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Cactus Grill Tex-Mex Fusion Innovations That Are Full of Surprises

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Writing our monthly Cravings story means I get to sample some of Kansas City’s most innovative and delicious food. I do not take this opportunity for granted; savoring new culinary trends and visiting the hot and happening places around town is great!

Also great was tasting the Monterey Chicken Burrito at Cactus Grill and finding it to be just as delicious as it was 30 years ago! Yes, Cactus Grill’s Leawood location is celebrating 30 years in Kansas City and their newest location in south Overland Park is turning three. Let’s celebrate them!

While the burrito, crispy chips and corn masa are deliciously unchanged, Cactus Grill, like the rest of us, has grown up a bit since 1993. You need to check out their recently remodeled, high-vibe decor and new Tex-Mex Fusion menu items.

As beautifully plated starters, salads and entrees were brought to the table for sampling, general manager Ryan Vaughan shared a bit about his culinary background and the path leading him to Cactus Grill’s newest location at 7841 W. 159th. I listened and sampled as Ryan told me about Ed Gieselman, the founder of Cactus Grill, who decided Kansas City needed a good Tex-Mex restaurant, so at age 19 he opened one! Thirty years and multiple locations later, Ed is still involved; he and Ryan talk just about every day, and it sounds like Ed is a terrific owner and mentor as he willingly shares his wisdom and gives Ryan and the team space and opportunity to influence the menu. Ali SanJuan is Cactus Grill’s director of culinary creations, and he’s always coming up with innovative and creative ideas that are ahead of or within industry trends. He has been a loyal employee with the Jose Peppers/Cactus Grill family since he was 14 years old, in 1997. Together, Ryan, Ed and Ali are keeping it fresh and making this newly remodeled Cactus Grill Bluhawk location an elevated Tex-Mex dining experience.

Freshly Squeezed Tex-Mex Fusion
You’ll walk in and immediately notice the chill yet high vibe. The color palette, lighting and decor strike the perfect balance of being elevated and at the same time casual and fun. You’re greeted with a smile, and not long after being seated, a basket of thin, perfectly crisp chips arrives at your table with a bowl or two of salsa. You’ll order a margarita, but which one? I’ve tasted many margaritas and not many compare to Cactus Grill’s Jalapeño and Skinny Margaritas. It’s a tough call if ordering just one; the Jalapeño marg is spicy but not hot and the Skinny marg is simply perfect! Personally, I lean savory and less toward sweet, so I was a bit slow to try the Mango Margarita. But when I did, whoa! It was not sugary sweet at all; it’s made with mango puree and like everything else at Cactus Grill, it tastes fresh because it is fresh. All their margaritas are made with fresh-squeezed juice. To be clearer, all their juices are squeezed on location each day. It doesn’t get fresher than that!

When ordering your margarita, go ahead and order a shareable; ask for the To Die For Ceviche. This tastes like summer, with citrus-infused red snapper with avocado, mango, chiles, cilantro, red onion, celery and jalapeño served with chicharrónes! Speaking of chicharrónes, if you’re rocking keto, ask your server to swap the basket of chips for chicharrónes; they taste great alone or with a dunk in the salsa.

If you’re craving traditional Tex-Mex, I suggest the Monterey Chicken Burrito. It’s mesquite-grilled chicken, pico de gallo and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla then baked, topped with espinaca con queso and served with black beans and desert rice. Traditional menu items such as tacos and enchiladas (available gluten free) are bursting with next-level flavor because the fish, chicken, shrimp and steak are mesquite wood grilled. You will taste the difference.

Ready for something less traditional? Tasty, fresh, Tex-Mex fusion is on this menu. I’d suggest trying the Ahi Tuna Bowl. This was such a surprise and my favorite. Seared and cubed Ahi tuna, fresh avocado, black beans, cilantro rice, shredded cabbage and baby arugula are tossed then topped with sliced jalapeños, red bell peppers and serrano crema. This dish is summertime light and satisfies your cravings.

The Salmon Berry Salad is another summertime-light choice. Grilled fresh Atlantic salmon, strawberries, blackberries, goat cheese and honey-roasted pecans are served atop mixed greens and arugula, then tossed with raspberry-walnut vinaigrette and drizzled with a touch of honey. It’s more sweet than savory but crazy refreshing.

Unexpected Flavor Fusion
The Margherita Chicken can be found on the Specialties menu and that’s exactly where it belongs. This combination is like nothing else. The mesquite-grilled chicken breast is topped with fresh cilantro pepitas pesto, melted mozzarella and seasoned cherry tomatoes, then drizzled with balsamic. On the side is a generous portion of crunchy, grilled vegetables and off-the-cob street corn. Earlier I declared the Ahi Tuna Bowl as my favorite but, on second thought, it’s a tie with this dish.

Dessert Delights
For dessert, you might want to try the mango margarita or maybe a bowl of crunchy churros, a decadent piece of lava cake or the fried ice cream I remember from 30 years ago. It’s still amazing.
Ed, Ryan, Ali and the team would love for you stop by, pull up a chair and stay a while, but they also know that sometimes you just want to eat at home or need to eat at the soccer fields. You could order online, but they’d rather you give them a call and place your order with one of their staff, who is ready to ensure you’re getting exactly what you want, such as dressing on the side, extra cheese, no beans and double rice, gluten-free, no sour cream, whatever makes you happy. And here’s a bonus; Cactus Grill’s fabulous fresh-squeezed margaritas are available for carryout, too! ®

Find Cactus Grill Overland Park at 7841 West 159th Street and Call 913-354-2272 for perfect carryout orders and more information.


Art director, illustrator and entrepreneur Sheryl Hammontree is happiest when creating. As a freelancer, she creates visual styling and targeted messaging to strategically solve challenges for clients. As the owner of Thoughtful Threads, she creates expressive apparel to empower people and build a community of kindness. Sheryl heads outside to find energy, inspiration and calm; whether in the garden or on a trail, her soul is fed by creating memories with her husband, Joel, family and friends.