121 Park Lane
Kirkland WA 98033
Some of the Best Mexican on the Eastside
By: Bryan R
The East Side, and in particular the northern Lake Washington area, is somewhat hurting from the lack of good Mexican eateries. Stumbling upon an enjoyable, would-go-there-again Mexican place is always a good card to have up your sleeve on a hungry evening when you’re feeling slightly indecisive. ¡Cactus!, with its combination of thoughtful décor and enjoyable Tex-Mex fusion cuisine, may very well be that card.
Located in the waterfront district of central Kirkland (locations also exist on Alki and in Madison), ¡Cactus! offers a convenient and tasty place to scratch your Mexican itch. Although parts of ‘downtown’ Kirkland are a little overrun with traffic, ¡Cactus! (along with several other restaurants) can be found on a smaller, calmer, pedestrian friendly side street that offers no view in particular aside from the hustle and bustle of people on the move. On warm days, a handful of tables are set up outside under the shade of several handsome trees, a nice touch to any meal.
We arrived in the middle of the lunchtime rush but a few tables were open towards the back corner, near the windows looking out onto the small street. A quick scan of the menu yielded a number of promising options that ranged from the perfunctory tacos to more interesting dishes such as the Navajo Torta (read Indian Tacos). The friendly server made a couple of suggestions and promptly took our order. A couple minutes later, tasty chips and salsa quickly found their way to our table.
¡Cactus! has chosen to go with something of a Tex-Mex interior design theme. High stone-set tables, various painted tiles and a heavy beige and earth tone color scheme accent the main dining room. Several skylights allow plenty of daylight to funnel through the many hanging strings of large chilies that dangle from the ceiling. Several colorful paintings and characterful small murals dot most of the walls. The Kirkland location isn’t too big, but they use the space well resulting in a semi-intimate feel– the kind of place ideal for a casual date.
As an appetizer, we tried the Navajo bread and found that the warm, fried roll (slightly reminiscent of a doughnut) was a great starter especially when dipped in honey. For entrees we enjoyed the fresh fish taco and noticed how the flavor of the lightly fried fillet wasn’t smothered in a thick batter soaked in heavy oil. The rice and beans on the side were infused with various spices and had a light garnish of flavorful feta cheese. Steve, who ordered the steak fajitas, really savored his meal and applauded the nice, thick cuts of spiced, sizzling steak served on his plate. The rice, beans, and various grilled veggies were also palate pleasing.
Though we weren’t entirely too sure what it was going to be about, we also opted to try the Navajo Torta. What arrived was slightly similar to a taco salad but with a nice piece of decadent Indian fry bread subbed in for the taco shell. On top of the bread was a pile of beans, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo (meat is optional but we’d recommend the chorizo – a spicy pork sausage). The end result was a savory and filling dish that puts your stomach to sleep.
For nicely balancing ambiance, value, and tastiness ¡Cactus! deserves our Editor’s Choice Award. The only real challenge is finding parking on the busy streets surrounding this popular eatery….
If you like Cactus, you may also like: