Mad Cactus: 1 Year After 'Restaurant Impossible' Makeover

Old menu is back, and owner says if TV chef returned, 'I'd lock the door'

It's been a year since TV chef Robert Irvine filmed a Restaurant:Impossible episode for the Food Network at Strongsville's Mad Cactus.

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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Honest Joe September 19, 2012 at 01:41 PM
WOW, every piece of “Prime Real-estate” is for sale. When did you get your business degree? The land has been for sale for years, way before Hollywood came to town. I have been eating there for 15 years, and I love the food and the friendly service. The staff knows me by name.
tvviewer September 19, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Hey "Honest Joe"! I received my degree in business in 1995 and have been in real estate sales for over 10 years. Any more questions? To help educate you about prime real estate, here is a little info. It is partially defined as prime based on traffic counts, access to 2 major highways, large retail chains located nearby, decent homes and incomes in the area. Here's a question for you. Who's Hollywood and when did he or it come to town? I also have no doubt that they know your name at the Mad Cactus. They probably say "Here comes Honest Joe. The guy that has actually ate the same day old, reheated food for the last 15 years." LOL
Tim burnanski September 19, 2012 at 04:51 PM
This is the reason why restaurants should be run by professionals that are not emotionally attached to the nostalgia of the past. Put michael SYMON there and sales will increase 10 fold
Jane L September 20, 2012 at 09:41 PM
B-Spot's hamburgers suck. I'd rather go to Five Guys than fork over $10 for a flaming burnt pile of crap. I don't doubt that his other franchises are good, but the only one he has in Strongsville might as well be owned by Mcdonald's. As far as The Mad Cactus goes, I've been there on several different occasions - and every time I ate there, I wasn't quite sure if I just ate man's best friend. Their meat is chewy, tasteless and all around vomit inducing. And I agree with the previous comment, how the hell do you screw up tacos? Even Taco Bell manages to draw customers in and they no longer lie about where their 'beef' comes from.
SuperChief September 23, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Everyone just keeps going to Mex place on the SE corner of 42 & 82
Goldencat September 24, 2012 at 09:10 PM
It's true you get what you pay for, but I have no complaints about the food or service. If you expect 5star meals for 2 star prices, then yes, I understand the cactus-like griping. I'm satisfied to get mexican diner-type food for reasonable - without the weird secret additives that go into fast food chains' "food". (look up McD's happy meal online, see that one has not rotted or been bug infested over ten years!) when money is tight, you learn to be thankful for what you have.
Stacy September 27, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Everyone that thinks that Robert Irvine actually provided a "new menu" or that the show Restaurant Impossible is actually real should learn not to believe everything you see on TV.
Scott October 01, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Goldencat - I'm not asking for a 5 star meal, just fresh, cooked to order food. Is it really that difficult to cook strips of fajita steak strips when ordered and not having it sit around "pre-cooked" all day? Stacy - Yes, Robert Irvine is a joke but when it comes to food prep, please don't mess with my health. -S
scott edwards December 04, 2012 at 08:41 PM
I think this Guy should be grateful for the help he received.
scott edwards December 04, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I think the chef gives a much needed fresh perspective to these business owners.
Paul R December 04, 2012 at 10:41 PM
if the mad cactus is doing so good... why http://www.kowitpassov.com/PropertyPdf/9175%20Pearl%20Rd%20flyer.pdf
Valerie Robaugh December 29, 2012 at 01:11 AM
the place is a dump, was always a dump and served crappy food. he wasted everyones time by applying to restaurant immpossible. what a jerk. surely he will be going out of business soon, there are hardly any cars in the parking lot now that the illegal gambling is gone.
Daniel De Kok January 03, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Makes me wonder if he got on R.I. just to advertise what was left of his business.
moving out of strongsville January 30, 2013 at 03:50 PM
I think all of you need to take a look in the mirror and consider what it feels like to have poured 25 years of yourself into something...that's no longer returning the favor. Oh wait...you're probably all divorced since you're so negative and quick to point out flaws in everyone else. Now imagine that there's a sounding board about your failures..and all of your heartless peers are ripping apart your future. If you don't like the mad cactus....(wait for it..and here it is..) DON'T GO! Shocking concept..how that works. Let me know if your life falls apart..maybe one day you can't support your kids...your husband/wife runs away with a 20 something year old..and you live in your mothers basement. Id love to comment on your unfortunate circumstances too:)
Dookie Houser February 14, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Let's just say that a group of co-workers and I called the Mad Cactus the "Mad Colon". Reason you ask? This place had the most disgusting food on the buffet with no flavor and the place was dirty.
Big Bob March 14, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Wow he does sound extremely ungrateful..... the free remodeling alone is worthy of great appreciation. Even if he only kept 25% of Roberts other suggestions from what Ive seen just the accounting tips are enough to get most people out of the black. And I totally agree with the person that said sometimes your 'regulars' dont know (or care) whats best for you - they simply dont want to spend the kind of revenue you really need and need washed out with everything else - the idea is to attract a new clientele that will support your business.... not just the daily alcoholics sitting around the bar.
Frank Dreban March 14, 2013 at 12:35 AM
Please bring back those really cool commercials where you have that guy singing "Heat up the niiiight!!!" PS...you're restaurant blows. You know it, we know it and after watching the show, the country knows it. Find a new line of work. I'd search "ungrateful moron" on monster.com
kyle dayton March 19, 2013 at 02:44 PM
I applied to the postings on monster and they said you already accepted their offer..frank dreban. Might have to make a different job recommendation. Ps..does the kings inn have free internet now?? Is that really why you're staying there buddy?
Texzilla April 14, 2013 at 02:43 AM
The owners typically blame Irvine or Ramsay when they fail, no surprise since they typically were blaming someone else before the show as well. In general, what I see on these shows are filth, bad food, poor management, tired decor, general ineptitude. How do these places stay open when often they have rats, moldy ice machines, and nastiness in the walkin. Where is the health department? This guy was an idiot on the show. I'd prefer that instead of the predictable turn in each show, Irvine should walk occasionally and they should just show all the vermin and bad food.
SMOL May 20, 2013 at 03:30 AM
Has anyone else noticed that "Moving out of Strongsville" sounds a lot like it might be Tom?
Go Rays May 20, 2013 at 04:12 AM
Jonathan Fernandes May 20, 2013 at 10:14 AM
I was raised in a family of cooks, chefs and restaurant owners. The economy convinced my parents to retire early and I joined the military. With the experience from both worlds I can tell you I knew that owner would fail within 10 min. His attitude was all wrong and he was to ignorant and stubborn to make the difficult decisions. I don't know the median income in that town but the best way to keep all employes on pay roll is to be the greatest restaurant of your niche. If he used RI advice and even expanded to catering or a food truck he would have a great reputation and attract higher disposable income customers. Those who come in for a complete experience and are easy to upsell, margaritas food and dessert, thus providing optimal profit margins. Like all things in life, discipline, dedication to excellence and a back bone go a long way. When it comes to food, master your craft or GTFO!
unfair13 July 03, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Tried it once years ago. I ordered and asked for no peppers in my burrito. The waitress said it's all pre-made and the peppers were already mixed in. I told her I can't eat the peppers she then said to pick them out. I asked her if everything was pre-made and she said yes. I would have to pick them out of anything I ordered. That was it for me. NEVER AGAIN!
Veronica McCarthy July 06, 2013 at 08:36 AM
The restaurant needs a qualified cook. Someone who can operate more than the deep fryer. Lets face it, the bar is the only thing keeping this sad excuse of an eatery open. Why not just ditch the tables for a dance floor and build a better band platform in the small back room?? Quit trying to cook before you seriously hurt someone with that crap you call food
Vaughn July 07, 2013 at 10:01 AM
Glad to know they've changed the menu back. The food used to be good... the last time I was in it was horrible, as if new owners had taken over. I'll give you another shot if you've changed it back.
Ville Chick July 10, 2013 at 10:56 AM
Decided to give it a second chance. Some things just don't change :-( The "food" was not good at all. The portions were extremely anemic and not at all palatable, and service was nothing to write home about. The infamous Salsa Bar needed an emergency transfusion as all the bowls were empty. Go figure? Needless to say, I won't darken their doorway ever again. Not sure what is keeping that place open? Maybe the bar? It needs to get out of The Ville as well as those No Tell Motels, all of them, so we can get something decent to take up those spaces. Now, can I tell you how I really feel? 😁
Donna July 10, 2013 at 08:55 PM
The food is just average. Nothing that would make me want to go back. I can't believe they actually charge for a bowl of chips. I can get all the free chips and salsa I want at Gran Fiesta on RT 82----and a better meal too. Mad Cactus did alright when they were the only game in town, but since Strongsville has grown over the years there are plenty of much more appetizing places to eat. My advice?-----give it up!
Saku Vrai July 14, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Haha, that's ridiculous that this guy's upset when at the end of the day, it's his choice and talent level on how to make the food taste good. Hire better chefs then. Why bash the person who Helped you make your restaurant SAFE so that people could eat their free of salmonella and food poisoning?
Joe Smoe July 16, 2013 at 03:29 PM
Strongsville restaurant Mad Cactus featured on Food Network slated to close http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/news/local_news/oh_cuyahoga/Strongsville-restaurant-Mad-Cactus-featured-on-Food-Network-slated-to-close
Steve July 17, 2013 at 12:57 PM
Remember when this site was a Howard Johnsons?


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