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Feb 13, 2012 06:20 AM

Ten out of Ten

We decided to give the the Cactus Club at try because we had heard some good comments about it among friends. Last night we went to the one in Victoria. Nobody enjoys 'eating out' with me (especially me) because having worked in restaurants I tend to be too critical.
I was in for a very pleasant surprise. We were seated where we could look into the kitchen. All the staff appeared to really be enjoying themselves. Not in a 'goofing off' way, just an efficient friendly atmosphere. The servers were alert and knowledgeable. We shared a carpaccio ap. The best either of use had ever had and we've had carpaccio in some pretty fancy restaurants. My wife ordered the butternut squash and prawns ravioli with a truffle beurre blanc. It was excellent! I had a short rib sandwich with caramelized unions . It was excellent! My God! the plates were even hot! Desert was chocolate lava cake. Again an excellent dish. The restaurant was about 3/4s full. We didn't have to wait to be bread and watered. The dishes arrived promptly but we weren't rushed at all. The music/lighting levels were just right. We didn't order any wine. Total bill with 15% tip was about seventy bucks.
What I really appreciated was whoever owns the twenty something Cactus Clubs has got the plot figured out. Relaxed atmosphere, excellent service, food that tastes like you could be eating at a restaurant costing four times what you are paying The ravioli was as good as I've tasted in any 'fine dining' restaurant at half the price. The prawns were cooked to perfection which is just about impossible to manage in any restaurant) and sensible prices. It was obvious that the 'bottom line' was on the minds of the kitchen staff. I didn't see a scrap thrown away. At one point someone sent a dish back. For a few seconds all the kitchen staff, the expeditor the servers who happened to be at the pass the head of house immediately crowded around the returned dish. The expressions on their faces were like they all were looking at something that had just fallen from outer space onto the pass. Bewilderment/fascinated/concerned. It was apparently something rarely seen by the staff. Then just as fast they all went about their work.
I know what the Cactus Club is and doesn't claim to be. I believe restaurant chains like the Cactus Club are the 'wave of the future' when it comes to 'dining out'. The days of dropping three hundred bucks (less the pretension) on what you can get for less than a hundred are over. (The customers in booth next to us were wearing balls caps and at a six top everyone was all dressed up celebrating a birthday.) The fact that the Cactus Club business model is a success proves it. Ten out of ten!

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  1. Great to hear that a local expansion chain did so well by you! I used to quite like CC before it got bought out and franchised (anyone remember when it was full of cows?), but haven't had good experiences at the Vancouver ones I've gone to in the last few years, what with the loud music, long waits and okay but to me overpriced food. Will have to give it a try again.

    5 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      " I used to quite like CC before it got bought out and franchised (anyone remember when it was full of cows?) ..... "

      Didn't they start out on W.10th @ Trimble, where Enigma is now ? :-)

      1. re: LotusRapper

        I used to go to the original one in North Van but haven't been since moving to Kits. It did have some amazing decor! Now I find them a bit overpriced.

        1. re: LotusRapper

          Yes I remember them on 10th and Trimble with the cows.

          1. re: LotusRapper

            ah yes, back when it was all about cartoon cows and throwing the peanut shells on the floor.

            1. re: Burma VonFurston

              Man I remember the cows and the West 10th location so well. And the napkins with the slogan...something about the food you are wiping off your face is good. I miss the cows. So much so I have a cow spotted coffee mug with udders for feet. Nostalgia...

              Haven't eaten at CC in ages having just about given up on chains since moving away. I did hit Milestones at Broadway and Cambie over my 4 day dash back at Xmas and was disappointed. The spinach and cheese (which I've been eating since West 4th was the only one) dip has changed and not in a good way. It had this strange unnnatural colour to it, which I commented to the waitress. Oh well, leave the country for 12 years and this is what you get.

        2. While not exactly a fan of chain restaurants... I had a fairly decent experience at CC yaletown not long ago. We were still hungry after Rodney's Oyster Bar, so ducked into CC for a quick snack and pint. The appy's we had were actually pretty good, the price was right, and service was quick as we didnt want to spend too much time there. (Much better than other chains (Earls etc.).
          I probably won't be going there for a special meal, or maybe anytime soon, ..but there is a time and place for eating at such restaurants and I'd pick CC again.

          5 Replies
          1. re: jmil

            Cactus Club isn't franchised.

            1. re: meghany

              Good to know. I guess I should have just said bought out.

              1. re: grayelf

                It's still headed by one of its two founders, Richard Jaffray.

                This recent VanMag article provides a bit of history on the Earls/CC/Joey's/Browns groups:

                I much prefer CC over the others. A bit pricey for what it is but it's very consistent and I quite like their 'rainforest greens' salad when I want a salad-based meal.

                1. re: kinnickinnik

                  Cactus Club is also my preferred chain. The chains have their place - especially when dining with a large group of people with varied tastes or with "picky" eaters, these places have something that will please everyone. They are also a good reminder why I prefer to not eat at chains.

                  1. re: fmed

                    Yeah, Richard ("Richie") is still running the show.... Scott(ie) Morrison started the Brown's restaurants (which are franchised) when they went their seperate ways...

                    I'm actually partial to Earls for my go-to chain... I find the food more consistent, and I think it's more appropriately priced. IMO.