Tucked into a neat alcove on the extreme outskirts of Five Points, the Blue Cactus Café sits, expectant. It doesn’t have a sign above the door. Its entrance area is surrounded by a couple of chest-high concrete walls, which makes the entrance itself hard to see. Huddles of smokers congregate around the nearby tobacco shop, blowing errant smoke at potential customers.
So, if you haven’t heard of Blue Cactus, that’s okay, I get it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It probably isn’t even your fault. The only problem here: you’re missing out on some of the best food Five Points has to offer. From burritos to Bee Bim Bob, Blue Cactus offers a frankly strange array of southwest and Korean cooking, all of which is worth your time.
The San Choo Bak Ban, for example, is an especially intricate meal suited for the Lunchables-style food assembly aficionado. Crispy lettuce leaves as large as a man’s hand serve as the base, on which one carefully heaps beef strips, steamed white rice, and a hot sauce which would promptly knock you on your ass if you weren’t (thankfully) already sitting down.
When it comes to atmosphere, you won’t find anything too flashy. Plastic rubber plants are halfheartedly scattered throughout the building. Numerous postcards cluster on some walls, while others are almost completely bare. The seating is simple and efficient, if a bit cramped. The service is prompt, observant, and friendly. Lloyd Reese, the co-owner, is a very visible presence, and frequently chats with customers when things aren’t too busy.
Blue Cactus also turns out to be very kind on the wallet: you won’t find anything on their menu over $10.00. And, for the sheer quality (and quantity) of food, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere more cost-effective or tasty.
Lackluster scenery aside, if there is a real drawback to be found at Blue Cactus, it’s the sheer amount of time it takes for the food to prepare. Their website boldly proclaims their commitment to the “slow food movement,” which I can understand. As they put it, “Good food takes time… and we’re real good!”
They’re certainly right about that last part.
Location: 2002 Greene St, Columbia, SC 29205
Hours of Operation: Sun-Mon: closed, Tues-Fri: 11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm, Sat: 12am-9pm