For 21 years Cactus has been a standby in Chicago’s Financial District. Located at Wells and Van Buren where the El makes its turn on the southwest side of the Loop, it’s right by the Board of Trade and is a popular after work spot for traders. It’s the “sports good times financial district lynchpin”, according to General Manager Andrew Stangl. For the last two decades it’s been known for wings and shots of Patron Silver. Now it’s set to develop a repuation for great beer.
Andrew sat down with my guest and me on Saturday night and talked about Cactus, the surrounding blocks’ transformation from 9 to 5 financial to a more diversified neighborhood, and beer. Historically the after-work spot has primarily sold macro-brews like Miller Lite and Budweiser but over the last year they’ve shifted to a focus on craft brews. That can be seen in their beer special: February’s Beer Of The Month is Arcadia Ales London Porter, a smoky, full-bodied beer with 7.2%ABV.
Andrew’s passionate about beer and Cactus’ selections reflect his knowledge and tastes. As a beer nut myself I looked over the list with glee. It’s not a huge list, but the selections are well curated. Victory, Unibroue, Dogfish Head and Bells make appearances in addition to Arcadia.
As far as their food goes they still highlight their wings, and rightfully so. Grilled so they’re not swimming in sauce, the flavor is seared in and while spicy is not so hot you can’t eat a basket without crying. The next day we went to WingFest and after sampling over three dozen wings still felt that Cactus’ would have taken best in show if they’d been present. They also feature an avocado salsa. Andrew explained that the creaminess of the avocado allows a heat that is more subtle. For sandwiches we skipped the traditional burger and instead had salmon with papaya-mango salsa and the bruschetta portabella. Both of us are meat eaters and love burgers, but we were blown away by the portabella. That being said, I’d still like to go back and try their Hogs Breath Burger!
In keeping with their emphasis on craft beer, this Wednesday they’re hosting their First Annual Beer Festival. Over a dozen breweries will be offering samples of their beers and Cactus’ Chef Glenn Pistorio will be pairing bites. The event is from 6 to 9pm and is $25, and reservations are not required.