Cityscape

Independence’s new Los Cabos restaurant brings Mexico to the Midwest

The Cabo Wabo platter at Los Cabos serves two and features a chicken tamale, chili relleno, fajita chicken enchilada, beef enchilada, cheese and onion enchilada, a crispy beef taco and sides. Drink options include the Cabo Bueno Especial (left) and the Top-Shelf Royal Swirl.
The Cabo Wabo platter at Los Cabos serves two and features a chicken tamale, chili relleno, fajita chicken enchilada, beef enchilada, cheese and onion enchilada, a crispy beef taco and sides. Drink options include the Cabo Bueno Especial (left) and the Top-Shelf Royal Swirl. Special to The Star

Longtime restaurateur Jim Blacketer wanted his customers to be able to take a two-hour Mexican vacation.

So he came up with Los Cabos Mexican Grill & Cantina to showcase Mexican and coastal cuisine in a festive, family-friendly atmosphere. The first of three Oklahoma locations opened in 2005, and now there is a new one in Independence.

Blacketer was tipped off to the local site nearly a decade ago. It is strategically located at the high-traffic intersection of Interstates 70 and 470. A Bass Pro Shop would be nearby, and the site was large enough to accommodate a 10,000-square-foot freestanding Los Cabos with a 3,000-square-foot patio and outdoor bar, and a large parking lot.

And a man-made lake by Independence’s Waterfall Park would serve as a backdrop.

“When I saw this space I just fell in love with it — the 18-acre stocked lake, the waterfalls coming down. I could just envision it sitting right there by the water,” he said.

Blacketer was already familiar with the Kansas City market, having opened a Steak and Ale at 79th Street and State Line Road circa 1970. His Oklahoma Los Cabos also had built a following from Kansas Citians visiting the state. So the area market seemed ideal for the first Los Cabos outside his home state.

But then the economy went south.

“No one was doing any development at all. But then two years ago the developers of the Falls called me and said, ‘What’s it going to take to get a Los Cabos up here?’ So we made the deal,” he said.

Los Cabos opened in The Falls, 18201 E. Bass Pro Drive, Independence, in mid-August.

The restaurant, with “coastal hacienda architecture,” seats more than 300 people in the main dining with its soaring 35-foot ceiling, the bar leading to the patio and the back Fiesta Room with its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake and Waterfall Park. The Fiesta Room also can be booked for events for up to 40 people. The patio seats 150 people.

Los Cabos has a broad made-from-scratch menu featuring such items as fajita chicken enchiladas, mahi mahi tacos, brisket tacos, cheeseburger burritos, tequila lime chicken salad, tortilla soup, sweet corn tamale cakes, fried avocados, and grilled or blackened tilapia. It also has lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays (excluding holidays).

“We prepare it all day, every day. Nothing is frozen,” Blacketer said. “It’s a split Tex-Mex/Sonoran menu, which is West Coast, Arizona cooking. And we add what I call coastal, which is our shrimp dishes, tilapia, mahi mahi.”

But enchiladas, fajitas and tacos are among the most popular orders.

Friday through Sunday nights are particularly festive, with a roving mariachi band, balloon-maker and live music on the patio. Waterfall Park also has a play area and pavilion, streams and bridges and more than 2 miles of walking trails, so some Los Cabos customers extend their visit to take in the outdoors.

“So basically when you are going to Los Cabos you are going on vacation for a couple of hours. It transports you to Mexico,” Blacketer said.

Sales have already exceeded Blacketer’s estimates, and he’s looking at sites in Johnson County for a second area restaurant.

Along with Bass Pro Shops, other tenants in The Falls include the 167-room Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, Hobby Lobby, Mardels, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, and Pizza Ranch.

A 14,732-square-foot Duluth Trading Co. store is scheduled to open by Thanksgiving, according to The Falls developer Crackerneck Creek LLC. The Belleville, Wis.-based retailer sells casual wear, workwear and accessories for men and women.

Joyce Smith: 816-234-4692, @JoyceKC

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