Sitting up amid the treetops and watching the evening sun spend its last light on the lazily lapping ripples of the Scioto River was lulling me into a trance. Or perhaps it was 20-ounce margaritas. Either way, perched on the aerie-like wooden deck at Cabo Cocina was proving to be an inspired idea. In fact the groovy mood I was enjoying was so relaxing that I didn't even mind the background reggae-tinged music Cabo plays.
Owned by the Historic Dublin Restaurant Group (of the Brazenheads, Oscar's and Tucci's fame), Cabo sits like a roomy stone lodge high above the banks of the Scioto near Dublin. And, as I implied, its comfy patio affords some fairly spectacular riparian views. But restaurant reviewers cannot live on setting alone. Therefore it's fortunate that Cabo's food is pretty fun, too.
First, though, there shall be hooch. While the fuzzy-making fishbowl-sized house margaritas I alluded to (they also come in 12-ounce versions) are above average, they're a bit sweet for my palate. My favorite tequila slurp here was an upgrade found on the "Fancy" list - the tighter, brighter and more lime-powered La Classica ($10/$14).
Foodwise (chips and an interesting salsa bar are on the house), the slightly spicy Shrimp Tostadas appetizer ($8) delivered the double crunch of deep-fried shellfish nachos. Its side players were a cilantro aioli with bits of blue cheese; a warm, smoky and chunky salsa; and a nifty jicama salad.
At least as good were the unique Sweet Plantains ($6.50). These were slathered in a spicy, sweet and smoky barbecue type sauce and served with jalapeno pesto plus a cooling-off yogurt dip.
As for entrees, Cabo's got tacos, burritos, fajitas et al., but - against type - I preferred the fusion-y, Mexi-Caribbean stuff from the "Cabo Specialties" section. Among these, the Adobo Pork Mojados ($12.50) were pretty good - big chunks of tender and fatty pig enrobed in a fruity, red mole-type sauce. These came with excellent, beer and onion flavored whole "borracho" beans.
I got those same neat frijoles, along with cheesy rice, to accompany the recommended Jerk Chicken relleno ($10.50). Served open-faced, the relleno featured charred peppers, tender meat and fruity accents.
For more of a showstopper, though, target the Spicy and Crunchy Tilapia ($15). It's a pretty plate rimmed with a tangy, creamy and smoky tomato sauce and starring darkly crusted, lightly pan-fried fish. The successful collision of flavors also includes dense, (sometimes) bacon-y smashed plantains, a scorched corn salsa and more of that jalapeno aioli.
This tilapia's so good you'll remember enjoying it even if you later float off into a little summertime trance. I know I did.