The Red Iguana in Salt Lake City, Utah, is one of the nation’s premier Mexican restaurants that blend the line between authentic and the American-ized versions. Their feature on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” does much to build up the restaurant’s image, but the question still remains — is the food any good?
During a recent trip to Salt Lake City, my brother-in-law’s roommate went down to the restaurant, located at 736 West North Temple, to pick us up some of the infamous grub. Rather than all of us going down there, he suggested he just go pick it up because the line would be out the door and down the block. Indeed, it was.
The restaurant is known for its variety of moles (pronounced mo-lays, not moles like the think that digs up your garden). I ordered the mole negro on chicken, my wife ordered enchiladas and our old college friend ordered the chile relleno. All of us thoroughly enjoyed our meals. Even though we were eating out of Styrofoam containers, the food was hot and tasted great. Rice and beans were served on the side with ample portions, and they even threw in some chips and salsa. By the way, their salsa kicks major butt and is a great chip salsa. It’s a little too juicy for my taste to put on a taco or burrito, but it’s tops for dipping.
While the menu, which can be found online by going here: http://rediguana.com/menu.pdf, boasts many dishes the general public is familiar with, there were a few that caught my eye that I’d never heard of before, perhaps adding to the authentic appeal. They included Encurtidos, papadzules, enmoladas, enchiladas potosinas and gringas.
The portions of Encurtidos is an appetizer includes four pickled jalapeños filled with shrimp and queso ranchero, dipped in egg batter, fried and topped with salsa Española, served with guacamole.
Papadzules are two corn tortillas filled with sliced boiled egg and pipian, topped with mole verde, a bit of salsa Española, finished with melted jack cheese and garnished with sliced pickled red onions.
Enmoladas are three corn tortillas folded into triangles and filled with refried beans, topped with mole negro, sprinkled with a blend of queso ranchero and cotija then topped pickled red onions.
Enchiladas potosinas are an empanada-style enchilada made of corn masa, filled with queso ranchero, green onions and crushed red chile, grilled, fried, topped with melted jack cheese and sprinkled with green onions.
Gringas are tender tips of carne adobada grilled with pinepple, sliced green, red and yellow bell peppers, tomatoes and onions, folded in a warm flour tortilla.
The moles are all worth trying, and the restaurant makes that a possibility by allowing some sampling. Red Iguanas moles are: mole Amarillo, moe Coloradito, mole poblano, mole verde, mole negro, red pipian and lomo de Puerco en mole de almendras.
Mole Amarillo is golden raisins, yellow tomatoes, yellow zucchini, chile guajillo and dried seasonal yellow chiles tossed with chicken.
Mole Coloradito is pine nuts, almonds, peanuts, dried chile chiuacle and guajillo chiles, blended with fresh chile poblano and Mexican chocolate served over grilled pork loin.
Mole poblano is guajillo & ancho dried chiles, peanuts, sesame seeds, walnuts, raisins, bananas and Mexican chocolate tossed with turkey.
Mole verde is fresh chile poblano, chile guero and jalapeno, blended with pepitas, sesame seeds, basil, onions, zucchini, avocados tossed with turkey or chicken.
Mole negro dried chile mulato, negro pasilla, Mexican chocolate, raisins, peanuts, walnuts and bananas tossed with chicken or turkey. This is considered the king of moles.
Red pipian is a pumpkin seed sauce made with dried chile guajillo, peanuts, pepitas, onions and tomatoes tossed with chicken.
Lomo de Puerco en mole de almendras is almonds, chile guajillo, chile guero, yellow zucchini, milk, peanut butter and onions, served with a roasted pork loin stuffed with dried fruit, sun-dried tomatoes, swiss chard and pine nuts. Talk about a feast!
Combination plates are between $11 and $13, which is good compared to some restaurants who have a lot of hype. The mole dishes are about $15 each, but are worth the price. For those like me who couldn’t stand in line and wait to be seated, the to-go menu is located here: http://rediguana.com/togomenu.pdf