Cabo Flats Hopes for Late-Night Diners in Downtown at the Gardens

Cabo Flats, a Cali-Baja tequila bar and cantina-style Mexican restaurant, opened Friday after its initial night for family and friends. It replaces Rosa Mexicano, the successful-until-the-boom-bust-days chain that drew families and party groups to Downtown at the Gardens.

Open till the wee hours, likely playing off its night-owl neighbor, the Yard House, Cabo Flats has an outdoor tri-window bar and lounge chairs for al fresco dining. Inside, it has goosed up the paint job and added casual and cantina-style touches -- sparkling tin-star lanterns, the wall-long inside-out bar, and giant TVs. The

staffers were tripping over themselves when we visited, but our server

explained it was because the night prior, meals were free to customers

due to full-tilt chaos in back and front of house. They were to assure

that wouldn't be necessary again.

Things are big here: Drinks

are poured into 24-ounce glasses, with a variety pack of margaritas in

the starring roles. (BYOS: The Y-shaped glass is served with a straw,

no salt on the rims.) A long list of tequilas, including aged

reposatas, runs down the side of the lengthy menu that features

"ginormous" burritos, enchiladas that come in threes, specialties as a

place to put the salmon and chicken mole, and a long list of apps,

theoretically for that late-night bar crowd.

Chips and a

heat-free pico de gallo are brought to the table gratis; a quartet of

salsas and dips can be purchased. A campy touch: A free paper cone of

cotton candy comes at the end of the meal. There are several desserts

listed too -- including the de rigueur fried ice cream. Paul Ardaji is

the owner and GM: Carmine Giardini, of Carmine's Gourmet Market, is

behind him, silently. Giardini's also expanding his empire into east

Abacoa in Jupiter with his Coal Fired Pizza spot, expected to open soon.

Jan Norris is editor and publisher of JanNorris.com -- a website focusing on South Florida food.

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