Iguana Mexican Grill reopens in downtown Oklahoma City
Iguana Mexican Grill
Every so often, all of our regular writers try to get together to experience a new Oklahoma City restaurant. I say that we “try” because so far, we haven’t quite made it. We were just about to accomplish this feat at the new Iguana Mexican Grill downtown, but Andrew got called away by work at the last minute. Nevertheless, Greg, Sarah and myself were able to get together for lunch at the Iguana. What follows reflects contributions from all three of us.
Perhaps you remember the Iguana from its old location on Western Avenue. I remember eating there several times and noting its uniqueness. Now it’s back and continuing to provide an interesting alternative to Oklahoma City’s standard Mexican food places.
We really appreciate its downtown location. The owners have not only opened a restaurant, they have refurbished a historical building just east of Broadway. One thing is for sure, you have to know the place is there because you’d never have any other reason to turn east on 9th. But once you find it, you’ll be delighted with this “old turned new” achievement complete with beautiful landscaping and free parking (a treat in downtown).
The interior decor is modern — an unfinished feel with giant, bright-colored paintings and glass light fixtures adorning the brick walls. The tables are made locally and, like the plates, sport a rough-hewn, slightly off-balance look. In other words, they have perfectly captured a look that isn’t meant to look perfect.
Now to the food. The starter is chips and salsa, as it should be at any Mexican restaurant, but here are thick, fresh-fried tortilla pieces and five unique salsa options. The house salsa comes for free, but you can try additional salsas for $2 each, or get all four premium varieties for $7. We got all four so we could give you the full report.
Surprisingly, we all agreed that the free, house salsa was just about the best one. It is a fresh and chunky salsa, almost like a pico de gallo, where the flavors of the vegetables stand out independently. Its only downside was being too mild. We felt that if they could add a few more minced shavings of jalapeno to warm things up, it would be just perfect.
The premium salsas were definitely unique. There was a tomatillo (verde) salsa which I liked pretty well but Greg found too sweet and lacking in kick. The smoked tomato salsa, served warm, also let us down. However, the “coral snake,” a sweet peach salsa with a definite kick at the end, was very unique and enjoyable. Then there was the favorite of the premiums — the citrus-habanero — spicy, flavorful, but not so hot that you can’t taste anything.
None of us were very impressed with the guacomole ($2 for a single serving, $4.50 for more). It was okay, but nothing to turn flips down the hallway over. We all agreed we’d had better elsewhere.
I was impressed that the menu offered some very affordable options. It’s a pretty good deal when you can get interesting, creative food in a fabulous location for about the same cost as standard Okla-mex fare. The lunch specials were all around the $7 range, which is at least what you would expect to pay at a Ted’s or Casa Perico. Even at dinner, you can get a meal for $9-$12 or so. Very reasonable for what you get.
Greg was very satisfied with his chicken torta lunch special ($6.50) and offered the following insights:
“Iguana must wood-grill their meat because this was flavorful, moist chicken. The torta bread was nice and chewy, but not too tough. The rice was so-so. Red rice is just your standard Mexican rice, though not as flavorful as some I’ve had, while the green rice was an even milder taste. Instead, spend $1 more and change your side to the sopa de maiz — a roasted corn soup with coconut milk, green curry, roasted poblano peppers and a shitake mushroom dumpling in the middle. Very tasty. If you choose to get it on its own, it’s $4 for a cup and $6 for a bowl.”
Sarah ordered the shrimp and vegetable skewer lunch ($7.50) and here’s what she had to say:
“It was pretty good, but the vegetables and plate were shiny with some type of oil. Wish I had known to order it without oil. That would have made it a pretty healthy dish. Also, the temperature of the food was not hot. Oh, and if anyone out there has tips on how to gracefully remove shrimp from wooden skewers, please let me know.”
I chose the fish taco lunch ($7). It was very good, even better than what I’ve previously reviewed at Chica’s. The fish had no hint of fishiness. I had the black beans and fresh fruit for sides. I was pleasantly surprised to find another Mexican place offering fresh fruit with their meals. My one recommendation would be to split this into two tacos. They served it as a single taco stuffed so full of filling that it was impossible to eat. They could easily add another corn tortilla and serve the same amount of filling as two tacos. It would be much more manageable and seem like an even better deal.
As I mentioned before, I feel that the pricing at Iguana is actually very good. It’s one of the reasons I am comfortable recommending it. They do offer some higher-end options, like their family-style group dining with charges of $12.50, $15, or $25 per person. These options provide a multi-course meal with some great variety, but personally, I don’t see the value there. I’d stick with the dinners or lunch specials.
Oh, one more thing — we did try out the key lime pie ($4.50). It was a hit. As Sarah said, “it was the only thing that was to die for.” This is key lime done right — a creamy filling with real, tart, lime flavor on top of a crumbly crust, served in a raspberry sauce. Very good eats, though Greg and Tim felt that the raspberry sauce was unnecessary. Sarah just felt that it was yummy.
Though we’re not saying the food is out of this world, we believe the Iguana is definitely worth a try. If nothing else, it’s a unique Oklahoma City eatery that highlights the potential of our downtown area and offers an alternative to the same old Mexican food we’ve all had over and over. Given the fact that pricing is quite reasonable, I highly recommend you check it out soon.
Tell us what you think in the comments.