A Taste of Mexico

Downtown Hamilton just got a little more exotic with the opening of La Iguana, a restaurant serving traditional Mexican fare.

Located at 10 Broad Street, La Iguana is a casual restaurant that still manages to maintain a bit of elegance. Tables and chairs fill the room, with high stools in the windows for prime Broad Street-watching. A bar sits toward the back of the restaurant, and a large frog statue wearing mardi-gras beads keeps watch over margarita glasses and sangria pitchers. Chandeliers light the room overhead. Brick walls are decorated with Mexican dolls and, appropriately enough, a large painting of an iguana.

“It’s great for the college crowd but also as a family restaurant,” said manager Mary Santos. “[The atmosphere is] perfect for a college kid having a drink and tapas but also makes the family feel comfortable.”

La Iguana boasts an extensive dinner menu that includes salads, soups, entrees and drinks. As at most Mexican restaurants, every meal begins with a serving of crisp tortilla chips and spicy salsa. La Iguana, however, offers some unique options as well. There are two salmon entrees: a salmon in a mole sauce, made from cacao and chile peppers, as well as the superb Iguana salmon roll, filled with guacamole, cheese, chipotle mayonnaise and bacon bits, a staff favorite. La Iguana also offers mixiotes de cerdo (with pork in a 3-chile sauce) and grilled steak in a chile citrus marinade. Entrees are pricey-between $15 and $20-but combine a large portion with sides of rice and beans.

Of course, classic Mexican staples can also be found at La Iguana. Dishes listed under “Traditional” on the dinner menu, including quesadillas, nachos, burritos and tacos, are plainer, but are more reasonably priced (between $5 and $11).

“Though the chicken quesadilla wasn’t that memorable, it was good, and it was definitely a more affordable price than some of the other menu options,” said sophomore Sara Aschheim.

The dinner menu also offers a dozen different tapas, small portions to be eaten in combination. The tapas range from the traditionally Spanish (a frittata with potatoes and onions) to the Italian (bruschetta). There are tapas that combine cultural influences, like an excellent chorizo and shrimp skewer over toast smeared with goat cheese, as well as the meatballs in tequila cream sauce. These small dishes are reasonably priced (under $6) and perfect to enjoy with friends for a light and casual dinner.

In addition, La Iguana serves traditional Mexican drinks, like cafe mexicano and Mexican soda, as well as traditional desserts, like flan and churros with chocolate dipping sauce. Many of these options are also available on a takeout menu.

Santos says that so far the response to the new restaurant has been great. She recommends making reservations, especially during the busy Friday and Saturday nights when there may be a long wait for a table or for food. Santos and the rest of the staff, including the chef, also her husband, are working hard to make adjustments in the service and the computer systems to iron out the kinks that come along with a restaurant’s opening.

Overall it seems, despite the long waits at times, customers are happy with the range of the menu and with service.

“Finally, a place where you can get good food and be treated with respect,” senior Alex Ogunji said.

Santos said that La Iguana welcomes both students and families to its comfortable atmosphere.

“We’re not trying to be a 5-star restaurant, just a decent, normal place,” she said. “You can feel comfortable coming dressed up or coming right from a game.”

Junior Sam Zuhlke said that La Iguana has already found its niche downtown. “It was great to be able to sit down and have a meal that didn’t include pizza,” Zuhlke said.