Monday, July 13, 2009

Cactus! is expanding (again)

In a bold move that is counter to much of what’s happening elsewhere in the Seattle restaurant trade, Cactus! is about to extend its presence in Madison Park by taking some of the space vacated earlier this year by the Yankee Peddler. On Friday, the City approved a construction permit allowing the restaurant to make alterations to approximately 400 square feet of the space contiguous to its location at 4220 E. Madison Street.

Owner Bret Chatalas tells me that the planned remodeling will involve moving part of the kitchen into the new space. The principal advantage of this will be to create a better work environment for the employees and a more efficient operation. Expansion of the kitchen may also allow for a future relocation of the tapas bar into what is now part of the kitchen area, freeing up space in the front for 5-10 more seats. As anybody who has tried to get into Cactus! on a summer evening knows, the Mexican/Southwest themed restaurant remains very popular in spite of the current economic downturn.

At a time when some restaurants are really feeling the pain, and others such as Oceanaire and the Union Square Grill are shutting down entirely, Cactus! has a proven concept that continues to withstand the test of time. This Madison Park mainstay has been described by The Seattle Times as a “screaming success” since it opened in 1990. At least partly due to space constraints at the Madison Park location, Cactus! spawned two sister restaurants, one in Kirkland in 2002 and one at Alki in 2006. Anecdotal evidence is that all three locations continue to pack ‘em in, and Chatalas confirms that things continue to go well for each of the restaurants.

Cactus! Madison Park has already undergone one major expansion, when in 1999 it annexed the retail space one door to the north of its initial location. Now the restaurant is moving into space that is one door to the south (though the actual door and front of that space are now occupied by Red Wagon Toys). “I made the decision to make an investment in the future,” says Chatalas. “It was now or never.”

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