Since last summer, we'd been hearing about a new Mexican restaurant that had opened in the small tourist town of LeClaire, IA, just up the river from the Quad Cities. The name, Blue Iguana, was interesting enough. And when we found out that the owners of the place were the same people who owned Steventon's just down the road, we were intrigued (see my entry on Steventon's here). Through the summer, we'd heard pros and cons on the food and service at the Blue Iguana and we finally decided to take the short drive out to LeClaire to see for ourselves.
Open less than six months, the Blue Iguana already had a little bit of national notoriety from earlier this summer when President Obama made a surprise stop in LeClaire during a bus tour of the Midwest. One of the places he stopped at to press the flesh with the little people was the Blue Iguana. The quaint little Mexican restaurant couldn't have had better free advertising, even without the President of the United States eating there.
Blue Iguana is located on the main drag of Cody Road in LeClaire, next door to the long established Sneaky Pete's steakhouse (see map). It was a beautiful fall afternoon when we took the drive out to Blue Iguana and hoped to get a place to eat on what turned out to be a busy afternoon in the little town.
The Blue Iguana features outside dining in both the front and the back of the restaurant. The front area is larger than the back deck, but the back deck offers views of the Mississippi River. We checked out the back deck to see if any of the four or five tables were open and they were not. There were a couple tables available out front, but we didn't want to dine with all the traffic going by on that beautiful fall day. We resigned ourselves to eating inside. And, actually, that wasn't a bad thing.
The dining room and adjacent bar area featured a high wooden ceiling, brick walls and a hard tiled floor. The front windows of the building were also large. Because of all those factors, the sound just booms and echoes throughout the place. So much so that we had a difficult time hearing our waiter, Nicholas, when he greeted us with menus. More than once during our visit, I had to ask him to say again what he just said because it was so loud in the place from the reverberation of conversations coming from a half filled room. I wondered how loud it would be if both the dining area and the bar were packed on a weekend night.
Nicholas brought out chips and salsa - there was a small bowl of homemade deep fried tortilla chips, holding about a dozen chips. We'd heard the first bowl was complementary, but you had to pay $4 dollars for a second bowl. Well, this bowl wasn't going to last long. And if I had to pay $4 bucks for a bowl of these, I would gone without.
He explained that the two salsa containers that he brought out were very different in taste. The green tomatillo salsa was the milder of the two, while the red sauce "was spicy". And he wasn't kidding. The red salsa WAS spicy, so much so that I really needed their signature Blue Iguana margarita that I'd ordered from him sooner than later.
The margarita, itself, was just OK. I didn't think I could taste all that much tequila in my drink, and that was probably OK considering it was 2 p.m. in the afternoon. I found out while we were there that they get the margaritas out of a machine, the bartender doesn't make the drink. I was a little disappointed in the drink, although there was a lot of it (22 oz.) for $6.50. I just wish there would have been more tequila in the drink. Getting a margarita out of a machine takes away the mystique of the bartender, but probably helps add to the bottom line. So after I finished that, I ordered a 24 oz. Dos Equis Amber that was a good value at $4.75 a glass.
The menu at Blue Iguana isn't overly extensive compared to other Mexican restaurants in the area. One of the first things that jumped out of the menu was their guacamole. $10 bucks for a serving of the guacamole at Blue Iguana. Holy guacamole! $10 bucks? It was made fresh and you could add anything from cilantro, lime juice, tomatoes or jalapenos to the mixture. For $10 bucks, it had better jump up off the table and kiss you.
One of the other things that I saw on the menu was their "Wanna Iguana" challenge. Spurred on by the uptick of food challenges, Blue Iguana has their own challenge in which they serve you a 6 lb. burrito and you have 30 minutes to eat it along with downing a 30 ounce beer. You get your name put into a Hall of Fame and get a Blue Iguana t-shirt. All that for just $30 bucks. I'll pass on that.
They had a handful of entrees including a charbroiled 1/4 bone-in chicken that is marinated in an herb citrus oil, an 8 oz. charbroiled skirt steak that you could either get plain or with poblano peppers, onions and sliced avocado, or large shrimp sauteed in their homemade butter garlic sauce. As it said on the menu, if you're a garlic lover, you'd love this dish. I do like garlic, but for lunch and at a $15 dollar price tag, I don't like garlic that much.
Cindy was looking at getting the chile relleno, but for $12 bucks all you got was one cheese filled poblano pepper. "That's ridiculous," she said. "One chile relleno pepper for $12 bucks? No way..."
We finally decided upon getting burritos. Actually, their tacos and burrito selections were extensive. For fillings you could get steak, chicken, beef tongue, fish (deep fried, unfortunately - at least that's what I think Nicholas told me, but I couldn't hear him very well), pork or chorizo. You can also get vegetarian burritos at Blue Iguana. I went with the pork burrito and Cindy had the chicken burrito.
When Nicholas brought the food to our table we were impressed with the size of the burritos. It was very large and Cindy immediately lamented that she should have just gotten the burrito by itself rather than with the rice and beans dinner.
The pork burrito that I had was interesting - it featured shredded pork slow roasted in Mexican spices. When I usually order pork tacos, burritos or enchiladas from Mexican restaurants, they usually come out with grilled pork chunks rather than shredded pork. But the burrito was very good, surprisingly good.
Cindy said her chicken burrito was very good, as well. "But this is a lot of food," she said. "I may not want to eat dinner tonight." (As a side note, we did not.)
Nicholas came back to see how things were going and he asked if we wanted more chips. Cindy said, "Sure", but I was worried that we'd have to pay $4 bucks for a small bowl. Considering we were halfway done with our meals and I was getting full, I would have liked to have more chips about 15 minutes before after we nailed the first bowl in about 5 minutes. But he brought another bowl and we didn't get charged. I have to say that even though it was very spicy, the red salsa at Blue Iguana was somewhat addicting.
We've started to do this thing with our neighbors once a month on Sunday nights where we pick out a Mexican restaurant to go eat. We'd talked about going to Blue Iguana at some point and we'll make the suggestion to go back and eat there. The burritos we had were very good. I really liked the chips and salsa (as long as I didn't have to pay for extra), but the margarita was a little disappointing. The ambiance of the place was nice, but Blue Iguana is a little loud for laid-back dining. For a nice Mexican dining experience, the Blue Iguana is above average. I think some of their prices are a little high, but the burrito was a very good value. I'm definitely going to try something else on my next visit.