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Take Me Out: Iguana Mexican Grill

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I Ate Oklahoma is brought to you in part by:

This Take Me Out review was sponsored by Citizens Bank of Edmond.

My friend Frances freaked out.

When Iguana Mexican Grill announced, a week or so into the stay-at-home order, that they were shutting down temporarily, she had a little meltdown. 

“Greg,” she texted me, “Where will I get tacos?”

I mean...everywhere, right? This isn’t like when my brother lived in Maryland and the only Mexican food was Taco Bell and Chipotle. But I understood what she meant in a deeper sense: Iguana is something special.

We’re not even about to get into the “authentic” talk again, but it’s safe to say there are varying degrees of taco-hood. 

Street tacos: two small corn tortillas, topped with a chopped meat (usually some variety of pork or beef), diced onions, and cilantro. Simple, straightforward, delicious.

Tex-Mex tacos: larger corn or flour tortilla if soft tacos, sometimes a fried corn shell if crispy tacos, with shredded chicken, ground beef, or fajita meat inside, often with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Wonderful. Harkins back to my childhood.

Fast food tacos: Similar to Tex-Mex, but more often crispy shell tacos. Very frequently filled with ground beef, shredded lettuce, and cheese that is scientifically engineered not to melt or have flavor. I love them. I get them more often than a human should.

Stacked chicken enchiladas

Iguana toes the line between street and Tex-Mex styles by doing a variety of both and doing them very well. Back in the old, old days, when Iguana first opened on 9th Street, it was a weekly haunt to get whatever crazy tacos Chef Ryan Parrott (now of Picasso, Frida, and OSO) had dreamed up. 

Since ownership changed to the hands of taco fiend Marc Dunham, Iguana has been on another hot streak. But this pandemic has hurt them, especially because their mixed drink business was so strong. 

(If you are unaware, the bar portion of restaurants operates on a much higher profit margin than the food, in some cases subsidizing it, so the inability to sell mixed drinks—something Iguana does very well—is a huge blow.)

The old gal is nothing if not persistent, though, and within a couple of weeks, Iguana had reopened with a renewed focus on tacos and family meals. 

The Food

I’m craving tacos right this second, so the decision to get stacked chicken enchiladas ($30 for a tray that serves six, plus sides of rice, beans, queso, and chips and salsa) seems insane.

It was also, in retrospect, a very good choice.

Stacked enchiladas are almost a Mexican lasagna. Noodles are replaced with corn tortillas. The bolognese is, in this case, removed to make room for guiso chicken. Cheese is still a constant, though it’s not mozzarella, and the sour cream sauce is...well, it’s delicious. It also soaks into the tortillas, making them more pliant and flavorful.

All the sides and fixings

Also, saying this serves six is dependent on you having six appetites like mine. This tray was enough to stretch out into a couple of meals each.

Best of all, you get big sides of rice and black beans, along with fresh tortilla chips, queso, and Iguana’s award-winning salsa.

Yeah. I said award-winning and I meant it. I just gave them the inaugural Salsa Saved My Life Award. I’m sure it will be displayed proudly on their website any day now.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaany day. Absolutely positive. 

I’m not going to say I’ve never enjoyed Pace Picante Sauce, because of course I have. But let’s not get that all twisted up with salsa like you get from Iguana. That fresh, acidic bite of tomato, the rising-yet-restrained heat of fresh jalapenos, the snap of onion, the green cilantro—it’s an oft-overlooked part of the Iguana meal, but I couldn’t get enough. 

Because, as I said before, you’re getting a lot of food. Some of it will likely end up as leftovers. And I LOVE Mexican leftovers. Rice and beans mixed together with a chopped up whatever is left from your meal. In this case, I chopped up a section of the stacked enchiladas, mixed with rice and beans, reheated the whole she-bang and shoved it inside some flour tortillas.

That would have been fine, but with a dollop of fresh salsa? Woof. It was perfect. Mexican food, especially of the Tex-Mex variety, is a comfortingly heavy cuisine. Fresh salsa cuts through it so beautifully, shining a light on the gooey cheese and flaky corn tortillas and richly seasoned chicken, so you can enjoy every piece of the dish individually and in concert. 

Now...time to order some tacos.

Thanks to Citizens Bank of Edmond for sponsoring this review.

About the Author

Founder and Eater-in-Chief of I Ate Oklahoma, Greg Elwell has been reviewing restaurants and writing about Oklahoma’s food culture for more than a decade. Where a normal person orders one meal, this guy gets three. He is almost certainly going to die young and those who love him most are fairly ambivalent about it. You can email Greg at greg@iateoklahoma.com.

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