Across the water of Marina Bay from Salute E Vita is a little restaurant with some big ambitions. Bubbaloo Café has only been open for two months, but already the owners are working to transform the neighborhood’s restaurant scene. Their goal? To make Marina Bay more accessible, more entertaining, and, most importantly, more delicious.
“This is an industrial neighborhood, but it’s also a sleepy neighborhood,” explains Gio Gelera, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Candice. “We wanted to bring some fun to the area and provide a new lunch spot, too.”
Gio and his wife have a long history in the food business. The couple used to run the concession stand at the bingo hall across the street from their Marina Way South location, and Candice has a history of running restaurants with her family. As a result, every piece of Bubbaloo is strategically placed.
“There are some good restaurants in the area,” explains Gio, referring to Salute E Vita and Assemble, which are on either side of his new café. “We don’t want to compete with those. Instead, we want to fill the void of lunch spots in the area where people can get a reasonably priced meal.”
That’s exactly what Bubbaloo offers. The meals are affordable — about $9 for the average lunch. It’s more than a $5 footlong, for sure, but the price is great for the quality offered. Where else in the area can you get a huge salmon filet sandwich with an enormous side salad for that price?
The ambiance, too, helps establish Bubbaloo Café as an easy-going, modern lunch spot. The decor is very much modern rustic — think succulents planted in wooden boxes, concrete coffee tables, and simple metal chairs in red and grey.
But there are some areas where it’s clear that Bubbaloo is still a work in progress. A few ceiling tiles are missing from the ceiling, and the three clocks hanging on the wall which would typically tell the time of a different city around the world are unlabeled and kind of confusing.
Bubbaloo gets it right where it counts, though. That salmon filet sandwich is a truly enormous creation. The fish is fresh and juicy to bite into. Stacked between two buns with lettuce, tomato, onion, and avocado, it beats any greasy burger from your typical lunch spot. However big the sandwich is, it doesn’t leave you too full. That’s intentional.
“We want to offer good lunch food that doesn’t leave you too sleepy,” Gio explains. And here, again, Gio demonstrates an intimate knowledge of what makes a restaurant work well.
Bubbaloo’s banh mi is another example. “People ask me why we offer banh mi at higher prices than your other places,” Gio explains. “But what we do is a little different. We make it a full on sandwich with quality, fresh ingredients and a Vietnamese flair.”
The café can be a little hard to find from the road — tucked into an awkward industrial strip mall, it’s not a place you’re likely to just stumble upon by accident when driving. But it’s worth the visit. Bubbaloo Café is a fresh, unique lunch option for those who want a quick meal in the Marina Bay neighborhood.
1402 Marina Way South, Suite B, Richmond
Monday - Friday: 6 am to 2:30 pm
View their website here