio.  

A bartender told us the pizzas are the same as Nonna’s, another one of Barsotti’s concepts right next door. We’d suggest diving into anything off the grill, which uses binchotan charcoal from Japan. The Quail Scarpariello hits the right notes of smoky and juicy; it swims in a broth made with tangy pickled peppers.  

Risotto is a new thing Barsotti is trying out at Bacari Tabu. “New” as in never before offered at a Barsotti concept. To him, risotto is sacred. You can’t make it in less than 20 or 30 minutes—it takes time, and it should be savored. When dining at Bacari Tabu, Barsotti recommends ordering a few small dishes, drinks, and finishing with the risotto.   

“We’re trying to do sophisticated food, and we want it to be a cool spot to just come eat tapas throughout the week with the added amenity on the weekends of 9 to 12 music,” Barsotti says.  

It’s obvious food is the priority, considering that on one early Friday night in January, the place was packed of overflowing tables topped with risotto and cups of those delectable fried olives. Diners at the bar, like us, were ordering pizzas and lamb meatballs with stiff drinks. If you get lucky, you’ll end up seated next to a gentleman who will start off the conversation with, “I used to come to this place…” 

This story originally appeared in the March issue of D Magazine with the headline “All That Jazz” Write to [email protected].


Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Nataly Keomoungkhoun

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Nataly Keomoungkhoun joined D Magazine as the online dining editor in 2022. She previously worked at the Dallas Morning News,…

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