I can’t always travel to get great food. So in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Iguana’s Mexican Street Cafe is my happy place. It is the comfort food I crave when times are tough, and it’s the place I want to go when I’m feeling celebratory. When my budget is tight, Iguana’s accommodates while still serving food so good you’d swear it was made by someone’s grandmother in Mexico.
Needless to say, I could always go for Iguana’s.
Full disclosure: I’ve known the couple that owns this restaurant for years, and they are wonderful people who cook with love. In fact, Rebecca Absalon taught me how to make guacamole more than a decade ago while we were camping, long before Iguana’s opened its doors. To give you an idea of how great her food is, I served that guacamole at the reception following my beloved grandmother’s memorial service, and people still talk about it.
But even if I didn’t know the owners, I would still declare this the best Mexican food in the region.
I have tried and happily devoured nearly everything they serve: tacos, burritos, carnitas, soups, chimichangas, and even veggie options. Oh, and the best tres leches cake I’ve ever had, including those I tried during the great tres leches challenge. But it took me far too long to try their tamales, which are a specialty. They also turn out incredible paletas in the summer (come on, summer!), delicious frosty treats in exotic flavors like my favorite: passion fruit. Rice and beans are cooked in big pots on the stove every morning. Salsas are made fresh daily, and guacamole is made to order. What’s not to love?
Of course, one of the pitfalls of serving authentic food is sometimes having to justify it – which can be particularly tough when you’re faced with a crowd raised to think Tex-Mex and fast food Mexican is authentic Mexican food. I’m here to tell you, it’s not. Just know, if you’re looking for ground beef tacos, you’ll need to go elsewhere. Iguana’s serves steak tacos (so go with it!), in addition to amazing al pastor, fish tacos…and on a great day, carnitas.
Iguana’s is the perfect place to take a few friends, just know that seating is limited to 15 chairs and at peak times there can be a queue. If you can’t wait for authentic Mexican food, I’m sure there’s a mediocre drive thru taco joint that will be happy to sell you something far less delicious. As for me, when it comes to Iguana’s authentic Mexican food made with love, I’ll happily wait as long as it takes…and then savor each and every bite.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations.
Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at rollerbaggoddess.wordpress.com.