In a spot locals mobbed for two decades as the former Sun Dog Diner in the bustling Beaches Town Center now sits a hip,
Owner Al Mansur, of Al's Pizza area restaurants fame, opened Flying Iguana's doors Oct. 28, after spending more than a $1 million in renovations.
In the kitchen is Chef Josh Agan, a New England Culinary Institute graduate, who concocts an ambitious menu of Latin American-inspired dishes.
Upon being seated, we were quickly supplied with complimentary chips and two homemade salsas; I favored the spicy verde to the milder roja. Shortly after we ordered tableside guacamole ($9) and chips, a cart containing all the requisite ingredients to concoct the creamy avocado goodness was wheeled up.
We tried the sweet corn tamale cakes ($10), topped with smoked salmon, crema and ancho chile sauce, and chorizo-and-potato empanadas ($8). Portions were generous — three tamale cakes and four empanada halves. The sweet, moist tamale cakes proved more flavorful than the somewhat dense empanadas.
With 11 tacos from which to choose, I opted for three: crispy pork belly ($4), Dirty South ($3) and five spice shortribs ($4) with homemade kimchee. The pork belly was flavored with a sweet rum-and-Coke glaze and accompanied by chunks of watermelon, pickled onions and a sprinkle of cotija cheese, while the Dirty South (a thick, creamy pimento cheese sauce, black-eyed peas, fried green tomatoes and arugula) tasted like Southern comfort food wrapped in a flour tortilla.
I enjoyed the flavor and texture combinations of my tacos, even if they were a bit messy, as evidenced by many fallen bits strewn about the table.
The habanero mango glazed swordfish ($22) atop creamy sweet potato purée with fried green tomatoes and garlic spinach was tasty, and large enough for two meals.
For dessert, the sharable stuffed churros ($7) stood out. Crispy and cream-filled, these doughy sticks were generously dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and served with a small pool of warm chocolate for dipping.
With a large indoor dining area, expansive bar and two outdoor patios, there are several seating options. Service was attentive despite the crowd.
Flying Iguana is open daily for lunch and dinner, so don't forget to peruse the impressive drink menu and partake of a choice beverage.