Experience the Yucatan
The name Bacalar comes from the Pueblo Magico, which is located less than an hour north of Chetumal, Mexico, and is known as the Lake of Seven Colors for the coruscating hues of its waters. Growing up, Chef Gabe and his family built many memories in Bacalar, and some of his favorites include enjoying the beautiful food of the region. Our hope is that the proximity of Lady Bird Lake to our restaurant serves as inspiration for the community of Austin to forge their own food memories here at Bacalar.
More than just a system of agriculture, the concept of la milpa comprises the complex interactions & personal relationships between farmers, the crops, and the land. The food of Bacalar emulates this philosophy inspired by the coastal and interior regions of the Yucatan peninsula from which Chef Gabe’s family originates.
Urbanspace Founder and CEO, Kevin Burns, had the foresight to acquire the ground floor retail space at 44 East Ave with the vision for a hospitality concept designed to cater to both residents and a broader audience of Austinites and visitors alike. As fate would have it, Merrill Alley, the distinguished Principal of Urbanspace Development + Interiors, had a longstanding friendship with the recently crowned winner of Season 18 Bravo Top Chef, Chef Gabe Erales. When Kevin brought the hospitality concept idea to Merrill, it was clear that Gabe would be perfect to help develop the concept. This combination of culinary knowledge, design brilliance, and entrepreneurial spirit have created an environment where every detail is meticulously crafted.
The totem is both a physical and spiritual centerpiece of Bacalar’s design, representing a visual expression of the landscape and culture that inspired the restaurant’s cuisine. The base of the totem prominently features the most important crop in Maya agriculture: maize. Not only a staple food in the Mayan diet, corn also played a significant role in religion, culture, and the economy. In Maya mythology, human beings were created from maize: white corn for the bones, yellow for the muscles, black corn for the eyes and hair, and red corn for the blood. The three ears of maize reflect both the life cycle of the maize plant: planting, growth, and harvest; and the three worlds of Maya cosmology: the underworld, the middle world (where humans live), and the upper world (where the gods reside). Honored as an important source of food for the Mayans, fish leap above the maize, splashing life-giving water — or are they shaded in branches of sacred trees believed to be the homes of the gods, their roots connecting the underworld to the middle world of humanity? Above it all, we see the rising sun: bringer of new beginnings, growth, and renewal. Taken as a whole, the totem signifies abundance, fertility, and the natural world’s connection to the divine. In other words, la milpa.