Cactus Ya Ya
This is one of my favorite restaurants, not only in Vancouver, but in the Portland Metro area. Cactus Ya Ya is located just off Mill Plain Blvd on the east side of I-205, but is definitely worth the drive if you enjoy great Mexican/tex-mex food. They’ve been open for about 18 years, and are noted for making their own sauces and marinades. A recent Columbian newspaper review described it as a fusion of asian, northwestern and southwestern food – I believe because they offer dishes with peanut sauces, kabob type skewers and caesar salads etc. in addition to what most of us consider traditional Mexican fare, although having traveled in Mexico I rarely come across food that resembles what we ate there. I honestly have no clue what the term “fusion” means – obviously something to do with a blend of styles however exactly when does something cross that line? I mean, is there such a thing as a “pure” food style that hasn’t been influenced somewhere along the way by another culture?
I’ts still primarily Mexican in my book, because the predominant foods are tacos, enchiladas, and chimichangas. And of course, tortilla chips… food of the gods!
They make an amazing bean dip, that accompanies the complimentary chips and salsa. My son always orders their beer battered jumbo prawns.
I’m inevitably torn between the fish tacos which are amazing, the chicken skewers, which I can actually finish as opposed to larger dishes, and the chimichanga which I love as it features rice inside the roll, white chicken and an enchilada-like sauce, guacamole and sour cream. As much as I love their rice and beans, I can get away with only ordering this dish ala carte – in this way I have some prayer of finishing it. I’m certain this isn’t entirely kosher, but I had such a difficult time making the guacamole not look utterly disgusting in this photo and I’m sooo sorry! However I assure you it was amazingly yummy and not at all disgusting in real life!
I’ve visited this restaurant in the summer as well as in the winter, for the ten days each year we get of balmy weather pleasant enough to eat dinner outdoors without getting soaked – summer is nice as they have a patio that wraps around one corner of the building – they are located in a sort of strip-mall area just off Mill Plain, but with the walled patio and the overall atmosphere and the excellent service they more than make up for any lack of ambiance created by the less-than-ideal locale.
In the winter, it’s a very cozy, warm and snug atmosphere. The inside is somewhat dark, and areas are separated by low walls. They have cozy booths, some against the mid-wall, others next to the windows, there’s a bar area in the back between the main restaurant and the patio entrance. My only complaint is that it’s sometimes a bit noisy, just a low undertow of sound that at times has made it difficult to have any sort of quiet conversation, but those were only at the busiest times. I’ve gone there for lunch to get their tortilla soup with a book and it’s been the perfect atmosphere despite the acoustics.