Reminded that Studio Cafe (Newport) closed, and the weather being Santa Ana winds, I went to that beachy location where they now have a Mexican cantina. It's called Cabo Cantina and is at the base of the Balboa Pier. It just doesn't rate as great. I do like the location. And, it has retained the really laid back atmosphere that Studio Cafe offered via jazz.
And, they installed a very long community table in the upper inside deck area. It somehow feels clean in there, even amid the plethora of beer company adware, funky collectibles, thatched roof bar area, a few surfboards, and floors that don't seem to mind half a maggie poured on them. It tried to be dark in therre, but the wall of windows during the day doens't permit it. And, there's free pool table play in on back room. No "suits" in there. No bikers either - well maybe bicylers. And, skaters/bladers roll in. One 50'ish guy had a face like Robert Redford, a little worn from the sun and not that evident beneath his blond hair that reached the middle of his back, obviously "of the beach." He talked intelligently and had a cellphone.
The location is superior. Especially while thinking Sunday Super Bowl. It has a ton of grassy area parkland outside in case someone wants to just toss a football or even play a game of flag football before, at half time, or after the game. Or, maybe someone will want to do a cheer from the white gazebo on the grass? It's graced by Palm trees. It's on the beach boardwalk. The level seaview is quite nice. It has no less than 10 TV screens on the walls in about 1,000 sq.ft. of space. Maybe more in the other two rooms. The bartender (who herself (unprompted) describes the decor as "cheesy" is cute as a button and also serves as waitress. She adds a little class with her demeaner to the place that could easily become a greasy smokey dive. They have "Happy Hour" from 4 PM to 8 and 10:30 to midnight. Two for one drinks. On Sunday, they will have cheerleaders.
Their standard Margarita costs $8. (Is that a high price? I usually drink wine if any alcohol. They don't have wine. And, they don't have Beefeaters either. I think they have the new beer with caffeine, but can't confirm. It just looked like it.) They have 8 or 10 varieties of the maggie. Their house Triple Sec is 60 proof (double proof of the common stuff), and you can taste a kick in every sip. Maggie served on the rocks unless specified. (Not as noisy that way?) All of their margarita glasses are plastic - big and of heavy plastic. LOL. I guess thatplace can get rockin' And water glasses are disposable picnic plastic.
Menu is limited for a Mexican place. I think that is because they like to serve it on a lined basket. So, no enchiladas or oven baked rellanos or anything. And, I think much of their stuff is commercially prepared. The chips are those cheery red, white and green. They heat them well, but I doubt they make them there. The salsa is verde. And, it is almost exactly the same as the Trader Joe's brand, glass- jarred Salsa Verde. I happen to like it. It is mild. But, it's not what most people think of as salsa. Guac also seems commercially prepared.
One burrito (seared sealed on a flat grill?) costs $6.50. Add rice and beans, you add $2. I asked for a very small salad, no dressing, extra guac for that. No rice or beans, but the iceberg lettuce salad with half a tomato qualified it for the $2 charge. And, I added some Ahi for another $2. I had the "cantina" style, friend had the cabo style. It was to hot for the soup. And, the meal salads - well, we wanted to try something more Mexican. Maybe next time. I think they were $8.50. I didn't taste the beans and rice, but friend said they were okay.
I really wish it could be an Avila's there or something, but its not. It's not a Baja Fresh either. But, the quality is of a fast food Mexican joint, a commericial fast doo, not a hole in the wall independent. Except, it took them about a half hour to make the meal, so I wouldn't call it a fast food place. The cook was stumped on what perky bartender meant by "small salad" and came out for direction. He even found a ceramic bowl for it! It was before 5 PM and we were the only ones in there eating. The nine others were just drinking.
I guess they have music in the night. And, Karaoke on Wednesdays. People still have karaoke? I bet it gets rowdy in there then.
I think I will try the Happy Hour at Rockin' Java next time I'm in that area.
Or, maybe I will dodge a few Mercedes at the valet stand at 3 Thirty 3. They just opened three weeks ago, have a Happy Hour, are in great location (where Yankee Tavern used to be), and have an interesting menu and some comfort food for a reasonable price. Not at all like Cabo Cantina. Maybe I will keep my hair up.