The ambiance of Iguana Grill in Midtown Village (can anyone tell me why there are Swedish flags on the Midtown Village sign?) is hard to beat. The restaurant is both spacious and beautifully decorated, most notably by the hundreds of lamps hanging from every inch of the ceiling, but despite the elegance of the decor, Iguana Grill is comfortably casual. My cousin and I met for dinner at 5:30, so the pre-dinner-rush atmosphere was quiet and relaxed. Everything was comfortable, especially the cushions of our booth.
The chips and salsa arrived almost as soon as we sat down. As the first thing anyone is going to eat at a Mexican restaurant, chips and salsa set the tone for the meal. IG’s were warm and not too salty (I’d much rather salt my own chips than have them arrive with too much already on them). I caught the taste of a stale chip on occasion but none of the terrible texture everyone knows and hates. These were perfectly crunchy. The salsa was delicious—a little thinner than I prefer, but spicy without being off-putting to even the mildest taste buds. The queso I ordered was cheap and pretty standard—good taste, temperature, and texture.
The service was prompt and friendly. Our food took a little longer than I’ve come to expect from other Mexican restaurants in town, but certainly didn’t take long. I ordered the enchilada and chile relleno combination. I forgot to specify chicken, so I wound up with perfectly acceptable but less desirable beef versions of both. The enchilada and relleno were both pretty standard. They were good, but didn’t strike me as anything I couldn’t get from another restaurant in town. I’m not really a fan of anyone’s refried beans, but the rice that accompanied my dish was better than most—the perfect consistency and flavor, which complimented the entrée perfectly.
When it comes to the prices at Iguana Grill, I find myself in an interesting position. The restaurant looks and feels fancy, so I’m initially surprised at the reasonable prices on the menu, but the quality of the food has never struck me as anything beyond standard Mexican fare, so the prices aren’t quite the bargain they first appear to be. Our tab before tip was $37, which seemed neither high nor low for a meal including queso, two amply sized entrees, a tea, a margarita, and dessert.
And speaking of the last two items on that list, I’ll conclude my review with my favorite parts of any meal—the booze and sugar. The margarita (lime and on the rocks, always) was a good size for the price ($5, I think) but was a bit too salty (even without the salted rim). For dessert, we split the chimichanga cheesecake, which looked so delicious I forgot to take a picture of it before diving in. The cheesecake filling and cinnamon-covered fried tortilla crust were perfect, but the chocolate sauce drizzled over it overpowered the otherwise delicate tastes. My cousin suggested (to me, not the waiter) that exchanging the chocolate for ice cream would really send the dish over the top, and I couldn’t agree more. The texture and temperature of a scoop of vanilla is exactly what the warm filling and crispy shell needed.
Iguana Grill isn’t my favorite Mexican restaurant in town (I’m sure I’ll have a review of Jalapeno’s up soon enough), but I set my fork down at the end of my meal and said “Well, that was good,” which certainly counts for something. If you ask me, the restaurant’s elegant décor is both a strength and weakness. It allows them to stand out among the dozens of Mexican restaurants in town and offers a beautiful dining experience, but such a beautiful first impression isn’t consistent with the good-but-not-great food that follows. If you want Mexican food in Tuscaloosa, there’s no reason not go to Iguana Grill, but the best reason to eat there is their décor, which probably isn’t your first concern when you’re deciding what’s for dinner.
Iguana Grill is located at 1800 Mcfarland Blvd E # 430 in Tuscaloosa’s Midtown Village. (205) 752-5895
Friday & Saturday: 11am-10:45pm