Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Agenda 69: Bethlehem’s Cactus Blue Mexican restaurant moves to new location

Upper Milford Township, Pa. — A family-owned business known for its tacos, enchiladas and other south-of-the-border staples is making a move to the Lehigh Valley.

Cactus Blue Mexican restaurant, which has operated at 2915 Schoenersville Road in Bethlehem for 18 years, plans to relocate in mid-January to 4030 Chestnut St. in Upper Milford Township, just south of Emmaus, said co-owner Adam Gangere. Told.

The restaurant known for its authentic poblano cuisine will celebrate its last day in Bethlehem on December 31.

“We thought we’d go out on New Year’s Eve with a little fun,” said Gangere’s wife, Elizabeth Ortiz. “It’s going to be bitter sweet, but we plan to put some food out for people to really enjoy the whole last week in Bethlehem.”

“Even though we are relocating, we will still be within the Lehigh Valley,” Gangever said. “Our phone number will remain the same, our email will remain the same, and in addition to and outside of our food truck, we will continue to offer pickup and delivery throughout the Lehigh Valley when it comes to our catering.”

Gangere and Ortiz opened Cactus Blue in 2004 in a strip mall just off Route 22.

The couple decided to move the restaurant 14 miles southwest for several reasons, family being one of the main reasons.

The Lehigh County location is close to the family’s Allentown home, and the couple wants to enjoy more time with their three daughters, Eva, Elise and Emma. Two of the girls are taking dance classes five minutes from the restaurant’s new location, while the other is busy playing basketball and soccer.

“We go to multiple places most of the time,” Ortiz said with a smile. “So now, we’ll be 10 minutes from home and five minutes from where our girls dance. It’s a big deal for us because the road trip [Ruta] 22, although it’s not long, it can be a bit overwhelming at times.”

With seating for approximately 40 customers, the new location also proved to be a better fit for Cactus Blue’s upcoming fast-casual business model.

For the past 18 years, the restaurant operated as a full-service dining establishment, but starting in January, customers will order their food at the counter. The business will continue to operate as a BYOB establishment.

“We have a really great service staff, but what we’ve seen, especially since COVID, is a lot of people come in and want something quick,” Ortiz said. “Do they want to order takeout or do they want to eat and run.”

“Plus, a lot of friends get together for informal gatherings and want separate checks. Now everyone can walk up to the counter, pay for their meal, and sit at the table wherever they want. So This new space has allowed us to fantasize.” Our new format in a way that I don’t think we could do in today’s space.”

Popular dishes from Cactus Blue, including fajitas, enchiladas and chimichangas, will be moved to Upper Milford, along with new food additions.

“We’ll have a lot of the same flavors and dishes, but we also want to introduce some of the items we’ve had over the past few years exclusively at food trucks or restaurants,” Gangere said. “For example, the Walking Taco that we’re offering at the truck has been a huge hit. We also have a few different burrito bowl options.”

“When we talk about running tacos, a lot of people think of a bag of Doritos with meat inside,” Ortiz said. “But our cups are our homemade tortilla chips, our Mexican rice, our black beans, and the customer’s choice of meat like pork, beef, or chicken, or vegetables, if they’re vegetarian. Then we top it off.” There are. A big Baja sauce, a little lettuce, fresh pico de gallo, red onion and cilantro. So, it’s like that bagged taco but updated 10 times, actually delicious with each bite a little different from the last “

Ortiz and Gange founded the business nearly two decades ago at the age of 24. At the time, Gangere was an executive chef at another company, and Ortiz was teaching at Cedar Crest College.

Growing up at his mother’s pizzeria in Allentown, Gangere wanted to start his own business.

“He called me at work one day and said, ‘I think I should quit my job and we should open a restaurant,'” Ortiz recalled. “I was really hung up on him because I didn’t understand what he was talking about. We had both just finished college and had good jobs. Why would we throw all this up in the air? But Then I called her back and she apologized, realizing she had this entrepreneurial spirit in her, which I think came from her mother.

Cactus Blue expanded its business model in 2018 to include a food truck, which has been a staple of Food Truck Thursdays at South Mall, festivals, and other public events. It is also available for private reservations such as graduation parties and employee appreciation events.

The couple credits their restaurant’s longevity and continued growth to their supportive family, friends, staff and customers.

“Running a restaurant has been very challenging, especially during the recession in 2008 and again a few years ago during COVID, but we’ve been very fortunate to have customers who are really kind, loyal, and no matter what, our come to support,” Ortiz said. “We’ve had many employees since day one. Many people in the kitchen have known my husband longer than I have.”

The couple is still finalizing hours for the new location, but will be open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and possibly Sunday or Monday, Gange said.

It will occupy a renovated space that previously housed 29 Cooks Catering + Culinary Center, which moved to another location in Upper Milford a few years ago. Improvements would include new flooring, lighting, kitchen equipment, and a sound system.

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