Chef’s Corner with Iron Cactus by Tara Ambrose

Chef’s Corner  – Brad and Leah Parker at Iron Cactus

By Tara’s Taste of The Town


Brad Parker has had a long history in this area starting out as a mere bus-boy at Ernesto’s Mexican Restaurant in 1992, so it’s no surprise that with Brad’s background in Mexican/Tex-Mex instilled by Mr. Ernesto himself, that it wasn’t difficult for him to transition into the role of restaurateur with the help of his amazingly talented wife Leah by his side.

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Both originally from this area and both proud alumni of St. Fredericks, Brad and Leah Parker, with the help of Mr. Anthony Danna and his late wife, Kathy Danna, have successfully followed their dreams by in opening one of this area’s most tantalizingly tasty eateries! But it wasn’t always as easy as scooping up some of their wonderful salsa, while embarking on their metamorphic journey, Leah and Brad held fast to their faith in God, the trust of Leah’s culinary creativity, as well as Brad’s strong sense of leadership to be able to pull this dream together and make the Iron Cactus the success that it is today!


At the onset of your visit to the Iron Cactus one cannot help but take in the typical and not-so-typical appetizers offered as a mini-fiesta for your palate. The Parker’s are serving up hearty portions of house-made salsa, mini-tacos, botanas, queso dip, guacamole, quesadillas, as well as those fabulous new flavor profiles that will certainly become “new favorites” of your family such as queso sticks (perfect for the kiddos), avocado dippers – which are comprised of fresh sliced avocados that have been gently rolled in panco and flash fried, served with their house made salsa ranch, or one of my personal favorites – the “Cactus Roll”, which is Leah Parker’s Tex-Mex take on a sushi roll!  Should you and your hungry crew not be able to decide on just ONE of their hearty appetizers, the ever popular “Appetizer Platter” may be just what your group is in the mood for! Each Appetizer Platter treats diners to enjoyable amounts of crispy fried avocado dippers that are jam packed full of flavor, crispy fried queso sticks and mini-tacos- all served together with house-made ranch dressing or Leah’s signature scratch salsa ranch!


But don’t stop reading just yet, because the Iron Cactus also offers such tasty temptations as their Tex-Mex Chicken topped with onions, mushrooms and cheese, or even grilled shrimp served with bell peppers and onions. Now for those diners that prefer a little more “carne” in their diets, Iron Cactus is sure to delight with their perfectly seasoned 12 oz Ribeye, or Brad’s absolutely fantastic behemoth burger – adorned with your choice of amenities, that is sure to appease even the heartiest of appetites.


Rest assured the Tex-Mex scrumptious doesn’t stop with a mere sampling of those items, because Iron Cactus also offers traditional items such as enchiladas, tacos, tamales, tacos, burritos, tostadas, taquitos, and fajitas!


Taste buds watering yet?  Iron Cactus also offers not-so traditional Tex-Mex dishes that have become some of my personal favorites!  From their scrumptious Mexican Cornbread, Mexican Pizza, Baja Fish Tacos, Pulled Pork Tacos to their Stuffed Avocados, deep fried to golden perfection, stuffed with diner’s choice of beef or chicken and served with a generous portion of borroco beans, there isn’t anything “typical” about the dishes coming out of Leah Parker’s kitchen!


For those diners who are seeking a little bit “greener” options, Iron Cactus has an accommodating menu that is sure to please!  Each salad at the Iron Cactus is made from the freshest mixed salad greens, and paired with such items as succulent grape tomatoes, hearts of palm, onions, avocados, apples, walnuts, and bell peppers – just to name a few!  Each salad is also topped with shredded cheddar cheese, and scratch made bacon bits.  To accompany your bed of mixed greens, Leah and Brad also offer patrons with grilled chicken, grilled shrimp or the ever popular fajita meat.  To compliment your garden fresh goodness, Iron Cactus also offers a variety of dressings that include house-made ranch, house-made salsa ranch, and their exquisite lemon garlic vinaigrette that is absolutely mouthwatering!

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As your meal concludes, Carey or Heather will no doubt make certain to mention that the Iron Cactus offers such delectable delights as the Mexican Brownie – served on a hot skillet and topped with chocolate, caramel and whip cream, or Fried Cheesecake! So should your palate have a hankering for something, the Iron Cactus offers tasty treats that will leave even the hungriest of patron with sweet dreams!


Now with this visit to the Iron Cactus coming to a close, I know that I will be back to visit with Brad and Leah Parker, Carey, Heather and all the staff at Iron Cactus again very, very soon because it isn’t only what they serve on the plate that has diners returning again and again, it is their humbleness, and their overwhelming dedication to friends, family and this community that radiates forth each and every time I step foot through the doors of the Iron Cactus!


Special “thanks” to the Parker Family for taking time out of their day, and away from their beautiful children, Sydnee, Avery and Brayden, to give Culination a glimpse into the world of all things Tex-Mex!


Q & A with Brad and Leah Parker:

  1. Where are Leah and Brad’s favorite place to dine for breakfast out with his family? Lea’s of Lecompte, but Leah loves cooking for her family at home as well.


  1. Where are Leah and Brad’s favorite place to dine for lunch/dinner out with his family? Newk’s or Bangkok Spice or Not Just Pie – love their po-boys


  1. Where are Leah and Brad’s favorite all around eateries in North Louisiana? Either Geno’s or Genusas’ – hard to pick.


  1. What do Leah and Brad’s enjoy doing when they are not at the restaurant cooking? Making home improvements in their new home, and just hanging out with the kids.


  1. Do Leah and Brad’s have a favorite sport, football, fishing, hunting, soccer, golf? FOOTBALL!!!


  1. What are Leah and Brad’s favorite teams? Green Day Packers!!!


  1. What are Leah and Brad’s favorite things about the North Louisiana region? Our customers and actually, just all the people in this area who have supported us.


  1. Does Leah and Brad do any volunteer work of any kind currently? Yes! Leah and Brad are proud of their donations to the breast cancer foundation, to the March of Dimes and the time and lunches they donate to local schools for their honor roll students.


  1. What are Leah and Brad’s personal menu favorite on the menu at the eatery? Brad says, “Fish Tacos” while Leah says “Shrimp Fajitas” – both of which are fabulous by the way!


  1. What are Leah and Brad’s favorite “junk food”? Leah loves Doritos, powdered donuts and Twinkies. Brad’s kryptonite is, “Ranch Dressing”.


  1. Any accolades they’d like to mention?” Yes. Our family has helped us out immensely with family recipes like the pulled pork and cornbread, but we wouldn’t be here without Mr. Danna and his beloved late wife, Mrs. Danna… AND our customers! They all believed in us and without them we wouldn’t be here.”


Sloppy Joses


-1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef

-1/2 yellow onion, diced

-1/2 green bell pepper, diced

-1/4 fresh jalapeno, diced, add more if u like it HOT!

-2T butter

-1 8oz can tomato sauce

-1 can mild rotel tomatoes

-1 cup ketchup

-1 cup favorite BBQ sauce

-1/2 cup brown sugar

-1/4 cup mustard

-1 T. salt

-1 t. pepper

-1T granulated garlic

-1T cumin

-1T paprika


Cook ground beef over medium/high heat until no longer pink. Drain excess fat. Add ground beef, all veggies, butter, and seasonings.  Sauté till veggies are tender. Add tomato sauce, brown sugar,   rotel, ketchup,  mustard, and BBQ sauce. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Serve on your favorite bun and Enjoy!!!!

*Note- for a lighter version use ground turkey or chicken and add 2T of EVOO while cooking. Also use a whole wheat bun!!!


Tex-Mex Chicken Rice Casserole


-1 store bought Rotisserie Chicken

-3 cups cooked white or brown rice, your favorite brand

-1/2 onion, diced

-1/2 red bell pepper, diced

-2T butter

-1  green onion, trimmed and chopped

-1 can cream of chicken/cream of mushroom blend

-4oz cream cheese, softened

-1 cup sour cream

-3T cilantro, chopped

-1/2  lime, juiced

-1T salt

-2t pepper

-1T granulated garlic

-2c Mexican blend shredded cheese

Directions –

Preheat oven to 400. Break down chicken and set meat aside. Sauté onion and bell pepper with butter. When veggies are tender add chicken, half of seasonings, sour cream, cream cheese and can of chicken/mushroom soup. Mix together and simmer for about 5 minutes till mixed thoroughly.  After your rice is cooked add cilantro, lime juice and the other half of seasonings and mix well. Take a 9×13 casserole dish and spray it well with nonstick spray. Layer all of rice mix, chicken mixture, then top with shredded cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling around the edges!

*Note- a great side for this is a Mexican corn recipe. Take 2 cans of whole kernel corn, 1T butter, salt and pepper to taste, 1T granulated garlic, 1/2T paprika, & 1/2T parsley. Just mix & heat together in sauce pan then serve!!


Written by Tara Ambrose of Tara’s Taste of the Town

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