Red Iguana, a west-side culinary staple serving up “killer Mexican food,” is more synonymous with Salt Lake City to some outsiders than, say, the Mormon Temple or the Greatest Snow on Earth. Yes, this award-winning restaurant’s delicious moles, chile verde and enchiladas—what they call “pre-Hispanic food, imperial Aztec cuisine and Moctezuma’s table”—have people talking around the country.
Ramon and Maria Cardenas opened Red Iguana in 1985 and steadily built a devout local following. Red Iguana’s family traditions are carried on today by owners Lucy Cardenas and her husband Bill Coker (pictured below).
With a crew of more than 150 employees, Cardenas and Coker dish up a collection of family recipes and creative interpretations of classic regional Mexican and Southwestern dishes.
The menu boasts dozens upon dozens of dishes and offers the palate flavors that are rich, complex and delightful.
In 2008, Red Iguana was featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” which further propelled the establishment into stardom on a national level. On any given day, lines forming around the block will show you the proof is in the sauce. To appease the masses, Red Iguana launched Red Iguana 2 two blocks away and Red Iguana To Go in the City Creek Center.
All three locations offer the stand-up dishes that have made the place famous. So famous that often when I travel and tell people I’m from Salt Lake City, the first thing they say is, “I love Red Iguana!”
Pictured in this feature (from the top down), the Red Iguana, Huevos Motulenos and Puntas de Filete a la Nortena bring together a delightful and harmonious mixing of chiles, cumin, cinnamon, cilantro, epazoté, nuts, dried fruit, fresh vegetables and succulent meats.
For more information, menus and reservations, visit Red Iguana's website.
Also, read an article about Red Iguana’s decision to open a second location in the New York Times.
Special thanks to owner Bill Coker, who with his 27 years of experience, assisted with grip and lighting during the food photo shoot. It's not every day your subject is willing to help or knows so much about the shoot!
Photographer and award-winning journalist Austen Diamond specializes in creative portraiture, commercial photography and editorial photojournalism. For booking inquiries and to view his portfolio, go to www.AustenDiamond.com.