When you think of home, what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you come from a country with a rich culinary history, normally food is the first thing that will pop into your head. It’s common to taste nostalgia when being far from home and to miss the little things that you usually take for granted. This longing is exactly what inspired the creators of Kus Van de Cactus (El Beso del Cactus – The Kiss of the Cactus), the first authentic Mexican restaurant in Haarlem.
After 16 years of being an Expat in Spain and The Netherlands, Marisol was craving for an authentic taste of home. As expats we are used to adapting to the flavours and ingredients found in our host countries, but traditional food is comfort, it’s the sweet embrace we all need from time to time to remind us who we are and where we came from. If you have been an expat for some time now, you may have experienced what is it like to avoid your mom’s soup back home, but still, get chills if you detect its smell when being far. Or even more, you may have found yourself craving that boring stew your grandma always prepared for lunch. If you have experienced those sudden changes of taste, you are not alone, it comes hand in hand with being an expat.
The story of Kus Van de Cactus is about finding comfort in another culture and creating a feeling of belonging in a foreign country by eating homemade food. Food is just the mobile, a concrete way to share Mexican culture through a bite. The true cultural journey lives throughout the whole experience offered by Kus Van de Cactus, a warm welcoming of their hosts followed by a traditional complimentary margarita.
Opening an authentic Mexican restaurant in Haarlem is the great achievement of Marisol (Mexican) and Marieke (Dutch), and like any good story, it’s filled with ups and downs, hard work and small victories that eventually yielded success. What began as a catering business back in 2012, for privates and Dutch festivals, flourished in 2021 into a restaurant in the vibrant and multicultural city of Haarlem.
Just like home
The original goal of Kus Van de Cactus was to share the Mexican heritage with the locals, but it has come as a surprise for its owners to find both, locals and expats enjoying their food. This heartwarming experience is what motivates Marisol and Marieke to create the best possible Mexican experience abroad. As explained by owner Marisol, this place is about:
“Selling culture, not just tacos. Anybody can sell a taco.”
It’s about sharing culture and connecting with people while offering an authentic home-cooked fresh Mexican meal. So whether you are Dutch, Mexican, or from any other part of the world, Kus Van de Cactus will always welcome you in, because as Marieke explains: “That’s what you will get if you get invited to a real Mexican family meal. Everybody is always welcome, there is always enough food for everyone.”
In Mexico it’s all about the family and Marisol’s goal for her restaurant is one that she keeps very close to her heart. She wants to see people eating the same way her dad does, rejoicing every bite by adding some drops of salsa and a lemon squeeze to his tacos while savouring a sip of tequila, priceless moments that can just happen around good food and good company. She wants to showcase Mexican culture through its food, teaching Harlemeers how to eat and drink like a Mexican. Above any stereotype you may have about Mexicans, only by experiencing the authenticity of Kus Van de Cactus you will learn to appreciate the flavours that originated in this ancestral Mesoamerican culture. You do not need to know Mexico and its flavours to come and enjoy the food this restaurant has to offer, let the food be the tour guide, and get transported into a culture rooted in its ingredients.
Travel through your senses and let them take you to Mexico.
Having been 9 years in the market was a tough journey, but it also helped Kus Van de Cactus learn about its clients and their taste. The menu is balanced, varied and comes with seasonal recommendations. It was built bearing in mind the needs and preferences of the locals while giving room to some family’s specialties. In Mexico, we all know that there are no better chefs than the moms, aunts and grandmas, and if you stick around long enough, you may even get to try the traditional recipes of Marisol’s family, including a former secret recipe to prepare aunt Chela’s mole. There is great love and family involvement in this restaurant and it will always be reflected on their menu.
Kus Van de Cactus has options for those who enjoy spicy and non spicy food, for meat lovers, vegetarians, pescatarians, vegans and those with adventurous palates. Don’t hesitate to visit this restaurant and enjoy a dish from their fixed menu or discover the specialty of the month, one day you may even find yourself trying the Mexican delicacy chapulines (crickets). Moreover, if you are a Mexican in Haarlem, and you are skeptical about the authenticity of this restaurant, just order a taco de cochinita and let any doubt fade away; and of course, don’t forget to accompany the experience with a traditional tequila, but only of the highest quality (100% Agave).
So take it from a Mexican, this restaurant offers a real taste of home, which ultimately is where the heart is.
Kus Van de Cactus is already in business, but their official opening will be held together with the Mexican celebration of El dia de los Muertos, (Day of the Death). A celebration not just of death, but of life itself. It will take place on 30 October at De Haasstraat 14, Haarlem, and will be limited for those who reserve. So if you want to learn about one of the most famous Mexican celebrations while eating good food, being surrounded by the best company and listen to Mexican traditional music (Mariachis), then you should not miss this event.