Cactus Jacks – Manchester

Whose Cheese is That? Whenever I visit my parents, my mom likes to put out a cheese and cracker plate.  When she  puts the platter down, without fail my dad will ask, “Whose cheese is that?” and then waits expectantly for one of us to respond with an enthusiastic “Nah-cho cheese!” Usually its me who gleefully shouts it, but remember I get genes from my dad, the poster child of this sort of behavior. If you like cheese -the dairy product, not the comedic styling- then you’ll be content at Cactus Jacks. They put loads of it on just about everything.

I’ve been to Cactus Jacks on South Willow Street several times because my mom works nearby, so it’s an easy place to meet up. If you’re in the bar and you ask, they’ll bring complimentary chips and salsa (they charge you in the dining room). The salsa was a tad too spicy for my wimpy taste buds, but the chips were coated in a seasoning blend that made them a savory snack, and were difficult to stop eating even sans salsa.

We were quickly brought waters, and then began the painstaking task of choosing our meals. You already know I’m slow, but now I’m with my mom, who I obviously inherited the gene from.  The bar began to fill up, but the booth still offered enough privacy. The atmosphere of the restaurant and bar is relaxed and casual, but not loud, so you can easily converse.

Mom finally chose the haddock tacos, recommended by the Phantom Gourmet (my dream job). Cactus Jack’s has an extensive selection of sides, and she chose the daily vegetable of butternut squash and sweet potato fries. I ordered the Seafood Casserole, also with butternut squash and sweet potato fries. Apparently, in addition to the inability to make up my mind, I also inherited her love of orange vegetables.

The Taquitos appetizer is a staple that we order every time. Chicken and cheese chimis are deep-fried and served with a large ramekin of amazing avocado ranch dip. Can I just say how much I love it when a restaurant gives you a large enough serving of sauce to last through the entire appetizer?!

Our meals arrived, and I was surprised at the size of my tiny meal. The sweet potato fries were crunchy, salty and sweet, but so few, especially given the $1 up-sell from regular fries. The butternut squash was perfectly sweetened. The seafood casserole had a unique flavor, and I think people who enjoy seafood casseroles would like this. I however, apparently do not like seafood casseroles. I prefer my seafood with pasta, veggies, sauce or spices, not hidden in breadcrumbs.  The overpowering wine flavor competed with the seafood.  Cactus Jacks in general has pretty good prices, but this was $18 and not worth it.

Mom’s haddock tacos had good sized chunks of fried haddock, cheese (of course), lettuce, and tomatoes in a hard corn shell, which was then wrapped in a soft flour tortilla smeared with crab dip (I wanted more of this cream cheese and crab dip deliciousness). They were better than my casserole, but certainly not the best thing on the menu, although with more crab spread, they may have been.

On subsequent visits, we’ve tried other dishes as well. Rick’s PretzelWrek- sliced roast beef warmed in au jus and Swiss cheese on a pretzel roll wasn’t my favorite (I’m not a fan of horseradish or swiss cheese) but even I could enjoy this excellent sandwich. And oh, the pretzel roll! If you like Ruben sandwiches, horseradish or anything along these lines you need to try this sandwich.

The Mango Tango Enchiladas were disappointing. Like some of their other dishes, overwhelming amounts of cheese completely obliterated the other flavors. At this point, I was getting frustrated with CJs. Their apps are good but I had yet to find an entrée that grabbed me, until….

If I could eat the butternut squash lasagna every day, I would. Butternut squash layered with spinach, lasagna noodles, the perfect ratio of cheese, and white cheese sauce with a side of honey roasted root vegetables made for the ultimate winter comfort food. The butternut was sweet, the sauce was warm and creamy, the cheese was…umm… cheesy, and the root vegetables were a delightful palette change between bites of the lasagna. Unfortunately, this lasagna was a special, and I haven’t seen it since. Ohhhhhh bring back, bring back, please bring back lasagna to me –e-e! (Hey, I warned you I sing kid songs for a living).

Cactus Jacks is a casual place to go for a adequate meal at a decent price as long as you know the dishes you enjoy there. While I prefer TBones (everything I’ve ever had there has been excellent) over CJs, I’ll certainly be here again due to habit. Can you imagine what would happen if my mom and I had to decide where to go and it wasn’t predetermined? We’d never get there! ¡Buen provecho!

CP4Less: Sign up for their email list to receive a coupon (and another on your birthday).

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3 Responses to Cactus Jacks – Manchester

  1. annette says:

    That butternut squash lasagna is, indeed, out of this world. Maybe next fall it’ll come back.

    They also have a promotion for frequent visitors Every time you eat there, you add up points. At some point you get $10.00 taken off you bill. ( I think it was after three visits). Something like that. In any case, ask for it.

    • Clean Plate says:

      Thanks for the info Annette! I checked it out on the website- it’s their payback promotion. You sign up for the card ($10 for the card, free for those over 55 I think) and for every $100 you spend, you earn a $10 gift card. Certainly good for people who are regulars!

  2. Clair Z. says:

    I love that story about your dad. How I miss them!

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