My wife picked the location of our mother’s day dinner and went with a place she hadn’t been since our college days at the University of Cincinnati, Cactus Pear.
The Cactus Pear has been serving southwestern fare since 1992 in their Clifton location on Jefferson Avenue. If you’ve never visited them you may still recognize their location by the pink painted exterior that is easily found near the UC campus, Cincinnati Zoo, and surrounding neighborhoods.
The inside of the restaurant is much larger than I expected it to be. There is a long bar as you first enter the front door and a couple of dining areas on the opposite side of the spacious building.
Chips and roasted tomato salsa are not free as you may expect from southwestern restaurants, but $1.95 for bottomless baskets is well worth it. While the chips didn’t appear to be freshly prepared, the roasted tomato salsa easily made up for that. It had hints of smokiness in addition to the more traditional tomato and garlic flavors. It wasn’t overly spicy and everyone in our family seemed to love it. I think we went through four bowls before our meals arrived.
We split a couple of pitchers of margaritas. I really enjoyed the house margarita ($28 pitcher) which was not overly sour like so many restaurants tend to make them. I could actually taste the tequila, which isn’t a bad thing in my book. The mothers in our group seemed to favor the more sweetly flavored prickly pear ($29 pitcher).
For dinner I ordered the chicken enchiladas ($13.95). Grilled chicken, peppers, and onions are wrapped in corn tortillas and topped with tomatillo sauce, melted cheese, and sour cream. This was served with black beans and rice. The enchiladas were easily my favorite I’ve had in Cincinnati. The tomatillo sauce had just the right amount of heat and a wonderful flavor that mixed with the grilled ingredients so well.
I also had a few bites of chicken fajitas ($15.95), which were cooked perfectly and offered a serving size enough for two. The sizzling skillet is served with flour tortillas, black beans, rice, lettuce, pico de gallo, and sour cream. Others in our group had the tamales of beef (which came highly recommended and did not disappoint) as well as the fish tacos.
The prices may be a little higher at Cactus Pear than other neighborhood Mexican/southwestern restaurants, but the food quality easily makes up for it. The chicken enchiladas and tamales of beef were both excellent and highly recommended. Their tomatillo sauce is top notch.