Where: Cactus, South Lake Union
What: Two Cactus margaritas, chips and guacamole, spiced caesar with shrimp, spicy Ahi tacos and apple wood smoked chicken flautas.
Cole and I started this new tradition of Friday night date nights. Living together means every night is essentially date night. And while I’m perfectly content to stay home in my comfies and chill any night of the week, it’s nice to spice it up every so often and also have a weekly tradition you can look forward to. On this weekly date night, not only was I looking forward to spending time with my Cole over drinks and food as always, but I was seriously looking forward to having a moment to toast an end of a busy week and kick off the start of another.
When I’m not trying my hand at food blogging, I’m fundraising, event planning and being a feminist leader for Women’s Funding Alliance, the local non-profit I not only have the pleasure of working for but that I also happen to be fiercely passionate about on a personal level. For the third year now, around this time of October, I’m on this whirlwind roller coaster ride I call AMPLIFY: our annual fall fundraising breakfast which attracts over 800 people and raises over $200,000 each year to support critical work to advance economic opportunity and leadership for Washington’s women and girls. This roller coaster I’m talking about is the intense buildup leading up to such a production that I lead and the incredible, inspiring outcome that I look forward to that makes it all so worth it.
So what better way to refuel for the next big week than with a margarita and Tex Mex fare at one of my favorite restaurants in town, Cactus. Cactus has been a favorite for years, and is one of those restaurants where I’ve had nearly 80% of the menu items and not once been disappointed, where I have an incredible experience from start to finish thanks to an exceptional crew and lively ambiance, and a restaurant that I will 9 times out of 10 recommend to any out-of-towner when they visit Seattle. Oh, and they also make a mean margarita.
Cactus has several locations in Seattle, but one that’s convenient for Cole and I to meet on a Friday post-5pm is the South Lake Union location, smack dab in the middle of our two work offices (I’m in Belltown, he’s a little deeper in SLU). Cole had been waiting for me a few minutes before I arrived but ordered me a margarita to have waiting for me as I plopped down on my chair. Smart man. Upon my first sip of the tart, fresh and swift (strong) marg, I was home.
Any Cactus visit cannot be complete without an order of their infamous chips and freshly made guacamole so that was also on the table immediately. And while I probably could’ve stuffed my face all night with chunky, vibrant guacamole and crispy, salty chips, we needed some other sustenance to soak up that tequila.
Let me tell you: Cactus’s happy hour is LEGIT. So often to I go to a restaurant during “happy hour” and they have a puny list of 3-4 items that you can hardly call snacks. Not at Cactus. Not only do they have a generous happy hour drink menu – house margaritas, mojitos, sangria, wine and beer – but they have a comprehensive menu of appetizers, shareables and even items that could pass as entrees. While it’s hard for me to pass up dinner items like the poblano chili relleno stuffed with goat cheese (unbelievable) and butternut squash enchiladas (superb), we would be losing money NOT ordering some of their amazing happy hour offerings.
We ordered a spiced caesar salad with grilled shimp, chopped romaine hearts with chile–dusted croutons, Cotija cheese, black beans and roasted corn tossed in a smoky Caesar dressing, spicy ahi tacos, spicy Baja “poke,” red onion, smoked fresno aïoli, avocado on crisp corn tortillas, and apple wood smoked chicken flautas with arugula, queso blanco and chipotle cream. Like I said before, every time I’ve gone to Cactus I’ve never not enjoyed any single menu item. These happy hour items were no exception. We loved the fresh, zesty take on the caesar salad with perfectly grilled shrimp. The spicy ahi tacos were a refreshing change from your standard street tacos – loved the creamy slice of avocado that made them even that more decadent. But our favorite was the smoked chicken flautas. Rich, indulgent and packed with flavor, they are not yo mama’s flautas. I would go back to Cactus for happy hour any day for the flautas alone!
It was the perfect mini-celebration I needed to kickoff more AMPLIFY roller coaster action.
P.S. Stay tuned for the outcome and post-celebration (because you know great food and drink will be had).