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susan smitten

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It's A Shame About Cactus Cantina [Sep. 23rd, 2013|04:06 pm]
susan smitten
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When we moved to Dubai, one of our first favorite spots was Cactus Cantina in the Rydges Plaza Hotel. Fourteen flavors of margaritas, lots of specials (including cheap buckets of beer or voucher systems where you buy five drink vouchers cheap, but in advance; a legendary Ladies' Night where everything was free, including endless chips and salsa; two-for-one steaks on Mondays; two-for-one Mexican nights; supposedly free drinks if it was raining, and the list went on), and they would subtract your taxi fare from your bill.

Also, the ladies' room had seven or eight pictures like this displayed.

It used to be a cheap hangout, but as it got more expensive and the deals started to evaporate, it was still a chill place to go. The dress code was more relaxed than any other Dubai spot, and I liked watching the salsa dancing on Wednesdays. Once I was celebrating a special occasion with Don, and they brought us a complimentary cake. Another time, we asked if the chef could disclose where the restaurant sourced its black beans, and the chef came out to talk to us, and gave us a sack of dried black beans, just to be nice. I got an email a few days ago that a new location had opened in Wafi Pyramids, next to some fancier restaurants. They're expanding, I thought. Good!

Years ago, maybe ca. 2005, my little brother added Keller, TX, to this map. It's still legible, and I only just realized it didn't turn up in any of my pictures from last night. I'll try to go back and get a picture.

Last night I went to the original location with two friends who had never been there, and another who hadn't been there since the 90's (when a beer cost nine dirhams). We booked a table, but when we arrived, the place was a tomb. One friend said he felt uncomfortable because he thought the spray painted "LANDLORD HAS EVICTED US" graffiti above our booth was slanderous toward Mexicans, and that's when I realized they weren't expanding, they were moving. "So you're all moving to Wafi?" we asked the staff. "Some," was the short reply.

All the furniture had price tags on it. The food was inedible, as if it was the last of the expired ingredients in the back of the freezer. We all left our orders practically untouched, and focused on our margaritas. Then a man wearing a PBE started wandering through the restaurant, fumigating.

Yes, that's what I said. They were fumigating the restaurant while we were eating our dinner and drinking our drinks.

We carried our drinks into the hallway, and a staff member followed us out to tell us we couldn't have our drinks out there. "But the air inside is full of toxic pesticides," we protested. And realizing our drinks were probably full of pesticides, as well, we left them on a bench and all went home.

It was nice knowing you, Cactus Cantina.

[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2013-09-23 01:43 pm (UTC)
It's my experience that ALL of the wonderful restaurants eventually outlive their wonderfulness.
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[User Picture]From: chu_hi
2013-09-23 08:09 pm (UTC)
It's really too bad, isn't it!
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[User Picture]From: joshdavis
2013-09-23 02:41 pm (UTC)

Cantina Cacto

So sad. :/
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[User Picture]From: chu_hi
2013-09-23 08:10 pm (UTC)

Re: Cantina Cacto

It is. While we were on our way there last night, we were remarking how that street never changes, how everything is like it was over twenty years ago. That place is such an institution; I can't think of any other place in Dubai with fourteen kinds of (really tasty) margaritas.
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[User Picture]From: vovat
2013-09-23 04:34 pm (UTC)
Isn't the Cactus Cantina where Luke Skywalker and Han Solo first met? {g}
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[User Picture]From: chu_hi
2013-09-23 05:33 pm (UTC)
That's the one! You never saw a more wretched hive of villainy, scum, and guys in PBE's spraying insecticides.
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[User Picture]From: nativeinformant
2013-09-23 11:31 pm (UTC)
No more Rydges, no more Molly, no more Cactus. It's the end of an era
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[User Picture]From: chu_hi
2013-09-24 03:20 pm (UTC)
That's how I feel. It's not the same Dubai we knew.
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From: (Anonymous)
2014-05-27 05:48 pm (UTC)


We adopted Molly when the new owners took over! They wanted her out :(
She is now living out her retirement years in our villa in satwa, and very happy.
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[User Picture]From: chu_hi
2014-05-28 10:30 am (UTC)

Re: Molly

Wow! That is the best news I have heard in a while. Thanks for letting me know!
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[User Picture]From: hitchhiker
2013-09-24 07:18 am (UTC)
aww, sad.
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[User Picture]From: chu_hi
2013-09-24 03:21 pm (UTC)
And I guess half the staff lost their jobs, which makes it worse. I never saw much employee turnover there.
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