We’re not snobs about chain restaurants, because they wouldn’t become chains unless people liked the original restaurant’s fare. But we still like a stand-alone restaurant that adds its own flair to familiar dishes.
So it is with Cabo’s Grill in Zachary. Not everything we tried there was a home run — the baseball analogy is appropriate because one of LSU’s Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament games was on the TV when we visited — but everything was acceptable at worst, quite good at best and frequently interesting.
As is standard, Cabo’s starts you out with complimentary tortilla chips and salsa. Cabo’s seasons its chips, and the salsa is thick and zesty with lots of tomato, cilantro, lime and pepper. Not everyone at our table liked it because of the strong tomato flavor, but the rest of us found it much better than the watery salsa found at some establishments.
Ceviche ($10.29) is an appetizer not found on a lot of restaurant menus, and it’s a great starter — light and flavorful. Tilapia and shrimp are cured in lime juice, mixed with chopped onion, tomato and bell pepper, accented with cilantro and avocado slices and presented in a crisp tortilla shell. It can be eaten on the crackers that are provided, but we found it just as satisfying with simply a fork. It’s something to wake up the taste buds without filling you up, and served those functions adequately for our party of four.
Two of our entrees were excellent, and two were OK.
The chicken fajita Poblana ($14.99) was a large mound of excellence. The strips of grilled chicken breast were topped with bacon, poblano peppers and shredded cheese, and covered with grilled zucchini, carrots, onion and bell peppers. Did we mention the bacon? We’ve never had bacon with fajitas, and now we would support legislation to mandate bacon’s inclusion on every fajita. This is a large, flavor-packed pile of food, and would be good even if it didn’t have bacon. But it has bacon.
The burrito Tapatio ($11.25) doesn’t have bacon. But it has pork — lots of shredded pork in a soft tortilla topped with shredded lettuce, chopped onions, ranchero sauce, pico de gallo and a pool of queso poured alongside. These flavors blend exquisitely. It’s a large burrito, enough for the heartiest of appetites, and enough for the less hearty to bring home.
A Texan co-worker who frequents Cabo’s recommended the brisket tacos ($12.99) which intrigued simply because we’ve never seen that particular taco offering. We were underwhelmed. It was acceptable, but nothing special. The brisket didn’t have a lot of flavor and wasn’t the easiest to bite through. The lime, avocado, onion, cilantro and green tomatillo sauce made the three tacos more interesting, but not enough to make us want to order this again.
Likewise, the chicken fajita enchiladas ($11.79), covered with queso, were fairly ordinary.
Most of the dishes came with refried beans and Spanish rice. A word about the refried beans. Those old enough to remember Baton Rouge’s La Fonda’s restaurant on Airline Highway doubtless recall that the refried beans were thick enough to hold a fork up like a flagpole. This is a lot closer to authentic Mexican refried beans than the soupy bean gruel that passes for this dish at some places. Cabo’s refried beans aren’t quite so stout, but it’s fair to call them full-bodied, and we like that. (We’re also imagining how great they’d be if they included bacon, but that’s asking a lot.)
Churros ($4.50) are a great way to end the meal. Four light, airy, fried dough sticks surround a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with a cherry. Cinnamon flavors the churros, and while you can certainly alternate between them and the ice cream, putting a bit of the ice cream on the end of the churros and eating the two together is delightful.