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Best of Tacoma 2019: Cactus Proctor

Readers' Pick: Best New Restaurant, Best Healthy Dish

Fresh ingredients in a fresh, new space: fitting. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

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With the Proctor District ever evolving, it seems pretty obvious that the people's choice for Best New Restaurant would just happen to reside there. Considering Seattle-based Cactus Southwest Kitchen and Bar has been curating and executing Southwest-inspired cuisine for nearly three decades, by the time they set their sights on Tacoma their brand was on point and a well-oiled machine. The ambiance articulates the Southwest flare at its core but also manages a warm and modern vibe. There's texture flirting with your senses throughout with concrete partitions, dazzling reds, bright yellows, understated oranges, funky patterns, locally-handmade tiles, wood accents, art -- and that's all before you even take your first bite of food.

Being the glutton that I am, I hadn't even considered Cactus as a front runner for Best Healthy Dish, but upon closer inspection, it doesn't come as a surprise. Even the richest of flavors highlights uber-fresh, quality ingredients with special care to a balance of flavors and textures (much like the space itself). Fresh, housemade ingredients are even featured in the libation selection with seasonal fruits, and a homemade agave sweet and sour playing as the foundation for boozy sippers.

As for dishes, there are ample options for those who opt for dishes that won't clog up the arteries (I'm still hooked on the Austin Style Guacamole, myself, decidedly not a healthy start to any meal). The menu features Grilled Fajitas with Portabello and Vegetable Escabeche. Jackfruit Tinga or Spicy Ahi Tacos both boasting loads of flavors and a fresh pop of flavor with ample veggies. I dug into the Chipotle Prawn & Kale Salad with Chipotle-glazed prawns, kale, cinnamon toasted quinoa, orange, avocado, toasted almonds, red onion escabeche all finished with a light tossing of orange-citrus vinaigrette. The salad was a generous size, leaving me feeling utterly satisfied, bordering on haughty being both full and having just consumed more kale in one sitting than I have in 2019 altogether.

Aside for the standard menu items, they have a feature menu that changes often, keeping compelling seasonal ingredients in regular rotation. Which is brilliant, if you're the easily bored type, it's not likely to happen anytime soon when visiting. I'm not likely to change my chubby kid lifestyle ways, but I might have to fit in another healthy dish by the time this article reaches your peepers.

CACTUS SOUTHWEST KITCHEN + BAR, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, 2506 North Proctor, Tacoma,

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