Owner Rich Reitman showed us the first draft of his colorful, simplified menu, which, along with the usual specialties, contains some new and exciting items. Like many Mexican restaurants, the choices are endless, with the old menu displaying over four huge pages.
The new menu consolidates all of his specialties, entrees, burgers and sandwiches, listing the dozens of options, combinations and additions in colorful squares. At the top is a chart in the form of a thermometer, grading the degree of hotness from the mild Pico de Gallo to the sizzling “ghost.”
Sauces are the specialties at Cactus Grille, all made in house and carefully matched to the meal or appetizer. You must start with the warm, crispy nachos, which come with three very different sauces.
Our favorite appetizer is the Mexican Sampler because it gives you a chance to try Southwest egg rolls, cheese quesadillas, chicken wings and my favorite, snakebites, along with sweet chili, Diablo and blue cheese dips ($8.99).
The standard burritos, tacos, enchiladas, tostadas and fajitas are listed below your choices of fillings and sauces. The best bet is the combo plate, which provides a number of options ($14). They all come with rice and beans.
The babyback ribs are marinated for over seven hours, coming out tasty and tender. The chef does wonderful things integrating salmon into a number of dishes. You can’t leave without trying the fried ice cream, a specialty of the house.
Rich and his wife, Christine, put in long hours at the popular restaurant, located at 800 Allens Ave. in Providence, the commuting route for Edgewood, Pawtuxet, Governor Francis and other Warwick and Cranston communities.
For those who “go way back,” a glance at the orange roof will remind you of the original Howard Johnson’s, which was followed by the Blue Parrot and then Ocean Express. Cactus Grille moved from its original location on Richmond St. Rich served as general manager for two years before buying the restaurant on Nov. 7, 2007.
They do a big take-out business, with many Downcity workers calling ahead. Christine said that they are a popular place for neighborhood residents and older Johnson & Wales students. The back room is a popular place for birthday and anniversary parties, business meetings and family gatherings. There is also a large bar serving Mexican specialties and regular bar drinks. It is one of the few places with Dos Equus on tap.
Cactus Grille is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Friday and Saturday to 2 a.m. The kitchen closes at 10 p.m. They are closed Sundays. Check them out on their website at www.cactus-grille.com.