The Velvet Cactus exudes vibrance and fun, from the eclectic art for sale along the walls to the mismatched chandeliers and playful Patrón bottles nestled on the rocks of the waterfall above the tiny lake on the patio.
Go early or plan to wait because this new place is popular, probably because of the buzz generated by its well-liked sister restaurant in New Orleans. If you have to wait, sip a delicious and refreshing cucumber jalapeno margarita ($9). Not as tart as a standard margarita, this drink deserves a try.
The menu plays right along with the vibe, offering the standard, but well done Tex-Mex fare but pumping things up a notch with some Louisiana-inspired flavors. While perusing the selections we crunched on complimentary chips and salsa, and really liked the house-made salsa of tomatoes, smoky roasted red peppers and jalapenos. We decided to share two appetizers, the Tex Mex egg rolls ($8.99) and the crawfish banditos ($9.99) and enjoyed both. The egg rolls were a super large serving of six delicious fried rolls filled with moist grilled chicken, melted cheese, black beans and roasted corn. This was served with a sweet and smoky raspberry-chipotle sauce on the side. Some of us loved this scrumptious treat but others felt the sauce unnecessary. This one was our favorite and may be our entree on the next visit. For the banditos, the crawfish and cheese were well seasoned and then rolled in a flour tortilla and fried just right, though there could have been a bit more stuffing. These were served with guacamole, sour cream and roasted red peppers.
The Velvet Cactus veers away from the standard sides of refried beans and rice and offers some delightful choices which we sampled with our entrees.
For the Ricardo Montalban (fun to say, $14.99) we chose both a chicken and a pork enchilada, both topped with mixed cheese and green chilli sauce, and a half quesadilla of the fajita steak. All three were good, but the chicken was the best of the enchiladas. With this we tried the borracho beans, smoky delicious pintos cooked in beer with bacon; and the fried plantains. A cross between bananas and sweet potatoes, these dense little hush puppies were a just-sweet-enough hit.
We also tried the two-taco combo ($12.99) and added a tamale on the side ($1.99). The first taco was the fajita steak, really good flavorful fajita meat topped with cheese, pickled jalapenos and mangos with a chipotle aioli; and for 49 cents more, the second was the chef’s taco. We hope you’re lucky enough to dine when the fried shrimp po-boy taco is available. Just like it sounds, this taco was full of wonderful fried shrimp in a flour tortilla topped with a perfect aioli. This was one of our favorite items of the night, though the cheesy grits we had on the side were a very close contender. We couldn’t finish the large serving so we made sure to take them home with us for the next day, because they were too good to leave. We also had the slaw which was average, but still a nice change. The pork tamale was good, but a tad dry.
On the lighter side, we tried the chopped taco salad ($10.99). Served in a crispy tortilla bowl, this really large salad with roasted corn and black bean salsa also had cheese, black olives, guacamole and sour cream. We really liked the fresh cilantro lime vinaigrette too.
Craving something sweet, we shared a plate of ice cream nachos ($9.99) and though we were close to full we polished them off. Crispy cinnamon sugar tortillas came topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream swirled with chocolate and caramel syrups, whipped cream and cherries. Not complex, but it absolutely hit the spot and we really enjoyed it. We also enjoyed our attentive server, who did an excellent job throughout the evening.