Mix-ican food

What is it with all this term-twisting of x's in Mexican-inspired cuisine. I mean there's "Mex-Tex" and "Mex-Mex" and now, Cabo restaurant is billing itself as the "original 'Mix-Mex.'"

I called Cabo's parent, BFX Hospitality Group, and asked for some clarification. But all it got me was a bout of phone tag. So I resorted to Cabo's menu, which offers this strand of prose: "The 'Mix-Mex' Grill is a spicy blend of South & Central American flavor with the influence of the Yucatan & Southwestern spices."

Apparently, this explanation pulls them in. When I hit Fort Worth's Sundance Square recently to sample the food, I was directed to the bar and told I'd have to wait 20 minutes (it stretched to 40). So I ordered a beer for myself and a Sprite for my companion, who was designated return driver. Cabo has an attractive bar with red and chrome diner-style bar stools, corrugated steel bar tables, and black tile crusting the base of the bar/open kitchen. The curvaceous bar hood, presumably mimicking the ocean waves lapping Cabo San Lucas, is splashed with neon lights.

I forgot what the neon lettering said, if it said anything. Because as I reached down to pick up my fumbled credit card to pay the bar tab, I hit my head on that glass of Sprite and bounced my temple off the corrugated steel bar surface.

This knocked me senseless. It also scattered ice over the Cabo barflies next to me.

Two additional things struck me as I recovered my composure and my credit card. First, Cabo is a dumb place to order Sprite. Better to sip one of their juice bar drinks or their mixed drinks including rocked or frozen margaritas and Cuba libres.

Second, Cabo is a bit pricey. A stingy pinch of chips in a basket with a deeply smoky roasted pepper salsa and a brisk tomatillo salsa is $3.25.

The higher prices carry over to the tacos. Chicken, fish, shrimp, or beef tacos -- tangled with shredded lettuce, red cabbage, onion, tomato, cilantro, and Mexican white cheese in white corn tortillas -- ring in at $3.95 each. Not that they're bad. The chicken was brazenly spiced. Beef was tender and tangy. The fish (grilled yellowfin tuna and grilled fish), though, was wimpy with spongy meat.

The rest of the menu was fairly good too. Cheesy chicken enchiladas ($7.95), plugged with moist, tender meat and slathered with a stimulating tomatillo sauce, unfolded with well-defined flavors and textures instead of slopped mushiness.

Grilled chicken burrito ($5.95), a densely obese log of chicken, black beans, and rice wrapped in a flour tortilla, flashed the same articulate suppleness. Chicken-beef combo fajitas ($10.95), though greasy, were also fresh and tasty.

The only notable stumble here was the ceviche, which floated fish, scallops, and rubbery shrimp in a Margarita glass. It tasted like reconstituted lime-and-Worcestershire sauce soup, or maybe a fishy bloody Mary.

Dubbed an upscale taqueria by BFX, Cabo has two locations in Houston with plans to open another pair in Austin.

And with kitschy decorative touches like fake stuffed sailfishes and little wooden shelves stacked with things like mango nectar, fritter dough, and condiment paste, it's sure to pull them in too. Just remember to stuff your billfold. And watch your head.


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