Baja’s Albany: Albany, Ga.'s First FRESH Tex-Mex Cuisine
Thursday, April 10th, 2014
The grill restaurant that its owners call “The BIG experiment” opened in Albany in February of this year to a warm reception and rave reviews, according to co-owner Ben Austin. “We’ve had a great response from the community,” said Austin.
Baja’s Albany is a destination location for something new, fun, and healthful. “There was nothing like it in the area,” said Austin. “We found a little niche in the market. We felt Albany was ready for this fresh California type food.”
Baja’s does everything from Tableside Guacamole to Fish Tacos to wood-fired brick oven pizzas. “We feel like that providing a really fresh ingredient base and a little something different for the area,” said Austin.
Why a restaurant? “I’ve always had a passion for it. I started out at 16 years-old as a fry cook at Zaxby’s, then I started waiting tables at 17 and all throughout high school and college,” said Austin. “It’s always been a passion of mine. I love the daily interaction with new customers and developing life-long friendships through the restaurant.”
The building is a very modern design with a bit of an intrinsic Southwestern feel to it. Everything is made in-house, from the dressings for the salads to our salsas, tortilla chips are fried in-house, All fish served at Baja’s is hand-trimmed the morning of. “We use only super fresh ingredients and Chef Jason has done an excellent job,” said Austin. “Salsa is made four or five times a day, depending on how many people are coming through.”
Chef Jason is co-owner and executive chef, Jason Hedrick. “We’ve taken something that we feel passionate about and we’ve changed it to fit our palates, we’ve taken the freshest ingredients, we use the least amount of saturated fats,” said Hedrick. “Our specialty tacos are fresh fish, a soft tortilla, fresh crunchy vegetables, some peppers, and not even much cheese. We’d like people to know that we are a healthy fast food. We’re inexpensive for anyone to enjoy, and it’s trendy and hip.”
A third co-owner is Austin Newman who also owns Austin’s Fire Grill & Oyster Bar in Albany.
Every week brings a new Chef’s Specials. Half of the menu rotates. The new weekly menu is posted on Facebook every Sunday and runs through Saturday. Appetizers, entrees, and the Chef’s Special tacos are all new weekly creations. Tacos can range from Blue Fin Tuna to center cut beef tenderloin in a fresh corn tortilla.
“We are the only wood-fired brick oven in Albany,” said Austin. “All of our pizzas are made to order. You can choose from flatbread or traditional hand-tossed crusts. The wood-fired oven, fueled by seasoned oak, really gives a signature flavor to the pizza.”
The most popular offering at Baja’s is the Tableside Guacamole. It is a unique and popular menu item. Austin said Baja’s is the only place in Southwest Georgia that you can get Tableside Guacamole. “We have a designated Guacamole person with a cart,” said Austin. “When you order your Guacamole, the cart comes straight to your table. We use fresh avocado, slice it at the table, made in a traditional Molcajete, which is a mortar and pestle made from lava rock.” As the name suggests, it is prepared tableside. The Guacamole person explains all the fresh ingredients as each is added to the mixture. “The server shows the customer tips and tricks about making it at home, and how to store it properly and other tricks of the trade that we do to make our Guacamole stand out,” said Austin. “It’s a fun, interactive thing and it’s a good chance to start the meal experience in the right direction.”
From the bar, patrons can also enjoy the freshness. All juices used in the libations are fresh-squeezed. “We don’t have a concentrated sour mix in the building,” said Austin. “That’s something we’re very proud of.” The bar offers a wide selection premium tequilas and Mexican beers, and there is an extensive wine list. “Our signature drink is our Bajarita, made with fresh-squeezed lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, and an all-natural Agave triple sec, served on the rocks and rimmed with a cilantro-infused salt,” said Austin. One of the most popular drinks is the Spice Margarita, which is blended with fresh muddled Jalapeños. It’s salty, spice, and sweet and all the flavors come together nicely.
As for desserts, Baja’s has Travis, a classically trained pastry chef, on staff. “I gave Travis my vision, he put it on paper, and then in the oven, and then on a plate, and it is fantastic,” said Hedrick. “We’re the only place in Albany, Ga. where you can get an after dinner dessert for $5 and it’s all made in-house from scratch. The response we’ve had to our desserts has been phenomenal.”
Baja’s also boasts an amazing private event space, including three available dining rooms with private patios. “We can do everything from a private lunch or dinner meeting for 8-10 people or light hors d’oeuvres for up to 125. “The event space with the private patios is by far the best private space in this area,” said Austin. Baja’s is now in the process of adding an outdoor bar and fireplace with live music Friday and Saturday nights. Come football season, the owners plan to add two big screen TVs.
“One of the things that special about Baja’s and our selection is that customers can come back several times a week and experience completely different cuisines,” said Austin. “They could come in one day and get a wood-fired pizza, come back the next day and get a fish taco, and then come back again and get a Cuban Sandwich combo, and so there’s Italian, Mexican, and the standard ‘Mom & Pop’ sandwich and seafood.”
“When people pull into our parking lot to eat here, they have, in essence, left the small farming community of Albany, Ga. and entered a larger metropolitan area. said Hedrick.” Hedrick is an unconventional thinker when it comes to his Chef’s Specials. “We try to keep our standard fare a little more refined, so that not only the old lady in the bridge group can find something that’s fun, light, and not too spicy, but the cowboys can come in from their tractors and test themselves with our chili peppers,” he said. “Fifty percent of our dinner menu is $10 or less. We feel our food is rising up from all the unhealthy saturated fat stuff and has given Albany a new option–something fun, healthy, and delicious.”
“We haven’t officially done our grand opening yet,” said Austin. He anticipates the grand opening festivities will commence in late April with the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce doing a full ribbon cutting ceremony.
2807 Meredyth Dr.
Albany, Ga. 31707
Monday and Tuesday – 10:45 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Wednesday through Sunday – 10:45 to 10 p.m.