It started as something that was needed. His sister had stomach cancer and as a last resort she was prescribed a diet of cactus. It was at that moment that Juan Modragon, of Juan’s Restaurante in Baldwin Park, began to prepare, devise, and develop a list of dishes made of cactus that have now reached 70.
A year later, his sister overcame the cancer and shortly after Juan established his restaurant with the famous Cactaceae as its specialty. It that has gained such momentum and fame that even Ryan Seacrest and Eva Longoria pay frequent visits to it.
Located in the city of Baldwin Park, Juan’s Restaurant is one of the few and possibly the only restaurant that has been able to achieve a complete cactus-based menu that includes appetizers, soups, salads, main dishes, desserts and juice drinks.
“If my sister got better due to the benefits that cactus provides, I’m sure more people can do the same,” Mondragon mentioned. “It’s just a matter of passing on the information and let them familiarize themselves with the dishes. Many people are going organic and take care of their health, a cactus-based menu can be an option.”
The cactus mole, stuffed cactus chiles, cactus tamales, pre-Hispanic cactus tacos, and even cactus flan and tortillas, will leave you wanting more and what is most important, happy to have eaten something that is beneficial to your health.
It is said that cactus possesses many medicinal and nutritious attributes which not only helped Juan’s sister health in order to fight her cancer, but also helps reduce cholesterol, control diabetes, stabilize the blood sugar level in your blood, reduce weight, and aid in healing skin infections, among other benefits.
Cactus is also considered a source of vitamins since it contains vitamin A, B, B2 as well as 17 amino acids essential for our body.
“I remember that ever since I was little if someone got burned they would always rub a piece of cactus on the wound so it would heal faster,” Juan mentioned, who wishes to promote healthy eating in his community through his dishes.
Although Juan is the cook for various artists and celebrities, he always makes time to cook in his restaurant to make sure that his guests enjoy the quality and flavor of his dishes.
Mondragon, a native of Mexico City, said that Mexicans consume cactus although they are not aware of its beneficial attributes, “it’s not a new dish, we just simply added a lot of variety so that people can integrate it into their daily diet.”
Another enticing aspect of Juan’s Restaurante are the juice drinks, because the horchata is not made from rice but from pumpkin seeds which gives it an exquisite and distinct flavor. Chía juice drinks (Mexican fruit that helps reduce weight) are also offered along with pineapple with cactus and beet drinks.
The restaurant has a particular decoration which include El Rincón de las Solteronas (Single Ladies’s Corner) that includes pictures of Elvis Presley, Luis Miguel and Jorge Negrete so that single women don’t get lonely, or El Rincón de las Calacas (The Skeleton Corner) where people go who do not eat healthy end up.
"El Pasajero" recommends you visit the restaurant to experience the hospitality, service and flavors of the healing properties of cactus first hand, bit if you can’t, you can call (626) 337-8686 to order your meal.
Translated from a story that appeared originally in El Pasajero, a Spanish language blog from L.A. Metro.