Review: Iguana Grill, Austin, Texas

In the Hudson’s Bend area of RR620 in Austin, Texas is a little known Mexican restaurant called the Iguana Grill. Imagine a place with the ambiance of the Oasis, but with much better food.

If you’re heading south on RR620 from Round Rock or Cedar Park, the Iguana Grill is a couple of blocks past Hudson’s on the Bend, and on the right. Like the Oasis, it is on a cliff overlooking Lake Travis, but in the case of the Iguana Grill it is overlooking a long, narrow inlet.

The wife and I had tried the place once, and weren’t blown away. It was good enough to try again, so last night we did so. We were much more impressed on this visit.

There are three sections to the restaurant: an outdoor deck, an enclosed deck and an indoor area. Although it was a bit windy, we decided to sit outside so we could really enjoy the view.

While the employees (and the website) simply refer to the food as “Upscale Mexican”, don’t expect your standard Mexican fare. For one thing, there was quite a bit less cumin in their food than you’ll find in most Tex-Mex border-style food in Austin. There’s also considerable use of green chilies, which is often a characteristic of a New Mexican style.

My favorite way to judge a Mexican restaurant is via its chili con queso, so we started with that. It was a mild white cheddar sauce with roasted green chilies. I tend to prefer a queso with a bit more kick, but the flavor was really quite nice.

Of course it’s also important to assess a Mexican restaurant’s salsa. The Iguana Grill’s salsa is a dark red, with a smokey flavor. It looks like it would be quite aggressive, but it’s mild in tone with a nice flavor. It really grows on you.

On our previous visit, the wife and I split a two-person order of beef and chicken fajitas. They were decent, but were cooked with some sort of fruit, which neither of us loved.

Last night, Shea had the beef picadillo soft tacos, adding a side of guacamole. They are served with Mexican cheese, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, rice and pinto beans. She said they were comparable to the flaco tacos at Chuy’s, high praise to say the least.

The pinto beans seemed like a combination pinto beans and refried beans. She didn’t love them but beans aren’t really her thing.

She loved the guacamole. It was “creamy and salty and perfect”.

I had the Enchiladas de Espinaca y hongos, a pair of spinach and mushroom enchiladas with a mild poblano cream sauce. The spinach flavor really came through well, which can be a problem with vegetable enchiladas. I really enjoyed them.

The Iguana Grill has live music several nights a week, which is likely a lot of fun, given the fantastic ambiance. There was no music last night, but the time before they had a guy playing guitar and singing. Unfortunately, that night the only tables available were inside where we couldn’t here him very well.

So, if you want the great views of the Oasis, with better food and a more personal atmosphere, give the Iguana Grill a try.

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