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Iguanas Ranas Taqueria (Middletown, CT): tasty bargain!

I stopped in for a quick bite yesterday, in need of something quick and inexpensive, yet delicious, for lunch. Tacos are $2 each--I had one chorizo (yum!) and one carnitas. They're served simply with cilantro and onions--the woman making them asked if that was OK with me--and a side of salsa--more like some sort of hot sauce in a dish, not fresh salsa with tomatoes and onions. I really enjoyed my meal and was only sorry I hadn't gone sooner. I will definitely go again soon when I have more of an appetite and try one of the tortas. It reminded me a lot of a place we ate in San Francisco's Mission district--not at all fancy, but very authentic and delicious.

Oh, and as I was also craving something sweet, I stopped in at O'Rourke's to pick up an order of their toasted soda bread with a side of homemade jam. Quite the feast altogether for $6 and change.

Iguanas Ranas Taqueria
574 Main St, Middletown, CT 06457

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  1. Hey katty...I've been wanting to stop in too, as they're down the street from my office. Do they have a takeout menu, or do you just go in and order? Can you get other toppings or is onion and cilantro it?

    2 Replies
    1. re: BiscuitBoy

      I have one of their takeout menus in my folder--believe you could do either (walk in or call): 346-8630 or 8631.

      Per the menu (and I didn't notice this yesterday), "all tacos come with lettuce & tomato OR onion & cilantro). There are literally more than a dozen options for taco fillings including al pastor (pork, pineapple, onion) and picadillo with veggies. Please let me know what you try and think if you go. Next time a chorizo torta for me for sure. Then chilaquiles.

      1. re: BiscuitBoy

        P.S. Went back today for tortas--one chorizo (guess whose!) and one grilled chicken. They were immense, very tasty and quite filling. I really love their chorizo.

        As you might know from the review in the Hartford Advocate, the kitchen is in plain sight, so you can see your meals being made. As I watched the tortas being put together, I asked about the chorizo. The guy explained they marinate the pork in guajillo and make it on site. They also make their own bread for the tortas.

      2. I went two weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon, big let down. The carnitas tacos were ok, but the beans were bland, the rice needed salt, the salsas were average and the burrito I took to go was laying in a pool of grease and poorly wrapped which made it almost impossible to eat. I was hoping for more, but for now, a burrito from Moe's is a better, tastier option IMO.

        I went to Iguanas Ranas based on a review in the Advocate. I've lived in CT for over 20 years (originally from CA) and I'm still looking for a Mexican restaurant (or take out) where I can get a green chile carnitas burrito or a decent (pinto) bean and cheese burrito...the quest continues...

        1 Reply
        1. re: aac610

          I also lived in CA for a while so I know what you are talking about. You will not find an independetly owned taco drive through here. Try one of the Margaritas chains in either East Hartford or Mystic for your burrito craving. For more authentic, upscale Mexican, Milagro in Stonington Borough is very nice. Very small, but great food.

        2. I love this place -- favorite thing is that the menu is just a suggestion -- you can negotiate with the cook for whatever you'd like -- Hipo will cook up Equadorian food if you like.

          Strongly recommend the fish tacos.

          5 Replies
          1. re: politico

            So glad to hear I was not alone on this one. I've since discovered I love their barbacoa even more than their chorizo, which is saying something, as both are terrific!

            1. re: kattyeyes

              Lingua? I didn't see it mentioned. If so, I'm on the bus.... Ooh....and a fish taco!
              This sounds authentic, which might explain the simple beans. Ask whereof they came.....

              1. re: Scargod

                Believe so, guy. Here's the Hartford Advocate article for ya. All sorts of "parts" to eat in your taco if you prefer (not just tongue, but tripe).

                1. re: kattyeyes

                  Thanks, KI's! Just wondering where they came from, as that surely influences their food.
                  Tripe: Been there, done that; Pho and Mexican dishes. Just don't care for it. For those that don't like rubbery calamari: you really won't like tripe! I'd call it crunchy-rubbery and little taste. Certainly not something to eat by itself. Tongue, or "lingua", on the other hand, can be delicious or somewhat towards boring! I would compare tongue to chicken gizzards after you remove the outer tough part.

                  1. re: Scargod

                    Ok, so on the tripas... To be honest, I didn't think their tripe was rubbery or tough at all- my mom had some too while we were there and she HATES tripe due to my depression era grandpa serving all the time when she was a kid. However, even she agreed it was delicious, tons of flavor, and because it was chopped up in the taco it was great- not chewy at all. Granted I'm no tripe expert....

                    Fish tacos... BEST.THING.EVER. Hands down, my favorite thing on the I ate (and we tried pretty much all the tacos except the tongue)

                    I'll agree with the comments about the rice. Its not terrible, but in comparison to the rest of the delicious and authentic food it is a let down. And the other lacking thing... ambiance. But Hey for a $2 taco who's complaining??

          2. Gorditas. Fantastico. I could eat them every day. I don't know why the other Mexican restaurants don't serve them. If they did they'd have a hard time beating these.
            The Salsa Verde is great with the pepper ones. What a great discovery. I tiny Mom and Pop place, a bit of the real Mexico in Middletown, CT

            1. This is the most authentic Mexican cooking I have come across in a restaurant in this immediate area and in CT so far. Yes, it's small and basic, yes it only has 5 tables and a somewhat limited menu, but the place is clean, the folks that run it are nice and friendly and the food is great!

              The food is home-made down to the black beans (that's right folks, tasty black beans, not red pinto beans) and corn flour wrap. Seasoned just right, not too much heat, just a spicy, tasty flare. The do serve beer and wine as well.
              Very enjoyable food.

              1. When you're tired of tired Mexican slop, stop by here for fresh and tasty tacos. I love the tacos al pastore and the fish tacos. There's a takeout menu, which works when you want a little sangria with your meal (there's no liquor license here)-- or you can sit in the tiny dining area.

                I'll never eat at La Boca again. . . just mosey on down a block and a half for Iguanas Ranas.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JinkyB

                  I second the recs. This is a favorite.

                2. Heads up, hounds: IGUANAS RANAS is ON VACATION THRU AUGUST 18, 2009. We ate at Pho Mai tonight and noticed the sign, so just FYI. If you're heading there, wait just a little longer before venturing out.

                  1. Enjoyed a tasty tamale and a flavorful chicken gordita today with a Jarritos grapefruit soda--who knew there was such thing as Mexican Ting?! The tomatillo salsa they serve with your meal is fab and definitely adds some heat!

                    For those of you who love honest-to-goodness Mexican food and haven't tried this place yet, I've gotta ask: what's stopping you? :)

                    1. After all the hype katty has been promulgating about this place, I finally was able to stop here on a weeknight. Got a Carne Asada Torta sandwich...not bad. Warning: it turned out to be so big I had to take half of it home. No fish tacos on the menu, but a thick tortilla-like pepper Gordita paired with some of their hot salsa was quite tasty (ah cilantro!) and the closest thing I've had in CT to match my memories of southwestern cooking. I had to take the 3 Leches cake home too when my appetite ran out before the food did. Although the dining space is modest with what I'd call iguanasyncratic decor, they also have fairly fast take out service. Worth a try, all you hounds jaded with imitation CT Tex-Mex.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: DonShirer

                        Glad you finally got there and enjoyed it, Don. Agree, their tortas are about the size of a football! FYI--I think the fish tacos are on the specials board. I've never eaten them, but heard good reports. If you want one next time, I'd ask. :)

                        Please tell us about the tres leches cake. I've only ever tried their coconut cookies.

                        1. re: kattyeyes

                          I finished the tortas at lunch and the 3 leches cake at dinner today. It is dense, sweet, and delectable. I'd guess that the syrupy "three milks" the cake was sitting in are evaporated, sweetened and heavy cream. There was no whipped cream on top as I have sometimes seen it, but delicious nonetheless!

                        2. re: DonShirer

                          Hey there,
                          Went for lunch today--fish tacos are indeed on the menu. Ironically, they're right at the top of the menu in a special box with a photo, but when I asked, the girl at the counter said people miss them on the menu all the time. In any case, they're there and I hear they're good (I'm not a fish taco kinda gal). I want to try their tres leches soon.

                          1. re: kattyeyes

                            I'll certainly ask next time. Strangely they were not on the takeout menu I took out.

                            1. re: DonShirer

                              Where is this place located on Main Street?

                              1. re: divainjeans

                                It's next to Pho Mai in the North End...across the street from It's Only Natural Market and Middletown Skating Rink (howzat for a blast from the past?!). :)

                                Pho Mai
                                570 Main ST, Middletown, CT 06457

                                It's Only Natural Market
                                575 Main St, Middletown, CT 06457

                            2. re: kattyeyes

                              I have been there several times and went a couple weeks ago for the fish tacos. My favorite thing so far. The sauce was especially good. I don't know what it is but it was the color of 1000 island dressing and next time I'll be asking for extra. The gordita was good too. It is the closest thing I can find to arepas around here. If anyone know about where to get arepas in the greater Hartford area let me know. Also went to Sararpes in Enfield yesterday on the way home from Six Flags. Another great find.

                              1. re: ganache123

                                Hi there! I don't know of anywhere that makes arepas in the greater Hartford area....however, if you ever get to Norwalk, please find Valencia Luncheria on Route 1 (not far from The Lime). We went last weekend and they make more varieties of arepas than you can shake a stick at...empanadas, too...ALL FAB! And fresh fruit juices. I want to get there again SOON.

                                I will add that Monte Alban makes a gordita which is not dissimilar to an arepa, but the real deal exists for you in Norwalk. It is totally worth the ride, I promise. :)

                                Monte Alban Restaurant
                                529 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105

                                Luncheria Valencia
                                172 Main St, Norwalk, CT 06851

                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                  Kattyeyes - Oh my, I can't believe it. I just had lunch at Valencia Luncheria yesterday. It was great. I was in Norwalk with a Spanish collegue and she recommended it. I had an arepas. I even said I wanted to try and find if there is a place in Hartford that is similar. Sorry to hear there is not. I guess I will just have to find reasons to go down to Norwalk more often. Jay

                                  1. re: JayCT

                                    Jay, I'm hoping someone else chimes in and points us to a place like Valencia closer to home that makes arepas (or empanadas like theirs!)...but I completely agree with you. I'm looking for reasons to get there more often, too. :) I can't imagine any other place makes quite as many varieties as VL.

                                    Keep in mind: the area around Calf Pasture Beach is a beautiful walk after a hearty lunch. That was my rationale for our last trip. Then you can find your way back to Chocopologie for a great coffee drink or some chocolate treats...OK, so that undoes the walking, but also worth the trip!

                          2. http://www.yelp.com/biz/iguanas-ranas...

                            you guys are all whacked, this place isn't fresh, and if you think you're getting a deal and there is any value involved, you're sadly mistaken.

                            Iguanas Ranas Taqueria
                            574 Main St, Middletown, CT 06457

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: djmeltdown

                              What didn't you like? Too expensive for you? Tell us more, one post wonder....Oh wait, I just saw you mentioned tacobell in the yelp post (if that was you)...'nuff said

                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                We tried Iguanas for the first time and big thanks to the folks on this board the recommendation. We arrived about 11:45AM on a Wednesday and there were probably more kitchen staff than customers, but 15-20 minutes later there wasn’t a seat to be had. We each chose two tacos with onion and cilantro – my wife pastor and grilled chicken while I settled on pastor and carnitas. We both agreed the food was delicious and we can't wait to explore more of the menu.

                            2. Since Katty's rec, I've been going about once a month, and have never been disappointed. Everything I've tried, tacos, tortas, gorditas, dorados, has been excellent. I especially like the side sauce, red and green. Nothing else like the Iguana around here

                              1. NEW BURRITO VARIETIES AT THE IGUANA--and 15" worth!

                                New as of about three weeks ago, so I'm told. I was so focused on which one to try, I completely skipped over the 15 inches part. THESE ARE IMMENSE and well worth their $10 price. I tried the toluca--"green toluca style chorizo and our special pico de rana (tomatillo, epazote, cilantro, onion and lime juice)." I love their chorizo, anyway, but all wrapped up with rice, beans and cheese and the pico, it was so flavorful and filling. I took the other half home.

                                How's this for interesting? Their Oaxaca burrito comes with "our exclusive salsa de chapulin"...yes, grasshopper. Shrimp, tilapia, spinach, pork and chicken appear in various combos...12 different ones to choose from, if I'm remembering correctly.

                                Oh, and I finally tried the tres leches cake last month--good call, Mr. Shirer! The Iguana is my favorite Mexican place in this area, no question.

                                17 Replies
                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                  Here is A QUARTER of my burrito--A QUARTER, I tells ya! I called it lunch. :)

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    Thanks for the heads up. In two words, they are HUU MONGUS! I think I'm going to make two lunches out of the part I took home. The oniony sauce on the burrito really hit the spot. (And I finally got my fish taco too--highly recommended.) Note: there are two posters over the refrigerator with the special burrito choices. They are not listed on their website.

                                    1. re: DonShirer

                                      Two words indeed! :) Here's a shot of the Sonora--tender chunks of pork with salsa verde. A definite must-try! And the exterior of the Iguana itself.

                                      Glad you finally got to try the fish. Though I'm not even a fish fan, I must say it does sound tempting! Who'll be the first to try the grasshopper sauce on the Oaxaca and report back?! ;P I was offered a taste, but it didn't sweeten the deal for me to learn they kinda taste like shrimp.

                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                        went once.....got 3 tacos: Al Pastor, carnitas, chorrizo. The meat in the ap and cho was dry and not so great, but the carnitas was tender and delicious. Also got a pork tamale - it was not fresh. Got a side of the habanero sauce......excellent. I will go back to try the carnitas burrito and get more of that killer hab sauce.

                                        1. re: MacshashRIP

                                          Since you brought this thread back to life, this is a fine time to let folks know Iguanas Ranas has moved to a bigger/better/nicer space, formerly occupied by Nikita's. Same side of the street, next to Public Market.

                                          We have been not so patiently waiting for their bar (yeah, bar!) to open and serve up some freshly squeezed 'ritas, but NO IDEA when that's gonna happen.

                                          1. re: kattyeyes

                                            I had a customer meeting in Middletown, and since I'm always on the lookout for good Mexican food I decided to go early and try Iguanas Ranas after reading about it on here.

                                            First off, the new place is quite big, but it was completely empty at 12:00 which can't be a good sign. I ordered two tacos to go - carne asada and chorizo. The girl behind the counter (who leaves ALOT to be desired in her customer relation skills) says "that's all? They're really small" which I found an odd thing to say.

                                            Anyway, I waited about ten minutes which was fine even though they were anything but busy. The tacos ARE small!

                                            The carne asada was tasty, loved the cilantro and onions. I don't think the tortillas were freshly made, they were thick and sorta gummy. Overall, that taco was OK. The chorizo was not that good. The meat was dry, which with Mexican chorizo is a difficult thing to do, and relatively flavorless.

                                            Overall, I will try them again, maybe sit down and have something different, but my first visit was only OK.

                                            1. re: pborgm

                                              Interesting. I get to the Iguana at least every couple of weeks or so and have never had dry or flavorless chorizo. Maybe try the Toluca burrito next time? I've ordered and enjoyed that one several times.

                                              I guess you found "they're really small" an odd thing to say until you SAW the tacos: they really ARE really small. :) Out of curiosity, where DO you like for Mexican?

                                              ETA: If size is part of the issue, I definitely suggest you try one of their WHOPPING burritos next visit. I easily get two meals out of one, sometimes three.

                                                1. re: chowmensch

                                                  YES! And I highly recommend their margaritas! We've worked our way through almost all the fresh fruit flavors: lime (traditional), strawberry, watermelon, pineapple, passionfruit...all on the rocks and available with a jalapeno addition (DELISH!) for kick. I've seen the bartender squeezing fresh fruit by hand, so these are by no means those toxic sugar-'ritas made from a nasty mix. I haven't had one I didn't love.

                                                  There's a Day of the Dead theme to the bar with lots of skulls and interesting tequila bottles--some shaped like big guns! Bartender is friendly and seems to have fun experimenting with new drink ideas--one night we had a tasting of a ginger margarita he was working on. It has quickly become my favorite place for an adult beverage in M'town. Sadly, the bar never seems busy and we always can get "our seats" without issue.

                                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                                    2013 UPDATE: I call a downhill alert on the margaritas we once loved so much. Not sure what happened, but the past two times, they've just been super sweet. :( Anyone else notice? I'm gonna guess "probably not" as the bar STILL never seems busy, but other new places downtown are blowin' up at quittin' time. It's too bad. They really were quite great while they lasted.

                                                2. re: kattyeyes

                                                  I really wanted to like the place because the reviews were good and the fans passionate. Like I said, I definitely intend to go back and give them a second chance.

                                                  I live in Woodstock, so I don't have alot of choices for Mexican. My wife (Mexican from Texas) and I LOVED Casa Mariachi in Putnam and couldn't believe our luck when they opened that such good Mexican was so close. But last year, the roof collapsed from all the snow, and they never re-opened.

                                                  The last place we tried was Hacienda Del Sol in Enfield. We liked it and will go back, but at nearly an hour away, it's not exactly convenient.

                                                  BTW - The small tacos didn't bother me even though I am a big guy. I just find it odd when an employee makes a comment like that. I think "is that all you are ordering" is fine; "You only want TWO? They're really small..." just seems counter-productive!

                                                  1. re: pborgm

                                                    Understood. I think you may have better luck with the burritos...and the margaritas for sure!

                                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                                Newspaper articles say the new address is 484 Main, but many reviews and IR's website itself continue to list the old 574 address. They are close enough so that won't make much difference in finding it, but it would be nice if everyone agreed!

                                                1. re: DonShirer

                                                  Happy to help with the numbers, Mister Don:

                                                  Old Nikita's/New Iguanas Ranas is indeed 484, next to Public Market.

                                                  Old Iguanas Ranas is now Tibetan Kitchen, 574:

                                                  And that's just across from It's Only Natural Market, 575!

                                                  Howzat?! See you at the Iguana!

                                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                                    Our lunch this week was the first since the restaurant’s move to expanded quarters. I personally found the older premises more inviting than the former Nikita's. Our server was very pleasant though obviously new to the job. My wife and I ordered 4 al pastor tacos with guacamole (25 cent per taco up charge) that were served on one plate with our server bringing us a 2nd. There has been a decrease in the quantity of taco fillings since our last visit and neither of us detected the presence of the promised pineapple. Overall the tacos were drier and less satisfying than in the past.

                                                    1. re: westie

                                                      stick with the giant specialty burritos here and make sure to get the habanero sauce along with the house sauce. Or if you want tacos, go with the carnitas.

                                                      1. re: MacshashRIP

                                                        I would second that rec but would add the fish tacos are delicious as are their margaritas- no syrupy grossness there.

                                                        My only complaint is the service. The poster above westie noted that the server may be new- though i will give them the benefit of the doubt- we have gone and the service is AWFUL no matter who you get. It has gotten much much worse since they moved to the larger space. On a slow day we have waited 20+ min for a check after waiting 40 min for two tacos and a margarita. One Friday night we went with another couple and the entire meal took over 2 hours- for four burritos and two fish tacos. One of us actually had to get up and ask the waitress if our food was put in, and then it was still another 20 min. Though i love the food there, there have been times where I have avoided the place because of the service (and frankly I didnt have time). I feel terrible even writing that because the food is soo good, and I hate giving damning reviews to good little mom and pop restaurants. Anyone else have a similar experience? Hoping the last few times were growing pains....

                                      2. Went to Iguanas today for lunch. Imagine mexican music in a mexican restaurant.Enjoyed the Chimichanga(shaped as a packet, not a burrito), Tricolor Burrito w/ carnitas, Fish, carnitas, and barbacoa tacos. All were quite good. Each fish taco ended up being 2 due to size of portion.Everyone in my party enjoyed the fast and friendly service. The house salsa is boring and best modified by adding some of the habanero salsa. The salsa verde accented everything.only disappointment was the Pastel 3 Leches, it was dry. Will definitely be going back again.

                                        1. Dropped in to the new place last week when I was in town. Had a fajita burrito. OK, but I like other things on their menu better.