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HILLSVILLE — Opening a new Mexican restaurant in downtown Hillsville also gave one of its operators an opportunity to come back home to Carroll County.
Cabo Mexican Grill and Cantina, officially opening at 508 N. Main St. on Thursday, is a partnership of Valentin Soto, Ramiro Armenta and Eduardo M. Huerta.
Soto described the offerings as Mexican food with a twist, which will include steaks and fresh fish.
Cabo joins its sister companies El Charro in Radford and Floyd, where Soto had been working, and Los Potrillos in Mount Airy, N.C.
“I’m from a family of four brothers, including me,” he explained. “We came here because my parents live in Galax.”
Soto attended Gladeville Elementary growing up, and he and his brothers all graduated from Carroll County High School between 2002 and 2009.
“We know Hillsville, Galax, pretty well... the whole surrounding area.”
It’s ironic because, as a teen, he looked forward to getting out of the place where he grew up. After that, he found that he wanted to get back and had to work to make it happen.
Fortunately, the elements of the new restaurant, located in the old Hardware Co. Restaurant, fell into place.
“They offered this place here — it’s a gorgeous building,” Soto said about Cabo’s new home. “It’s something we couldn’t pass up, coming back here.”
It looks a little different now, starting at the mint green front door with the thatched awning overhead.
One way Cabo will try to differentiate itself from other Mexican restaurants is to brighten up the menu and make it fun. Soto said they are trying to get away from the practice of having lists of different combinations of tacos, burritos, enchilada and other items on the menu.
It’s important that customers be able to read the menu and know exactly what they’ll get when they order. He wanted to breathe new life into the menu by selling T-bones, New York strips and ribeye and fresh fish.
Cabo will also serve a Cali-style burrito, which is a giant California-style wrap, he said.
Another example of their fun approach, “Slow Poke Rodriguez,” a kind of mini-Tex-Mex burrito, will join the “Speedy Gonzalez” on the menu.
Other restaurant features include a full bar and a meeting/banquet room upstairs that seats 72 people. The owners also hope to have musicians play for the customers.
Soto hopes that Cabo can help enliven downtown Hillsville and attract people into town.
The restaurant can seat 146 people and will employ about 15.
“We’re excited and nervous at the same time,” he said. “Mexican restaurants are probably one of the fastest-growing markets right now — I got started a little late in the competition.”
• Hours are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday noon to 9 p.m. Additionally, the bar will remain open until midnight Friday and Saturday. Cabo’s phone number is (276) 728-0550.