Downtown Austin has hundreds of places where you can find a meal for lunch. All different types of cuisine. You are only limited by what you want. For over 20 years The Iron Cactus has been a staple on 6th street. They have been known for their margaritas and pure Mexican food. But for a restaurant to be open that long how do they stay relevant? How do they stay at the top of their game? This has been a question for most locals in Austin. Today we have thousands of Mexican restaurants. From Tex-Mex, to Baja, to Mexican Fusion we have it all. So how do you stay relevant? Well this was something I have thought about when we were extended the offer to try out the new menu for Iron Cactus. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what they could have done to make me think that they were still a place to find amazing Mexican food. I mean they are on sixth street. They don’t call it dirty six for nothing.
We came in with an open mind and an empty stomach. Our waiter Hunter was very helpful and knowledgeable about the menu we were trying. Some thing that I love about servers…. well servers that care, is that don’t hesitate to be honest with you. They tell you what they like and don’t like. This is huge for me. And you can always tell when they are honest. Having been a chef for so long I have trained many servers on telling our customers to have a particular item, because well I need to get rid of it. I tell them this is your favorite item today. But Hunter told us with enthusiasm, excitement and honesty. I loved that. After looking at the menu we choose two items for our appetizer. The crab stuffed jalapenos with a spicy lobster cream sauce and a picadillo purse. We were a little disappointed in the stuffed crab. When you add an ounce of cream cheese to the jalapeno it takes away the flavor of the pepper and the crab. We were expecting more. But then we tried the picadillo purse. Let me just say. Picadillo is one of those dishes that is so easy to screw up. Its simple, flavorful, has color and a little spice. Iron Cactus nailed it. The phyllo dough was perfectly cooked. Flaky, crispy and full of structure. It was perfect. I looked at it in amazement. You typically see purses like this full of chocolate or some sort of cream. So for it to be a savory purse just made all the difference.
Our entrees were a little different. I ordered the veggie enchiladas. I’ll be honest. I was looking forward to the pollo relleno. But Hunter was there to advise me on the enchiladas. And boy was he right. Roasted veggies on top of 3 enchiladas filled with mushrooms that sat in a tomato butter sauce. I can still feel the combinations of flavors in my mouth. This was something I didn’t expect to come out of the kitchen at Iron Cactus. I’m really glad it did. We also had the ahi tuna salad. The tuna was perfectly cooked. It was surrounded by a mixture of citrus fruits and tomatoes. The presentation was beautiful. The portion size was huge. Definitely something you can share with your loved one. Or have for a power lunch before your next meeting downtown.
For dessert we had a hard time figuring out what to get. Of course there was Hunter to the rescue. Before we could even ask him for a recommendation he just said cheesecake. Personally I don’t like cheesecake. In fact I don’t understand the hype with it. But thats just me. Hunter went on and on about it. So of course we trusted him. Boy was he right. The dulce was perfect. So smooth and inviting. Every bite was better than the one before. This was one of those moments where I would have been ok with starting with dessert and moving on from there. We also had two different drinks. I don’t drink so my friend took one for the team. The first was a prickly pair margarita and the second was a sagerita. Both looked great. Both had a their own flavor. But for me. I was there for the food. I was there ready for The Iron Cactus to show me that they are not just a restaurant that has the best margaritas with Mexican food, but a place that has amazing Mexican food. And really good margaritas . One thing that Hunter did was he brought us a display of all of the desserts. My heart skipped a beat. Next time Hunter next time.
So to answer the questions that I asked earlier. You know I don’t know. But I will tell you this. If you are downtown. And you are looking to show a friend what Mexican food is like in Austin. Or if you are just looking for a place where you can have great food and enjoy it with a person who makes your heart pitter patter I would recommend The Iron Cactus. Great food, wonderful staff, and good drinks. What more could you ask for?