If the question is what's new under the sun in Mexican cuisine, the answer is the Iguana Mexican Grill, 9 NW 9.
The name might be familiar to locals as it's the second incarnation of the concept of the post-modern taco stand.
The Iguana Lounge blissfully parceled out tacos and Cerveza on Western Avenue in the 1990s. The big purple building decorated with an assortment still stands, but only memories of one the city's hottest spots thanks to killer coral snake salsa and perfect margaritas remain.
Thanks to original partner Steve Mason, the Iguana lives again. He kept the dream alive, found partners Robert Painter and chef Ryan Parrott and opened The Iguana Mexican Grill summer 2008. Gone are the geckos on the exterior walls, but the same unique take on Mexican favorites and tantalizing margaritas can be found in a remodeled car dealership in Automobile Alley.
"It's just three white boys playing with Mexican food," Parrott said.
While Parrott never worked for the original, he said he practically lived there and when the opportunity to revive came, he was all over it.
Parrott, who built a formidable culinary reputation as executive chef at the Deep Fork Grill, never made Mexican food other than at home until the Iguana project. He said it's been both challenging and a lot of fun.
"I've consulted with a lot of other chefs, including one of the originals," he said. "I just keep trying new things and don't plan to stop."
Tacos are the foundation — beef, chicken and pork. But don't expect either Old World authenticity or familiar Tex-Mex interpretations. Call it Nouveau-Mex or Baja Oklahoma, either way you'll find familiar dishes reinterpreted.
Start with a salsa sampler and the highlight, the coral salsa — a spicy and sweet combination of mango and habanero chiles. If you've got a good-sized group, the Oklahoma-sized queso is just the ticket.
The entrees range from tacos to enchiladas to burgers. Fillings are a unique take on the typical beef, pork and chicken you're used to, combining Parrott's classic training with the preparations that made them popular.
When it came to the sides, Parrott said he and his partners agreed they didn't want to become a beans-and-rice restaurant, another tribute to it's ancestry. Rice comes in either red or green, beans come in black or white, cole slaw is made with jicama — not the Tex-Mex choices you were reared on and the outcome is a triumph.
As with the old Iguana Lounge, the new Iguana Mexican Grill is bound to be a night-life destination. Take the same perfect margaritas and with a broad selection of beers, put them in an Automobile Alley location with an outdoor patio, and crowds are bound to develop.
If all that's not enough, they feature a cupcake from next door neighbor Sara Sara Cupcakes for dessert and key lime pie.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday
10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday