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Conversations with Sara Nelson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Nelson. 

Hi Sara, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
Babo is a corner bar/mash-up brought to you by the folks behind (East Nashville watering hole) Duke’s, and Atlanta brothers Tim and Danny Song, owners of Gaja Korean Bar in East Atlanta village. Joey Plunket from Duke’s goes way back with the Song brothers. They all grew up going to the same punk rock shows and later, Atlanta and NYC dive bars. The trio reconnected as bar owners both celebrating their 3rd year at their respective locations. The Song’s loved visiting Nashville and hanging at Duke’s and we ate at Gaja every time we visited Atlanta. We were all kicking around ideas for a new project but mostly, we really wanted to eat Tim and Danny’s food on the regular. 

The idea behind Babo was to be more food-forward than Duke’s and more bar-like than Gaja. After many late nights eating Korean food and drinking soju things took shape and Tim moved to Nashville and the build-out began. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Smooth roads don’t really exist in age of Covid, do they? We opened in December 2018 so we were just hitting our stride when the tornado hit followed by the pandemic. We were able to continue rolling along with take-out only and when weather permitted, some make-shift outdoor seating. Thus began the long process of never-ending changes in safety and operations protocol; supply chain issues, everything we’ve all been hearing about. We have recently been able to expand our menu back to a la carte (we pivoted to bento boxes when people were wary of sharing food) and we built a beautiful side patio that will have a little outside bar and plenty of seating and we’ll be able to preview soon. Sourcing all the bricks and stone as well as permitting delays pushed the launch to spring 2022. 

Through it all, I have to say we’ve been so fortunate with our employees. We have a phenomenal team and are just so grateful for everyone who has helped us squeak by and stay open through all of this. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Babo is a neighborhood bar, first and foremost. The kind of place where you can come in for a cheap pint and a shot or splurge on (reasonably priced) cocktails and order the whole menu with a group of friends. The food is all designed to be shared, but the portions aren’t dainty. Not hungry? No problem. The place is built for drinking as much as dining. 

Sara Nelson and Joseph Plunket, from Duke’s, have been in Nashville for 8 and 12 years, respectively. Being musicians, they have worked in bars forever, as it allowed them the flexibility to tour. When Duke’s opened, that was one of the things that was important to them: providing a flexible job for artists. Both Duke’s and now Babo, have become a home away from home for many East Nashville musicians and other creative types in town. Either hanging out, eating and drinking, or working behind the bar or behind the scenes. 

The Song’s are first-generation Korean Americans and bring a unique take to their food. It’s neither fusion nor a ‘spin” on classics, but nor is the food super traditional. It’s. mix of flavors that translates well to a bar environment and is a reflection of their DIY punk ethics. 

How do you define success?
For me, the bar and restaurant business is all about team-building. That goes from partners to staff, to our customer base and our neighbors. Success obviously means being able to pay the bills and keep the lights on, but beyond that, the real satisfaction comes from watching all the pieces come together during service and the effort becomes almost invisible because you’ve done the work and hired the right people and treated them well. 

Pricing:

  • We have a happy hour from 5-6 pm with $3 drafts and $5 wines.

Contact Info:

  • Email: babonashville@gmail.com
  • Website: babokorean.com
  • Instagram: @babo_nashville


Image Credits
Danielle Atkins

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