- 3105 S. Second St. , Louisville, KY, 40208
- Overall User Rating:
- (8 ratings)
- Official Web Site:
It's not unusual to find large portions and low prices at area Mexican-American restaurants like Senor Iguana's. Hefty combo platters heaped up with rice and refried beans are the norm, not the exception.
It's not unusual that the three outposts of the local mini-chain are done up in bright colors and festooned with Mexican kitsch. Nor that the TVs are tuned to American sports and Mexican soaps, that the soundtrack rocks to the pulse of trumpets, guitars and the occasional accordion.
It's not unusual that the menu features tacos, burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, nachos, enchiladas and so forth, or that every meal begins with a basket of warm corn chips and a couple of bowls of salsa.
What is unusual about Senor Iguana's is that no matter which location I visit — and I've recently dined in the wide open spaces of the Clarksville location and amidst the dense, Escher-like terraces at Shelbyville Road (where the bar is a truly garish shade of green) — I find extraordinarily confident, competent and enthusiastic crew servers.
These are folks who know and love the menu; one volunteered that he'd been a customer at Senor Iguana's for years, and liked it so much he wanted to work there — and still eats the food on his nights off. Another was decidedly opinionated about every dish I asked about — right down to which beer would mix best with Clamato juice, lime, pepper and hot sauce for the perfect Michelada (his recommendation was Negro Modelo, and a tall mug of the beer-based variation on a Bloody Mary went down quite nicely with my meal).
As for the food, Senor Iguana's isn't out to wow you with its originality, but the kitchen's attention to detail and focus on building deep, vivid flavors is enough to place it a notch above many of the competitors.
The red salsa that comes with those warm corn chips is chunky, spicy and flavored with abundant cilantro. Those who don't care for red salsa may like the white sauce, a gently spiced ranch-style dip.
On a cold, late winter's day, a colorful bowl of tortilla soup (chicken broth, pulled chicken, peppers, onions, chunks of avocado, $6.99) or a bowl of very soupy chile con carne (minced chunks of steak, pinto beans, freshly chopped onions and cilantro in a rich red broth ($6.99) are generous enough to supply a complete meal in a bowl.
Tacos are formed in the classic mold: hard and soft, or with doubled up soft shell tortillas garnished with cilantro, onion and tomatillo sauce, filled with beef, steak, chicken, pork, chorizo or tilapia, and are available in different configurations.
A standard a la carte beef taco will set you back $1.79; three of the same will run $5; order tacos filled with carne asada, grilled chicken or grilled fish, and sides, and you'll tip the register at $9.59.
If you like to hear your meal coming from the other side of the restaurant, the sizzling fajitas (shrimp, steak, chicken or a combination, at prices from $10.99 for a single portion to $22.99 for a double whammy of steak, chicken and shrimp) are loud and steamy enough to form condensation on windows all around your table.
For a more nuanced presentation, consider the arroz con pollo ($6.79 at lunch; $9.99 for dinner) or arroz con camarones ($9.99 for dinner). In either case, the chicken or shrimp are grilled to a golden, faintly charred turn; the piles of onions, bell peppers and tomatoes are juicy; and there's plenty of Spanish rice (there's also plenty of cheese atop the shrimp, unless you instruct the kitchen to omit it).
I haven't yet had the chance to breakfast at Senor Iguana's, but there are several choices that will draw me in some morning, including not only huevos rancheros ($5.39) and huevos con chorizo ($5.59), but huevos con napoles (eggs scrambled with prickly pear cactus ($5.39), all served with tortillas, rice and beans.
In the meantime, I've become slightly addicted to some of the beef dishes, especially the chile Colorado, chunks of tender beef in a dark sauce the color of a WPA brick schoolhouse. It's a sternly seasoned dish, not spicy enough to sear your tongue, but hot enough to catch and hold your attention, and leave you reaching for another Michelada.