Tequila = to kill ya. (but you didn't hear it from me)
On our last rush hour date night we were pulling out of the NXNW parking lot and saw the Iron Cactus sign. Mexican Grill & Margarita Bar. I shrugged. You can't swing a gato muerto in this town without hitting half-a-dozen Mexican joints and I have no use for a margarita bar. Because, as you know, tequila is bottled evil.
Rabbit Trail: Thanks to Drzymala, I've had a sip or two from a $130 bottle of Patron that rivalled a good Scotch, but I've never heard stories of any drink rivalling tequila for inducing regrettable behavior. It seems to hit a part of the brain that other drinks ignore, and for good reason. And then there's the whole idea of trying to disguise alcohol as something more benign. The way I see it, if you're going to drink something as powerful as alcohol, you should do it with full knowledge and intent, not with plausible deniability. Just take it straight, like a man, the nastier the better. Mixed drinks are all about the spoonful of sugar in the medicine. A martini is all about full disclosure. It says, "Hey, I taste like lighter fluid because I'm about as dangerous as a two-year-old with a can of lighter fluid around a flaming BBQ grill, so be careful." It's an honest drink, not some froofy drink that acts all warm and fuzzy and friendly and then, just when you turn your back to triangulate on the bathroom, outs with a circus mallet and beans you on the head.
Anyway, I didn't give the Iron Cactus much more thought until I stumbled across their website a few days later. This is not your father's Buick. Or his Mexican Grill, either. Sure, you can get the old standbys if you absolutely insist, but why would you after you've plowed through the first 4 pages of the menu and seen things like:
Appetizers & Salads
- Pecan Crusted Jalapeno Crab Cakes: Spicy gulf coast crab cakes with Texas pecan crust, served with chipotle aiole, fresh lime and cilantro
- Lobster Tacos: Three mini tortillas filled with sauteed lobster, Monterrey jack cheese, sweet red pepper coulis and tomatillo pico
- Ahi Tuna Ceviche: Tequila lime marinated Ahi Tuna with fresh tomatoes and avacados
- Peppa’s Steak & Papaya Salad: Iron Cactus baby greens with grilled Iron Steak, sweet roasted peppers, queso cotija, Mexican papaya salsa and tequila lime dressing
- Roasted Poblano Caesar Salad: Fresh romaine lettuce in our signature poblano Caesar dressing, crumbled cotija cheese and our own red chile and garlic croutons
- Camarones a la Parilla: Five jumbo shrimp, stuffed with jalapeno pepper and Chihuahua cheese, wrapped in brown sugar cured bacon
- 40 Creek Tenderloin: 8 oz. choice filet of beef, seasoned with Iron Cactus steak seasoning, grilled and served with 40 Creek whiskey buttered pecan sauce, asparagus spears and loaded mashed potatoes
- Tequila Ginger Glazed Breast of Chicken: Iron Cactus tequila ginger glaze marinated chicken breast with fresh mango salsa, asparagus spears and cilantro lime rice
- Pollo Relleno: Tender breast of chicken with Iron Cactus corn bread and cheddar cheese stuffing over Mexican rice, topped with our delicious jalapeno cream sauce
- Yucatan Fish Tacos: Tequila marinated whitefish grilled with lemon pepper in soft white corn tortillas, served with a lime butter sauce, fresh spinach, papaya salsa, rice and honey lime jicama slaw
- Red Fish Relleno: Oven roasted red fish stuffed with Texas blue crab, topped with creamy roasted corn Serrano chile sauce and served with Mexican rice and asparagus spears
OK, OK, I can't list everything that sounds worth a taste because I have to leave room for:
- White Chocolate Strawberry Margarita Tres Leches: A traditional Mexican cake soaked in three milks with the added enjoyment of strawberries and white chocolate
- Rollo de Canela: Iron Cactus version of cheesecake wrapped in a crispy cinnamon tortilla. Served with Mexican vanilla sauce, cajeta and Ibarra chocolate sauce
- Chocolate Raspberry Diablo: Chocolate cake prepared in the style of classic tres leches, three milks all chocolate, topped with fresh raspberries
Just to mention a few. We stopped by InStep to get some beeswax for the new shoes (amazing how fast a guy who never actually goes anywhere can scuff up a pair of shoes) and then across Capitol of Texas Highway to the Iron Cactus. It's a hip, trendy kind of joint with free wireless Internet, so you know I'm down with it. It took a long time to study the menu and narrow it down to something we could actually eat in the available time and geography. Since we had The Other Son present, we went for an appetizer, the Pecan Crusted Jalapeno Crab Cakes.
Rabbit Trail: Many moons ago when the buffalo roamed the hills and there was no rap music, the #1 Son brought home This Kid. As time passed it became apparent that This Kid was more like me than the #1 Son was. In fact, he was more like me than I was. If it hadn't been for the fact that he was 9'5", I might have suspected one of those switched-at-birth scenarios. The years rolled on, The Other Son married, moved to Georgetown and saw Jesus in a tortilla. Then he joined us for dinner at the Iron Cactus where we feasted and talked of novels, writing, humane Naugahyde traps and moss-covered, three-handled family credenzas.
But, as I was saying, the crab cakes were pretty darn good, as demonstrated by The Other Son saying he didn't like pecans and then eating a goodly portion. Which was fine because I was saving room for the Pollo Relleno, having been warned by Mario, possibly the best waiter north of Town Lake, that nobody has ever eaten the whole thing. It turned out to be two softball sized globes of chicken breast wrapped around all the stuff mentioned in the menu, along with everything else mentioned, too. I immediately notified the establishment that I would be requiring a little red wagon to take the balance home. Then I split a softball with The Woman and The Other Son, thereby scoring one of the bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp from The Woman. The Other Son, on the other hand, took one bite of the Yucatan Fish Tacos and didn't relinquish any tastes to the general public. But he is a growing boy, after all.
Due to circustances beyond my control we ended up eating the White Chocolate Strawberry Margarita Tres Leches cake, which was very tall and very good. But I'm wondering just what that cinnamon tortillia cheescake thing tastes like. It's really mean to tease a guy with something like that, don't you think?
Everything I tasted was worth another trip just to eat it again, but it seems just downright wrong to repeat anything until you've worked your way through the whole list, doesn't it? Who knows, they might talk me into sampling one of their 80+ varieties of tequila before I'm done.