A festive and inviting seafood restaurant has opened in the former digs of Ciao, Damien Watel’s short-lived venture on far Stone Oak Parkway. Cabo attempts to combine the laid-back atmosphere of the Mexican beach resort with the elegance of an after-hours club — and thankfully the risk of sunburn is minor and the ambient music stays at an appropriate level for easy conversation.
The personable, young owners Juan and Maria Pablo operate two restaurants in Mexico City. They said they chose San Antonio for their newest venture due to the large number of Mexican nationals living nearby. To their pleasant surprise they found a relaxed setting, with a great view looking back toward downtown. And their reasonably priced, fresh seafood menu appeals equally to norteamericanos, as well.
The interior utilizes a basic black-and white décor that complements the unmodified exposed ceiling. The three-sided bar, with its artistically tiered arrangement of tequila bottles, dominates the dining room while four flat-screen TVs noiselessly convey sporting news. The bar itself seats about a dozen with tables for perhaps another 50. About half were filled on a weekday evening as dusk turned to night — not bad for a new place only celebrating its third week. Dress ranged from little black dresses and stilettos to shorts and flip-flops.
It being a mild night with soft breezes, we ate dinner on the patio, where drinkers and diners can choose from a dozen high tables for four with bar stools or inviting wicker sofas and tables, all carrying over the black-and white theme.
The ceviche tostada makes for a great starter — red snapper in lime, tomato, onion, and cilantro over a tostada. The appetizers also feature tuna and shrimp tacos, tuna tartar, and crab cakes. Gulf oysters are available for $1.25/per. All the fish comes from Groomer, which provides many of San Antonio’s A-list restaurants with seafood.
The large salads are a good choice if you’re not overly hungry or want to spend less than the entrees. I had the Cabo signature salad, which featured good-sized fresh shrimp, bits of octopus, tender baby scallops, and strips of surimi with greens and toasted tortilla pieces. The lemony vinaigrette was a nicely balanced dressing for it all. My partner chose the jumbo shrimp, and she loved the dish. The shrimp came rubbed in garlic and guajillo chile and warmed with a few tortilla crumbs; they really were jumbo! Underneath was a couscous with carrot and zucchini. The couscous recurs with the shrimp dishes — a better accompaniment than the Mexican rice so popular around town.
There is an ample mixed-drink selection, with the usual mojitos, margaritas, and martinis, and a wide assortment of tequilas. The wine list is far more modest than Ciao’s but prices are affordable, with generous pours at $7 a glass, and bottles mostly in the $20 range. The Cambria California chardonnay goes well with most dishes.
We arrived too late for it, but a daily happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m. You might want to consider an after-dinner drink at The Green Lantern which landed on The New York Times' short list of places not to miss in its travel feature "36 Hours in San Antonio."
Cabo Seafood + Bar
20626 Stone Oak Pkwy #103
THE SKINNY: Beautiful setting, with excellent, well-prepared seafood.
BEST BETS: Garlic and guajillo chili jumbo shrimp; salmon with risotto
HOURS: 4-11pm daily
PRICES: Appetizers $4-9; entrees $12-18; wines $7-9 per glass