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Cactus Restaurants

Cactus Restaurants Take ‘Farm-To-Table’ To The Next Level By Introducing Sustainable, Homegrown Produce In Each Plate

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We have created a special niche for ourselves in the Seattle food scene with consistently great food, seasonal-inspired menus and a relaxed, colorfully urbane ambiance. We started out in 1990 as a humble tapas bar, serving Southwestern, Mexican and Spanish cuisine in Madison Park. People loved the concept, the cuisine, and the service so much that we inevitably opened four more restaurants – in Kirkland, Alki Beach, South Lake Union and Bellevue Square.

In each of these locations, we maintained our commitment to seasonal menus, nightly specials and amazing, hand-crafted cocktails. Food was always made fresh, and made from scratch.

Now, we’re taking this commitment to local sourcing to a whole new level by entering a unique, organic farming partnership right here in the Seattle area.

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Since 2008, Cactus has been diverting its food waste to Cedar Grove, an environment-solutions organization that transforms organic waste into compost-based products. With the addition of each new Cactus restaurant and Tavern Hall (another restaurant under the Cactus umbrella that opened in 2014), we are composting over 72 tons of food waste today.

Cedar Grove has recently launched Sound Sustainable Farms, a model farm project where we are one of the few chosen restaurants that can have ingredients planted and raised exclusively for our own use.

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“With this partnership with Sound Sustainable Farms, we are closing the loop on sustainability by growing produce and planning menus based on seasonal produce grown from our own compost,” says Marc Chatalas, co-owner of Cactus Restaurants and Tavern Hall.

By raising crops locally without added herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, we’re guaranteeing the quality of the produce, while mitigating carbon footprints and environmental impacts of commercial farming.

With no middleman in the picture, our produce is arriving in its freshest possible state, on many occasions picked only hours before delivery. The short traveling distance is enabling our farmers at Sound Sustainable to pick foods at their height of readiness, when they will taste the best, instead of being forced to harvest food even before it is ripe to make sure that it will make the journey.

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This shortened time gap between harvest and fork means the produce is at its maximum state of nutritional richness and flavor. And we can source heritage and heirloom produce as well, to create simple recipes that showcase the best flavor profile of each vegetable.

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Over the years, our regular and loyal client base has come to expect constant innovation from us. We work hard to make sure our menus never get predictable or boring, which is why Cactus has created over 3,000 new menu items in the past 27 years – many of which have been copied all over town.

A farm-to-table partnership with Sound Sustainable was the next logical step for Cactus Restaurants because it reinforces our commitment to foods that celebrate their organic, artisanal origin in the highest standards of honest, quality cooking.

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Get In Line From Your Phone

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You can now get the most up to date wait times and secure your placein line before you arrive with the Nowait App. It’s totally free and we’ll notify you with a text as soon as we are preparing your table. When you arrive, you simply check in and we’ll get your sat very shortly. While we still have to drive our own cars, waiting in line at Cactus can be a thing of the past. Learn more and download the app at nowait.com

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Reader’s Choice: Best Mexican Restaurant in Seattle 2016

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We wanted to take a moment to say thanks to everybody in the Pacific Northwest who has supported our “chain restaurant” all these years. As mentioned elsewhere, we started this business serving tapas out of a single location in Madison Park in 1990 and have been going (and growing) strong ever since. That said, the most meaningful reward for our efforts comes from YOU our customers. Getting voted Best Mexican Restaurant by the readers of the Seattle Weekly is the very top honor in our opinion. While it’s easy to be the next flavor of the week, staying relevant to the public for over 25 years is a challenge—and one we gladly accept.

It wouldn’t be Cactus without you guys. So thank you very much! If you want to see what we’ve been up to, check out the newly expanded bar in Kirkland. The sun’s out and the margarita’s are fresh!

Newly remodeled bar at Cactus Kirkland.

Newly remodeled bar at Cactus Kirkland.

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Cactus Party Pickup: Let Us Do All The Work

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Cactus Party Pickup is the perfect solution to a fun (and affordable) party. Whether you are hosting your own event or required to bring your world-famous guacamole* to somebody else’s party—we have you covered. Our family style catering menu is perfect for home parties, family events, backyard barbecues and Super Bowl Sundays. We do all of the cooking. You can pick up everything from any of our locations in Seattle, Kirkland or Bellevue.

(*Your secret is safe with us.)

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Fresh Cactus Margarita Mix! You supply the tequila, we do the rest.

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If you are on the hook for this year’s Super Bowl party you can order everything from us and pick it up fresh on game day. If you are attending a buddy’s potluck party, swing by on the way and keep it simple with chips, salsa and guac. Better yet, go all out with enchiladas and a taco bar—we can do it all and you will be the hero.

Don’t Forget the Margaritas!

New for 2016! We now have our award-winning margaritas for sale to go. We provide the fresh margarita mix, the limes, the salt, and the cups. You simply add one bottle of your favorite tequila and mix! Everything is pre-portioned so you can’t fail. Shake with some ice and pour!

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Order by 2PM for next day pick-up. Available for pickup at any Cactus location. More details and menus available on our Party Pickup page.

Cactus: How To Survive in the Restaurant Industry For 25 Years

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This year, Cactus celebrated its 25th anniversary. Twenty five years(!) is a long time and, to be honest, it feels like dog years in the hyper competitive, always changing, perpetual motion of the restaurant industry. Since our first day in 1990, so much has changed. Case in point—when we opened in 1990, you could smoke in our restaurant. The internet was still 10 years away from commercial and public acceptance and food trucks were only found on construction sites peddling pre-made sandwiches and other questionable fare. In fact, here is the Seattle Times list of the best restaurants of 1990:

10. Casa U Betcha, 2212 First Ave.

9. Buddy’s Homesick Cafe, 8420 Greenwood Ave. N.

8. Buongusto, 2232 Queen Anne Ave. N.

7. Le Tastevin, 19 W. Harrison St.

6. Confetti’s at the Everett Marina

5. Ponti Seafood Grill, 3014 Third Ave. N.

4. Union Square Grill, 621 Union St.

3. A tie between two well-seasoned dinner houses: Canlis, 2576 Aurora Ave. N. and Gerard’s Relais de Lyon, 17121 Bothell Way N.E.

1. Szmania’s, 3321 W. McGraw St., Magnolia.

As you may note, only Ponti and Canlis have survived—congratulations to Rich Malia and the Canlis family. Coincidentally, we have thrived during this period with our sales having increased over 4300%. How have we done this?

Our guests are loyal, regular and, after 25 years, have developed favorites and strong preferences. When you’ve been around for this long, change is a necessity—we need to keep our regulars engaged and interested. We feel compelled to improve at all times, in all ways. We’ve always held that there are no sacred cows on the menu at Cactus. Being stagnant with our menu is a recipe for decline. Plus, tastes, techniques, products and trends are always changing and providing an opportunity to reinvent and innovate. We’ve found that changing anything on our menu can be really tricky and, honestly, a bit scary. However, we are dedicated to moving forward and innovating. In fact, we estimate that over the past 25 years, we’ve created over 3000 unique menu items and some of those were actually very, very good and often copied around town.

We also own a restaurant called Tavern Hall. We wanted to do nachos for this concept so we did something different than what we do at Cactus. We chose to do nachos with melted cheese and thicker chips. The feedback was so extremely positive. We found that the cheese coverage was way better, the flavor was great and, most importantly, the nachos were just as good after 30 minutes as when they first left the kitchen. Based on our drive to innovate and improve, we decided to apply the lessons learned at the Tavern to the Cactus nachos. While we suspected this change would be a problem for some, we hoped the majority of our guests would be pleased with the change and everyone else would come around.

After two weeks of this change, it became apparent that we reached and made a mistake. Our regulars were very vocal that this change wasn’t an improvement. We took their intensity as a compliment but it was impossible to ignore. So, we changed the recipe back to the old one and restored order to our universe.

We promise to keep innovating and we are committed to listening to our guests and correcting any mistakes we make along the way. We feel that both of these traits are a huge reason we’ve been around longer than 99.5% of the restaurants that have ever opened in the city of Seattle. We hope they’ll help us serve you for another 25 years.

BTW—nachos with our housemade chorizo are amazing! We hope to see you soon.

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