Most of Hazel's breakfast staff are now working mornings at the new Cactus Cantina.
Most of Hazel's breakfast staff are now working mornings at the new Cactus Cantina.
Cactus Cantina is using Hazel's pancake recipe.
Cactus Cantina is using Hazel's pancake recipe.
By John Mullen
June 11, 2018 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) – Cactus Cantina has quickly established itself as a tradition with its popular cuisine of Tex-Mex with a Southern twist including its light, crispy chips and fresh-made salsa and guacamole.
 
But with its newest location on beach road in Orange Beach, it is keeping alive the longstanding tradition of a good ol’ breakfast at Hazel’s – with a Tex-Mex twist. 
 
It’s the only one of the five Cactus Cantinas serving breakfast in the long-time Hazel’s location. Serving you that familiar breakfast will be some familiar faces with dishing up familiar recipes.
 
“I think we kept 13 out 14 from Hazel’s,” co-owner Michael Lane said. “They’re the same people here that you are used to getting that friendly service with. It’s the same building and the same crew and a lot of the same ingredients they used at Hazel’s.”
 
For instance, two breakfast standbys are on the new menu. 
 
 Cactus Cantina is using Hazel's gravy recipe.
Cactus Cantina is using Hazel's gravy recipe.
“The biscuits and gravy are the same recipes that Hazel’s had,” Lane said. “The pancake is the old house recipe from them with a little vanilla flavor to it. The pancakes are crazy. 
 
“We’ve got the traditional American breakfast and then we’ve got about five Mexican dishes on there as well. We see just as many of the Mexican breakfasts go out as we do the Grande where you get a little bit of everything.”
 
The Grande is two eggs any way you want ‘em, breakfast potatoes or cactus grits, choice of sausage, country ham or bacon and a Grande pancake. Make it a spicy Tex-Mex breakfast with the Carne Asada Skillet with seasoned grilled skirt steak over breakfast potatoes topped with grilled onions and peppers topped again by two fried eggs with a side of warm tortillas.
 
Other favorites are steak and eggs, beach Benedicts made with biscuits, shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles. 
 
At 11 a.m. you’ll find the same great Tex-Mex with a Southern twist menu you get at the four other Cactus Cantina restaurants, the other Orange Beach location on Canal Road, Gulf Shores on Alabama 59, in Fairhope on North Section Street and in Pensacola on 12th Avenue North. Check out Cactus Cantina’s listing on the Orange Beach community website for more details.
 
Cactus Cantina shrimp chimichanga.
Cactus Cantina shrimp chimichanga.
“People always ask are we Tex-Mex, are we authentic Mexican?” Lane said. “I just like to describe it as authentic Mexican with a Southern twist. We have cheese grits on the menu and it’s got a little spice to it. It’s my aunt’s recipe.”
 
Cactus Cantina has quickly become famous for its light, crispy tortilla chips and fresh salsa and guacamole to dip them in as well as unique dishes like fajita nachos. 
 
“The food vendors always come to us and say all the other restaurants are selling this and it’s half of what you’re paying for your current beef or your current steak,” he said. “We’re never interested. We want high-quality stuff. We get it brought in every couple of days. Everything’s fresh, nothing’s ever frozen, everything is made from scratch every single day.
 
Light, crispy chips are a Cactus Cantina specialty.
Light, crispy chips are a Cactus specialty.
“The chips are fried every day, the salsa’s made every day. When we first tried the chips and we went to the food vendor and tried probably 40 different chips that day. We didn’t want chips for a month.”
 
All served up by smiling faces. Lane says he wants his staff looking forward to coming to work.
 
“You’ve got to do something to set yourself apart because Orange Beach and Gulf Shores is a place that’s big on new restaurants,” Lane said. “There are a lot of good restaurants out there now. What are you going to do to encourage someone to come to your place over the next? 
 
“We just try to set ourselves apart with consistent customer service. I want my staff to joke around with them and have a good time for the guests that want that. It makes their job not a job. They are coming in to hang out with friends at that point. It’s good for them, it’s good for us and it’s good for the customers.”
 
The result is a number of repeat customers of guests who are here only a week. The new restaurant on beach road in Orange Beach has been outperforming every other store except Pensacola which can seat twice as many patrons.
 
Cactus Cantina Carne Asada Skillet comes with two fried eggs on top of grilled onions and peppers and breakfast taters.
Cactus Cantina Carne Asada Skillet.
“People just want a place to go,” Lane said. “We encourage our staff to give them an experience they may not get somewhere else. If we provide fresh, quality food at the same time then it’s a place they’re going to want to come back to the next few nights. And with our price point, it’s a place you can go to a few times a week.”
 
The U-turn system in Orange Beach offers another challenge not just for Cactus Cantina but all business along the highway. It hasn’t stopped the crowds from piling into the new Tex-Mex place.
 
“People will find a way to get to you if they want to eat there,” Lane said. “I think this location is going to be great.”
 
Check out Cactus Cantina's page on the Orange Beach Community Website.
Cactus Cantina has locations in Orange Beach, Alabama, and Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Cactus Cantina serves up fresh, friendly and fun at five locations.