Out of all the causal dining chains, “Cactus Club” seems to be doing the best. With the most locations in the province, and a few on some prime real estate. Their two newest locations are busy by the water. One at English Bay and the other with a view of the Olympic cauldron in Coal Harbour. Which proves its location, location, location. I have been to several and at each have seen some unique pieces. I have seen giant iron pigs, stone griffins, a fat Mona Lisa, and a vase as tall as a basketball player.
Below is a listing of the dishes I have tried over my numerous visits. Each beautifully plated and delicious. I have never sent a plate back or had something I couldn’t finish. All together I have pretty much tried 1/3 of their menu.
“The Bellini”. Peach schnapps, champagne, Bacardi white rum, and sangria.
Non alcoholic “Ginger fizz” with mint and blackberry & “Strawberry Splash”.
“Signature Caesar”. Smirnoff vodka, mixed with their signature blend of spices and clamato juice. Finished with a skewer of pickle onion, fresh bocconcini cheese, vermouth soaked olive, and Peruvian pepper. The accompaniments to a Caesar is usually its best part, and the ones at “Cactus” are my favourite. I have been known to order two for one cocktail. Make sure you classify that you want their signature Caesar to get the skewer. Otherwise you may be disappointed with a single pickled green bean for a regular Caesar.
“Signature sangria”. Fresh strawberries and raspberry, Zinfandel, apricot brandy, sprite, and a splash of Bellini slush.
“Korean lettuce wrap”. This was a seasonal main, with pickles vegetables and kimchi. I was very disappointed to see that some assembly was required on my part.
“Mini burgers”. Made with certified angus steak patties, cheddar, alder smoke bacon, lettuce, and red pepper relish.
“Calamari”. Deep fried with red pepper, jalapeño, fresh dill, served with chipotle aioli and tzatziki for dipping.
“Rob’s goat cheese flat bread”. Caramelized onions, grape tomatoes, basil pesto, wild arugula, and a balsamic glaze.
“Spicy chicken”. Sweet chilli glaze, scallions, and crispy wonton pieces. My usual appetizer order, it makes a great pairing with beer. The sweetness comes from honey and outshines any real spiciness; perfect for someone like myself, who can’t handle too much heat in their food. The wontons gives each bite a crispy texture with the chewy and saucy piece of chicken.
“Pesto chicken quesadilla”. Roasted chicken, blended cheeses, basil pesto, sun dried cranberries, with a honey lime dip.
“Short rib sandwich”. Caramelized onions, Emmental Swiss cheese, and grainy Dijon aioli served with a side of fries.
“Grilled tuna club”. Ocean wise albacore tuna, tarragon tartar, bacon, cilantro, pickled ginger, arugula, ciabatta. Usually served with sea salted fries, but here I opted for soup instead. This is the first burger I have had where the protein wasn’t the star and it wasn’t the most prominent flavour. I would have preferred the tuna to be less seared and more raw; but it was still fresh, light, and really accented the pickled ginger and acidic spread well. This was certainly original.
“Roasted butternut squash soup”. Seared scallop, apple curry foam, and basil oil. One of those rich and creamy soups that ate like a meal. Even as a side order the bowl looked amazing; with the drizzle of oil, the chunks of croutons, and the golden sear of the lone scallop floating in the mix. The scallop was the highlight, tender and tasty it was the cherry on top.
“Celeriac soup”. Aged white cheddar, black pepper croutons, and extra virgin olive oil, served with a grissini bread stick. This is a half serving of the soup for take out. The croutons and cheese come on the side, to be added right before you eat. The white cheddar melts in to the mix, and the croutons soak up the soup. If you eat them quick enough you get both their crunchy and solid textures. This is my go to soup from hunger to hangovers.
“Prawn spaghettini”. Slow roasted tomato sauce, chillies, fresh herbs, and garlic crostini.
“Teriyaki chicken rice bowl”. Sautéed vegetables, spicy yogurt, braised red cabbage. I enjoyed the texture from the julienned vegetables along with the chewiness of the rice. This is my favourite entree to order. The yogurt makes each spoonful creamy, and different from any other teriyaki bowls I have tried.
“Jack Daniels ribs”. Slow roasted ribs in their Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce. Sided by mashed potatoes and asparagus. Didn’t taste any Jack Daniels, they did a good job reducing this down to a sweet syrup.
“Charbroiled 7oz. Certified angus steak”. Blackened in a peppercorn and mushroom semi glaze, with a side of asparagus and mashed potatoes.
“Soy Dijon salmon”. Whole grain barley, snap peas, grape tomatoes, and marinated shiitake mushrooms.
“Butternut squash and prawn ravioli”. Truffle beurre blanc, pine nuts, crispy sage, and white wine sautéed prawns.
“Rob’s Hunter chicken”. Button, portobello, shiitake and crimini mushrooms in a veal demo glaze, with fingerling potatoes and green beans. Any entree you want shared they offer to split and plate separately for your dining ease.
“Chocolate peanut butter crunch bar.” Caramel sauce, crunchy chocolate pearls, and a scoop of Tahitian vanilla ice cream. If you combine the appearance of a chocolate bar with the layers of an opera cake this is what you get.
“Apple galette”. Flaky puff pastry, caramelized apples, topped with Tahitian ice cream, and drizzled generously with a thick caramel sauce. Apple pie in a Danish instead of a pie crust.
“White chocolate cheesecake”. Chocolate cookie crust, syrupy raspberry compote, and hand whipped cream.
“Chocolate lava cake”. A molten dark chocolate cake with a scoop of tahitian vanilla ice cream.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Out of all the other other casual chain restaurants out there I deem “Cactus Club” the best. I always find myself returning for a quick bite, or heading here as a destination to watch a hockey game. With the most locations, in some of the best areas; you are sure to find one with the proximity and scenery that matches your needs. Not to mention their amazing patios with loungers surrounding their feature fire pit. They incorporate unique pieces into each restaurant. They all look different, but feel the same. They really have their branding down pat. I never had a dish here that I didn’t like, and with seasonal menus there is lots to try. When looking for an easy choice and a quick bet, don’t deny your cravings on this one.