by Kevin Packer
(Salt Lake City, Utah)
When you finally get to enter the Red Iguana Restaurant one might be so happy as to forgo any scrutiny at all. They don't take reservations and there is always a line and very little place to wait inside so most of the waiting is outside and, depending on the time of year, you would think it might dissuade some.
On a recent visit a friend and I celebrated his birthday here and arrived on 5:30 thinking we might have a shorter waiting time. Not so but that's okay because we still had a great visit and a wonderful meal. The appetizer special was Snapper Ceviche which was rich with seafood and the snapper. The perfect medley of lime, cilantro and seafood was a great start to our meal and evening. Our server brought out a complimentary sample of all the mole sauces offered on the menu: Amarillo (golden raisins, yellow tomatoes, chile guajillo and dried, spicy seasonings), coloradito (pine nuts, almonds, peanuts, dried chile chiuacle and guajillo chilies and Mexican chocolate), Poblano (guajillo and ancho dried chiles, peanuts, sesame seeds, banana and Mexican chocolate), Verde (chile poblano, chile guar and jalapeno with pepitas, sesame seeds, avocados: HOT), Negro (dried chile mulato, negro pasilla, Mexican chocolate raisins, bananas) and red pipian (pumpkin seeds, chile guajillo, peanuts pepitas, onions). We chose Pipian and Negro as our favorites that night.
The appetizer list is vast and varied here. Killer Nachos $8.95, is a heaping meal in itself of tortilla chips refried beans, chile verde, chorizo, melted Jack cheese, pico de gallo guacamole and sour cream. One word: Delicious! The also offer a Vegetarian version at $7.95. Rajas de Chile Poblano Con Queso $7.95, are roasted poblano chile strips with sauteed sliced tomatoes and onions,jack cheese on tortillas. Encurtido $7.95, are 4 pickled jalapenos filled with shrimp and queso ranchero, dipped in egg batter, fried and topped with their own salsa espanol and guacamole. Ramon's quesadilla San Francisco $9.95 is a large grilled flour tortilla filled with carne asada, jack cheese, black olives, pico de gallo and jalapenos. Avocado and sour cream garnish. Yum.
The menu offers 2 salads and 2 soups at $4.95. A grilled chicken salad with mustard-mayonnaise dressing, a house salad with nopales, tomatoes and cheese with choice of ranch or Caesar dressing and black bean soup or Maria's favorite soup of Anaheim chiles, diced potatoes, tomatoes, onions an garlic with jack cheese and sour cream.
The entree selection is a veritable tour of Mexico. It can be intimidating and at least hard to pick any one thing because it is so large. I suggest going light on the appetizers though because the entrees are large and you'll want help out the door if you eat too much. I invariably get much of my meal to go and have it for lunch the next day so I won't be miserable after dinner. They have many enchiladas $7.95 $8.70, from chicken to pork topped with many of their mole sauces. You can't go wrong with any of these. Seven taco versions are available as well. My favorite meal is from the chimichangas menu, of which they offer 3: Vegetarian $7.95, Machaca $8.15 with beef, egg, salsa, cheese and sour cream and guacamole. and the Original with chile verde $8.15, chicken or beef, topped with the above toppings. This one's my favorite!
Some other favorites are the combination plates: Red Iguana $12.85 is a heaping One cheese enchilada, a beef taquito and beef flauta. The Tapatio Plate $11.75 Choice of beef or cheese enchilada, chile relleno and beef flauta and the Mexican Plate $12.05, Chile verde burrito, hard shell beef taco and a beef tostada with a side of rice and beans. One day, I swear, I will vary from my usual picks and try their steaks: Encebollado $12.75 and grilled NY Strip $12.95, topped with sauteed onions chorizo served with rice and beans. The Steak A La ranchera $12.75, Grilled NY steak, cubed and grilled then sauteed with green chile sauce, fresh tomatoes and potatoes. Carne Asada A La Tampiquena $13.75, 10 ounces of NY Strip, a cheese enchilada, refried beans and guacamole.
Of course they also offer many seafood selections with fresh pick of the day and it's as fresh as it gets.
The ambiance here is loud, drafty and fun. If you are looking for an intimate dinner for two forget this place and wait until you want to be people watching and watched. The tables are close together and if you get close to the door you'll get blasted with cold or heat from outside as long as you are there. The walls are covered with bright paint and colorful pictures, plates and bumper stickers. It's a fun, loud experience where you can't remember if they had music playing when you leave. The Red Iguana has received many local awards, is Zagat Rated and has been featured on Food Network's “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives recently.
They offer a great kids menu as well $2.99. Reservations for parties of 6 or more. All major credit cards accepted and they do have take out as well as large orders delivered. Call for details. There is usually ample parking in their lot or on the street.
Monday through Thursday - 11 A.M to 10 P.M
Friday 11 A.M. to 11 P.M
Saturday 10 A.M. until 11 P.M
Sunday 10 A.M. until 9 P.M
Located at 736 west North Temple, Salt Lake City. Phone: 801-322-1489