Cactus Mexican Restaurant opens three locations near downtown Iowa City

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) — A well-known Iowa City Mexican restaurant is making sure the downtown area isn’t a food desert by having multiple locations. But could a fourth one be on the way?

Cactus Mexican Restaurant opened its third location this month in the old Pepperjax building. Cactus, Cactus 2 and Cactus 3 (as they’re called) are all within .4 miles of each other. Online buzz has people wondering if a fourth location is also on its way.

Cactus got its humble beginning on the corner of Gilbert Street and Burlington eight years ago. As business grew, seating space got prickly.

“People don’t like to wait. I don’t like to wait myself. Sometimes they get frustrated when they go there and they don’t have a place to sit,” restaurant manager, Noe Tellez, said.

So, in what was then a surprising move, Cactus 2 was opened three years ago, but only steps away from the first location.

“We didn’t have enough room to take care of all our customers,” Tellez said. “We tried to find a bigger location and we weren’t able to. We even came downtown and we didn’t get the opportunity to get a bigger place.”

Tellez was the manager of both Cactus and Cactus 2 at the time. Now, he’s managing at Cactus 3, the newest spot in the Cactus trilogy.

Cactus 3 opened its doors on September 15.

“So far, so good. People have responded to it. We have a lot of people coming in that like the location,” Tellez said.

According to Tellez, the third location was to get business even closer to the action of downtown, a spot close to the University of Iowa campus.

“We never had the opportunity to be downtown because this is actual downtown, not like where the other two are. This gives us an opportunity to provide a service to most of the students,” he said.

Thanks to a photo circulating on social media with a “coming soon” sign with the logo for Cactus 4, rumors flew around Iowa City and online that a fourth spot was coming close-by.

“I got a picture of the cactus 4 and that’s a lie,” Tellez said.

By Wednesday afternoon, Tellez had already been asked multiple times about the said new location. It’s a rumor he shuts down.

“We just opened this one. I don’t think we’ll be able to take care of another one right now,” he said.

For now, the business will stick to its original location and the two duplicates. Tellez said a Cactus 4 in the future is unlikely. Instead, he said it’s more likely that they’d someday look to put all three under one roof.

All three locations serve the same food with the same hours. Tellez said, considering that Cactus 3 has the biggest kitchen yet, they will explore adding new dishes to the menu.

Jalyn Souchek

Jalyn Souchek

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