Cutlery, or no cutlery? That is the chicken burrito question.

Pizzas, pastas, salads and Tex Mex food come together at this local institution.

ANYONE who has spent a couple of hours walking through Helsinki’s city centre is able to recognise Iguana’s logo. For almost 20 years, Iguana restaurants have been offering affordable Tex-Mex style food in the heart of Helsinki and their green neon logos have become part of the city’s landscape. The first Iguana was opened in Mannerheimintie in 1994 to offer Mexican style food, good music and a friendly environment. With two other locations in Helsinki, one in Kesakatu and another in Kaisaniemienkatu, we visited the latter to have a taste of their Mexican food.

The first thing one notices when entering the Kaisaniemenkatu’s Iguana is the open space between the restaurant and the neighbouring Robert’s Coffee. This new business partnership has its advantages as the coffees offered in Iguana’s menu are prepared at Robert’s Coffee (good news for coffee lovers who savour a fresh roasted coffee) and it is always pleasant when one is able to hop to another ambience to enjoy the after-dinner conversation while having a drink.

Nachos are more than a meal-ful.

Easy food

The thing that stands out on Iguana’s menu is their prices. Taking into account the location of the restaurant, it is surprising one can fill up for less than €20 or have a meal accompanied by a delightful cocktail for little more than €25. These prices are appreciated, especially for the tourists who, apart from having to acclimate to the high prices in Finland, suffer the inflation caused by eating in the city centre.

The menu offers a wide selection of burritos and fajitas: from your typical beef or chicken burritos, to seafood burritos with smoked salmon and shrimp. For vegetarians there is the “light” burrito or fajita dish filled with fried vegetables and salad. The Mexican-style theme is opened to a variety of easy foods, which widens the options for diners. There is also a selection of pastas and pizzas as well as the recently included chicken and beef burgers.

During weekdays from 11:00 to 15:00 there are affordable lunches at Iguana. Starting from €6.50 one can have a creamy salmon soup with salad, drink, and coffee included in the price. The lunch options are varied as one can take a buffet of pizza (thin crust, not the fat bread usually found in pizza buffets to get you full fast) soup, and a variety of Tex Mex plates, as well as single plate meals like fajitas and salad.

Kaisaniemenkatu 3
tel. (09) 652 147
Mon-Tue 11-24
Wed-Thu 11-01
Fri 11-02
Sat 12-02
Sun 12-24

Mannerheimintie 12
tel. (09) 680 1855
Sun-Thu 11-01
Fri-Sat 11-03

Keskuskatu 4
tel. (09) 652 147
Mon-Tue 11-24
Wed-Thu 11-01
Fri-Sat 11-02
Sun 13-24

Burrito, nachos and margaritas

We go for the classics and order the most popular dish amongst Iguana’s customers, the chicken burrito (€12.40) and a plate of nachos with taco meat topping (€10.90). The nacho plate comes with side plates of cheese, guacamole and salad. Luckily, there is no sparing of melted cheese over the corn chips. The plate fulfils its purpose and one starts to feel full to the brim with tasty nachos before even making your way through half of the plate.

The chicken burrito is stuffed with grilled chicken, red pepper, onion, sour cream and guacamole and is served with corn chips and a little salad. The burrito alone can easily be enough to fill anyone’s stomach. It is big enough to have to consider whether to go true Mexican and eat it with your hands, or not take the risk and use cutlery to devour it.

To conclude the meal, nothing better than to have Iguana’s house drink, a cool strawberry margarita (€7.50). The margarita is served blended with ice and the sweetness of the strawberry hides the taste of alcohol, although after a couple of sips one starts to notice the tequila floating in one’s head.

On weekend nights the Iguana Restaurants become the starting point of a night out for many. The restaurants are buzzing with young people having something to eat and drink before heading to the clubs, which are literally next-door. A Saturday night plan doesn’t get much better than that.

Text and photos Alvaro Sotomayor