By Lindsay Key
SPECIAL TO THE ROANOKE TIMES
According to the Cabo Web site, fish tacos were first brought to southern California by surfers in search of Mexico's big waves. Folks traveling through Baja California found that the best fish tacos were offered in local stands on the side of the road, often run by the fishermen themselves.
"The inspiration for Cabo came from the time that Rob and I spent surfing in Virginia Beach and North Carolina growing up, as well as the time I spent in southern California, getting to know the 'Baja' lifestyle," said co-owner Gary Walker.
The three owners -- Rob Crenshaw, Maeghan Crenshaw and Walker -- are all graduates of Virginia Tech and currently live in the area, though Rob and Maeghan travel frequently to the original Cabo Fish Taco in Charlotte.
Funky, light and fresh. Very true to their claim as a "Baja Seagrill." There are three dining options: Outdoors, inside near the bar and in a breezy middle room, where bamboo shades hang from the windows. Bob Marleyesque tunes play throughout the place, and the lighting is low and relaxing.
Food is spicy but light. While the restaurant specializes in fresh seafood, there are other meats and salads to choose from. The taste of the food in general is a very acquired taste -- it's not spicy in terms of anything I've ever had before. Rather than being "hot," the spice is more a combination of many flavors that flood the senses. This is not a place for bland-food lovers.
The specialty of the place is, of course, the fish taco. Fish fillings include your choice of shrimp, mahi-mahi, grilled tuna and cod. I chose the Blackened Mahi Taco, which consisted of two tacos and my choice of side (the baja rice, a mixture of white rice with a sweet pineapple sauce on top). The soft tacos were jam-packed with mahi mahi, mexi-slaw (spicy cole slaw), cabbage and other veggies, and a white cilantro sauce that looked and tasted like ranch dressing with a tang.
Similar to Mexican-style restaurants, our waitress brought us chips and salsa -- but not like we were expecting at all. The chips were multicolored (red, black and white) and the salsa was not a liquefied substance, but consisted of corn and other tiny vegetable particles. It was good and seemed to be healthy.
My dining accomplice chose an appetizer as a meal. The Baja Shrimp and Crab Dip was ecstasy on pita -- warm and creamy and layered with crab meat. Pieces of pita were surrounding the bowl of dip like triangular worshippers, sprinkled with bits of cheese. The portions were very generous and satisfying as a meal. This dish seemed to be a popular choice, as I noticed many diners around us were ordering it.
Enthusiastic and efficient. Our waitress, a young woman who looked like she might have stepped right out of "The OC" television show, was all smiles and got our food out to us in record time.
The restaurant is not a huge watered-
down chain and the theme doesn't fall into the normal options of cultural eating in the area. Having a strong (and almost unhealthy) desire to visit the West Coast myself, I found what the owners are doing to be really cool. In my mind, they are like Lewis and Clark returning from the West to small-town Blacksburg, ravishing me with culture and good food. And I like that.
THE NOT SO GOOD
While Cabo's spicy surf theme is incredibly diverse and appealing, I'm worried how the theme will carry over into the winter months. Dining style and meal selection may not translate well.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I found Cabo Fish Taco to be fresh -- in quality of food as well as presence in the area. Although I did not personally fall in love with the style and flavor of the food, I think that one would be doing a huge disservice to himself or herself if they did not explore this restaurant.
CABO FISH TACO
117 South Main Street
Blacksburg, VA 24060
SUN.-THURS. 11:00 AM-10:00PM
Charlotte, North Carolina
3201 North Davidson Street
Charlotte, NC 28205
SUN.-THURS. 11:00 AM-10:00PM
© Cabo Fish Taco Baja Sea Grill. All Rights Reserved.