There is nothing like a cold margarita on a long summer night to inspire the fiesta feeling, and Iguana Bar & Grill certainly sets the mood for you to experience the happy vibe of Cinco de Mayo and beyond.
While there are many fast-food Tex-Mex establishments popping up around Budapest, finding good authentic Mexican grub can be a challenge, but fortunately, Iguana manages to deliver.
Set in a quiet backstreet behind Szabadság tér, Iguana might not seem like the ideal location for a Mexican-style party, but entering the front door to a cornucopia of bright colours, from Aztec designs to Diego de Riviera prints, the neighbourhood feels lively again.
The menu is extensive; with a variety of margarita cocktails ranging from tangy lime to sweet strawberry daiquiris, along with a range of lemonades and tequila-based drinks, you’ve got enough to get a party started.
However, Iguana is not any cheap Tex-Mex where the sole point is to get intoxicated fast, and while the cocktails may pack a healthy punch, it’s the food that makes Iguana stand out.
A true test of a good Mexican is the quality of the guacamole, and the creamy yet tangy concoction perfumed by fresh coriander leaves served up with crunchy tortilla chips sets the mood for the dinner. Its generous portion makes the starter a good choice to share between friends before a night out.
There is plenty on the menu to whet the appetite, including a special blend of soups, such as the jalapeño cream cheese soup or the creamed sweetcorn soup.
When it comes to mains, the world is your tortilla. There is a selection of cheesy quesadillas filled with either a choice of veggies or meat, even fish. For those wanting the do-it-yourself experience, try the fajitas. There is a choice of fillings, such as chicken, steak, carne asada and shrimp, which all come accompanied with fresh tortilla wraps, guacamole, tomato, sour cream, cheese, rice and bean paste.
But for an authentic taste of Mexico, have a gander at the specials. If your appetite is craving something creamy, then go for a chicken or a beef chimichanga, which is a crunchy, fried tortilla wrap filled with the meat, served up with accompaniments such as sour cream, salsa and guacamole.
The Enchiladas de Mole definitely crown the specials menu. The three corn tortillas are filled with a mixture of ground chicken that’s been lightly spiced and the whole dish is served up in a creamy and spicy Mole Poblano sauce. The sauce is a mixture of dried chilies, dried nuts and chocolate.
To the novice, the concept sounds unusual, but despite the addition of cacao, the sauce is actually savoury and rather spicy. The combination of chocolate and chili is a match made in heaven, and the bitterness of the chocolate and the heat from the chili mix is cut with a creamy dollop of sour cream. If you’re looking to try something unique and special, with a hint of adventure, I highly recommend this dish.
When it comes to desserts, the choices are rather conservative. If you do feel you’re capable of eating more, you’ll find the usual classics such as brownies or the Iguana special brownie, which is chocolatier than the other brownie, and ice-cream, flan and cheesecake, among others.
Even though Iguana has a light-hearted party spirit, the food meets the expectations, and this hidden Mexican gem is worth visiting even if it’s nowhere near Cinco de Mayo.
Iguana Bar & Grill
Zoltán utca 16, District V
Open at 11.30am every day. The kitchen closes at 11pm from Monday to Thursday and at midnight on Friday and Saturday. Closing time depends on the action.
Tel.: (+36-1) 331-4352
Starters: HUF 660-2,490
Mains: HUF 1,450-4,890
Desserts: HUF 790-990