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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Blue Iguana Expresso: Mole and Chili Verde at 3 in the Morning

By Alex Lee

Salt Lake City is a comfortable place to live, but finding a decent meal in this town after-hours is a challenge. Sure, Wendy’s has a late-night drive-through. Some pizza joints are open late. And of course, there’s Village Inn. But what if you have a craving for something just a bit more sophisticated while you’re burning the midnight oil cramming for finals? Well, we’ll probably never be able to get a bowl of wonton soup at three in the morning here as in Manhattan, but now you might be able to satisfy a burning desire for Mexican food.

The predicament of night owls improved recently when the Blue Iguana Expresso came along. Yes, this eatery is a spin off from the second-best Mexican restaurant in town, the Blue Iguana.

(The best Mexican restaurant is, of course, the Red Iguana?Blue Iguana’s westside cousin.)

The Expresso is on 165 S. West Temple, just around the corner from the Blue Iguana. It’s crudely decorated and dimly lit, but you can say the Expresso is casual and comfortable. With its couches and brick walls, the place resembles a coffeeshop. Although the name suggests take-out, which is common, the Expresso is more of a sit-down restaurant.

When I first noticed it, I thought the Expresso would serve just some of the simpler dishes offered at the Blue Iguana. That much is true. The portions are just a little smaller and ready within a few minutes after ordering, but it also has a large breakfast menu that is available anytime and offers a number of specialty coffee and espresso drinks. Best of all, the place is open 24/7!

The dishes at the Expresso are priced from $6 to $12. There is also a daily special, usually a smothered burrito or enchilada, each served with beans and rice, that costs $6.50. I think it is one of the best values in town, and at this price, there is no reason to go to one of those Mexican fast-food chains so common now.

But before you get your hopes up too high, I have to warn you that the Expresso is not nearly as good as the parent Iguanas. Even the simple dishes are not as well made. I speculate the key ingredients, such as the mole sauce and chile verde, are made earlier in the day by the chefs, then the apprentice working the graveyard puts it all together when you order. Still, the Expresso is a big improvement from the open-all-night restaurants we had before. (Remember Bill and Nada’s?)

The Expresso is located next to the Xscape, a bar that features small bands every night, and the combination forms a pocket of nightlife downtown. After the last encore, there would be a mini rush at the Expresso, and sometimes the band and the groupies eat there. Also, the Blue Boutique, a store that sells lingerie and other “adult” clothing and accessories, will open soon next door, expanding the Bohemian enclave there.

I sure hope the Blue Iguana Expresso succeeds and encourages later hours among local restaurants. This town really needs more options for its expanding nocturnal culture.

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