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Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe

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I want to begin this review by admitting that I do not eat Mediterranean food often. I cannot speak about this restaurant’s authenticity or how it compares with other Mediterranean restaurants in the area. I can say, however, that as someone who is not a huge fan of Mediterranean food, I really enjoyed my meal at Taziki’s.

Taziki’s is a chain restaurant with locations around the South including locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The Tuscaloosa Taziki’s is located in Midtown Village which can be very convenient if you plan on shopping after eating (or vice versa). However, this location can pose problems if you are trying to find parking on the weekends (particularly Saturday around noon when I went for lunch). Upon entering, you see that the restaurant itself is pretty standard. It is very roomy with many tables and a few booths. There are also a few outdoor tables available. I was there on a busy Saturday at lunchtime and there were still many empty tables. If eating in, it’s an order-at-the-counter-and-take-a-number system. Someone brings your food, but you do not have a waitress. Instead, the staff is free to move around constantly throughout the restaurant and are regularly cleaning and checking on diners. If you don’t feel like dining in, they also offer larger “Dinner for Four” to-go meals after 2:00 p.m. including meals like a whole baked chicken and roasted pork loin.

The menu has a lot to offer including starters, soups/salads, desserts, beer and wine, gyros, deli choices, and Taziki’s “Feasts,” which feature various meat and fish options. They also have daily specials Monday-Friday ranging from pasta to roll-ups. In fact, I look forward to going back on a Monday for the Portobello mushroom sandwich (which Natalie loves along with the Friday Pasta). On my recent visit, I ordered the Village Veggie Gyro, which features tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, garden slaw, feta, and Greek dressing in a pita wrap. I opted for no Greek dressing and chose pasta salad as my side out of their many options which include fresh-cut fruit, tomato-cucumber salad, and jasmine rice. The gyro was fresh and the vegetables inside were crispy and flavorful. The vegetables were complimented and easy to taste in contrast with the surrounding pita bread. The pasta salad is some of the best I have had at the few restaurants around town that offer pasta salad. It has a tangy taste and the crumbled feta cheese adds extra tartness to counteract the olive oil. Also, the olive oil/vinegar combination, which can sometimes go awry in pasta salad, succeeds here with a good balance of the two.

Prices at Taziki’s are reasonable; for almost seven dollars I was given a large gyro, a plentiful helping of pasta salad, and a small side of chips. While Taziki’s may not be my favorite place to eat in Tuscaloosa (then again Mediterranean food is not my favorite), it is a good place to go if you want good food quickly. It is also a good place to go if you are looking for healthy alternatives to the typical Tuscaloosa fare of ribs and burgers. It is certainly worth checking out.

[Amanda Stevens]

Taziki’s is located at 1800 McFarland Blvd East #300 toward the back of the Midtown Village Shopping Center.

Monday-Saturday: 11am-9pm
Sunday: 11am-8pm

Iguana Grill

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.

[natalie]

Iguana Grill is located at 1800 Mcfarland Blvd E # 430 in Tuscaloosa’s Midtown Village. (205) 752-5895

Sunday-Thursday: 11am-9:45pm
Friday & Saturday: 11am-10:45pm