OPEN: Tuesday to Sunday 11:00am — 10:00pm, Closed Mondays
PAYMENT: Cash Only
LOCAL PHONE #: (045) 405-0449
MENU: See Attached PDF and À La Carte Menu Attached PDF, prices and menus as of October 19, 2013
LOCATION: See Map Below
View Iguana’s Cantina Mexicana in a larger map
Before Iguana’s There Was Zapata’s
I lived in Los Angeles, California for over a decade and some of the tastiest Mexican food can be found all over Southern California. Many would argue that you can get better tasting Mexican food in this part of the U.S. than you can in Mexico. When I first arrived in the Philippines I imagined that Mexican food would be easily accessible and adequate in quality and taste. Sadly, this turned out to be untrue.
Many years ago I was taken to what was at the time the only Mexican restaurant in Angeles City called Zapata’s. Having just arrived from Southern California and eating the best Mexican food in the world for over 10 years I was incredibly disappointed. I found the foods bland and unappetizing compared to what I was used to eating.
I caught the tail end of Zapata’s restaurant which was very popular among expats and locals as it was the only choice for Mexican food in town. It closed down a few months later and relocated further down on Perimeter RD near Korea Town under the new name Iguana’s (yet Zapata’s remained on signage). Like many things in the Philippines, this business decision seemed strange and added to branding confusion. I stayed away once it reopened since a couple of other Mexican restaurants had opened up recently and were very good in my opinion.
About a year ago I ventured back to Iguana’s after hearing from several people that it was better than the other Mexican restaurants I’d been frequenting regularly who had some alleged food poisoning cases.
Once I stepped through Iguana’s big wooden doors I could tell that big changes had been made at the new location and I looked forward to giving them another chance to win over my patronage again. Gone were the references to Zapata’s (except for one tiny street sign reading “Formerly Zapata’s”).
Fiesta Type Atmosphere
Iguana’s is one of the best themed restaurants in Angeles City. It screams Mexico from the outside building design, murals and colors. Once you walk inside it’s like you’ve stepped straight into a Mexican Cantina.
The entryway welcomes you with an onslaught of pictures of festive patrons wearing sombreros, eating and drinking along with a cabinet filled with trinkets.
The inside is painted in bright colors, colorful artwork and traditional tile work. Pictures, sombreros and decorations adorn almost every inch of wall space available. Even the restrooms are filled with Pancho Villa pictures and colorful tile work. Your server will even be decked out in traditional Mexican style dress with a tiny sombrero hat.
The large, colorful and spacious dining room is filled with regular tables, booths and high tables. There’s also a nicely stocked bar area with seating for those stopping by to sample some of the many authentic, imported tequilas or margaritas.
They also serve liquor, beers, wines, Sangria from Spain and some delectable sounding deserts.
If I needed a large restaurant/bar for a private party or event Iguana’s would be my first phone call as the space is ideal, already decorated for a party atmosphere and has party food and drink readily available.
South of the Border Flavors in South East Asia
The food at Iguana’s is excellent, of high quality and fairly authentic from a Mexican-American food standpoint with no noticeable shortcuts being taken. More importantly the flavors of the food are much, much better than I remember on my first visit to Zapata’s many years ago.
Nothing is overly spicy and most dishes are very mild. The owners have obviously fine tuned recipes, portions and prices to suit local tastes. While it is still a far cry away from Southern California Mexican food, it is arguably one of the best Mexican restaurants in Angeles City where the cuisine never really has taken off in popularity as it has in the U.S.
The menu consists of your typical Mexican food standards along with other items. Some typical foods they serve include:
- Hard and Soft Shell Tacos (ground beef, shredded chicken, shredded beef and fish)
There is also an à la carte menu that you have to request which has some hidden gems not included on the regular menu. I highly recommend asking your server for this menu to save some money and try some dishes you’re not sure about.
Mexican Foods Feast
I like a variety of Mexican foods at a meal, but I’ve never been a big fan of the combo plates that include rice and beans. I’ve now introduced my girlfriend to Mexican food and she is loving the new flavors and dishes that she’s not accustomed to.
- Chicken Qesadilla Supreme
- Shredded Beef Taco
- Cheese Enchiladas
- Nachos with Ground Beef
The Chicken Quesadilla Supreme with onions and jalepeño peppers for 220 pesos (approximately $5.12) is great and classic appetizer.
The real flour tortillas are filled with plenty of gooey, melted cheese, shredded chicken and optional jalepeño peppers and onions. An order of these are great to share or for a meal for one person.
Next up is 1 Shredded Beef Taco from the à la carte menu for 90 pesos (approximately $2.09) which comes with lettuce, tomato and real cheddar cheese along with a side of salsa. My girlfriend likes the hard shell but soft shell is available.
As you can see there’s no skimping on the shredded beef or toppings. This is your standard sized taco and the shell is crispy. It’s mildly spiced and great for those who don’t want anything too intense.
Back to the à la carte menu for an order of 2 Cheese Enchiladas for 100 pesos (approximately $2.33).
Basically this is melted cheese between 2 corn tortillas with enchilada sauce on top. I was slightly disappointed with this dish. The corn tortillas just weren’t right and the cheese was barely melted with shreds still visible. The enchilada sauce was ok, but I could have done without the cheese sauce and sour cream which were more for decoration than flavor.
Finally, we ordered Nachos with Ground Beef from the à la carte menu again for 200 pesos (approximately $4.65).
I had low expectations for this dish and expected soggy chips bathed in a bland cheese sauce with ground beef dumped on top of the chips. To my surprise the cheese sauce was slightly spicy, piping hot and served on the side.
The chips were crispy and absorbed just enough of the sauce from the ground beef. As a bonus it even included jalepeño peppers and black olives (though I would have preferred onions).
Stuffed Like a Piñata at a Mexican Child’s Birthday
With drinks and tip our Mexican foods feast bill came to 740 pesos (approximately $17.21) for 2 people. I was completely stuffed and overall very happy with the meal, minus the enchiladas. While there’s no free, all you can eat chips and salsa that most expats are likely used to, Iguana’s is a great place for Mexican food and the atmosphere you eat in makes the experience an engaging and fun dining experience.
The unique Mexican tastes will impress those who haven’t experienced Mexican foods before and it’s a great change of pace when you’re craving it. While I’d classify Iguana’s as more of a Mexican-American type of food rather than truly authentic, it’s still Mexican food. And even when Mexican food isn’t that great it’s still pretty good!