“Cactus” had come up in discussion several times over the last month. It was time to check it out. I invited my sister Marsha and her husband Keith to celebrate her birthday. Keith had to work, but our cousin Lavinia joined Peg and me and Marsha for an early dinner. While Peg went shopping for a birthday card at Metro Market directly across the street, I grabbed a table for four. I enjoyed watching the other customers: two senior ladies laughing with each other over drinks, a tattooed father and his six or seven year old son, a couple, and a small party gathering everywhere.
I wasn’t sure when the rush would come. I sat down at four-thirty and ordered a Shirley Temple “with lots of cherries.” My soda was served quickly, followed by chips and salsa. The chips were thin and crispy. I ate one bowl of salsa all by myself. I asked the server if they had green salsa as well. She said she would find out . . . I never heard back. This is my only complaint. The red salsa was thick and chunky and delicious. It took somewhere between 12 and 18 scoops before I spilled some on my shirt. Peg soon joined me. I thought the salsa would be too spicy for her, but no. She loved it. Just before five, Lavinia and Marsha arrived. If they had come in just a little later parking would have been a problem. The Proctor District is booming . . . and I mean BOOMING. We had a table by the window, which let me watch walkers, shoppers, and lots of seniors stroll by. The condos have reinvigorated the neighborhood. It’s a bustling place putting parking at a premium.
In the 1970s our parents group from St. Patrick’s and my Tacoma Jaycees would frequent The Family Tavern and Johnny’s (both were once within a hundred yards of the Cactus location). Now both of those public houses have been incorporated into restaurants.
Marsha ordered a Chimichanga – “Crisp flour tortilla, jack cheese, green chile sauce, pico de gallo, fresh guacamole, sour cream, served with Spanish rice and cumin black beans” and with beef brisket. She loved it and had plenty to take home for a snack. Lavinia had lime and cilantro shrimp. Peg ordered the “Seafood Enchilada.” She wanted the shrimp but ordered the enchilada to sample instead. We all passed food around to assist in sampling. We also had “cactus guacamole, with smoked bacon, poblano chiles, charred tomato salsa, and topped with cotija cheese.” They have three kinds, one is traditional, the second was “Carlito’s Way” which is what we ordered, and Austin Style.
The idea of using beef brisket really caught my attention. I ended up ordering the beef brisket burrito, Brisket Burrita Leñera. It was huge and filled the entire plate – “Applewood smoked brisket, jack cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, Spanish rice, cumin black beans, New Mexico green chile sauce, buttermilk crema.” My bad. I don’t like flour tortillas. I shared of course. Everyone loved the brisket. Next time I will order the tacos with brisket. The texture was like perfect pulled pork, with a little crispiness here and there.
The next time we visit Cactus I think we should sample the appetizers. Several were calling to me: Camarones D’ El Diablo, Navajo Fry Bread, Spicy Ahi Tacos, and Ceviche. I think that would be enough to share with Peggy. What washed down our food this time? Strawberry lemonade, a wonderful prickly pear cocktail, a dark Modelo Dunkel Lager, a ginger beer, and my Shirley Temple. There may have been repeats.
I had the Tin Roof Sundae with a spicy peanut topping for dessert. It was wonderful. Everyone else had a scoop of ice cream in addition to a birthday candled Mexican flan. Our server, Ilya saw Marsha reading her birthday card and ordered the surprise for her. All four of us were thrilled with the food and the popularity of the restaurant AND the constant foot traffic that provided an ever changing view of Proctor pedestrians. The service was outstanding (except for the green salsa incident), the food excellent, and the view fabulous. Come early . . . and come hungry. – cactusrestaurants.com/