Mad Cactus: 1 Year After 'Restaurant Impossible' Makeover
Old menu is back, and owner says if TV chef returned, 'I'd lock the door'
The show promised to bring new life to the 27-year-old Tex-Mex restaurant.
"Hollywood doesn't always know best," owner Tom Krukemeyer said this week.
In fact, after an influx when the show aired last fall, business dropped off considerably, with long-time customers lamenting the loss of their favorite meals from the streamlined menu.
"It's been a struggle," Krukemeyer said. "Our sales were down, so we listened and we changed."
He estimated 95 percent of the old menu is now back, including the return of $3 Steak Night on Mondays, $1.50 tacos on Tuesdays and other old favorites, like 40-cent wings on Sundays.
"Our customers really do know best," Krukemeyer said.
Restaurant Impossible sent Irvine in August 2011 into the Mad Cactus for a two-day makeover that included new decor, new food and a new menu.
After the show aired last fall, Krukemeyer didn't mince words about his battles with Irvine in the kitchen.
But he gave Irvine's menu a try -- with disappointing results.
"The cameras and lights and the national TV were fun, but the reality is we know what our customers want," Krukemeyer said. "It's been a real eye-opener."
Oh, some of the TV makeover stuff is still around. The salsa bar is popular, and Irvine's suggestion to ditch the profit-challenged lunch buffet was a good one, Krukemeyer said.
Three of Irvine's creations remain on the menu: southwest eggrolls, puffy tacos and market-fresh fish of the day.
And of course, the decor, which lightened up the restaurant and replaced old carpet with wood floors, is a hit with both customers and owner.
"The interior is beautiful," Krukemeyer said.
But against Irvine's advice, the Mad Cactus is now open for lunch again seven days a week, and it's serving up the meals Krukemeyer says kept the restaurant going for 27 years.
Irvine, by the way, has not returned for a follow-up visit -- which is fine with Krukemeyer.
"If he did come back," he said, "I'd lock the door."
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