Let’s face an inarguable reality: Iowa City has a lot of Mexican restaurants, most of them very good Mexican restaurants.
This article is intended in no way to disparage any of them, but rather to put them on notice. There’s a new kid in town, and this kid — Mexico Lindo (1857 Lower Muscatine Rd, Iowa City) — has come both to stay and to play.
In truth, Mexico Lindo is only a “new kid” to Iowa City — they’ve had a well-loved location in West Branch (315 E Main St) for several years. But their expansion into the Sycamore/Iowa City Marketplace neighborhood changes the game for those of us who love good eats.
The new location boasts an expansive menu. Well-categorized by type of entree, as well as by meat/vegetarian preference, and further listing lunch and drink specials, it’s a smorgasbord of options. One almost wants to order a drink just to buy some time to examine it. And if a drink is to be ordered, their generous margarita is a good place to start.
Mexico Lindo offers a great many takes on classic Mexican fare — tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, nachos, burritos, fajitas, changas. Each of these schools of amazing choices branches off into several paths, with multiple meat/veggie options of the same traditional dish. Even more choices are listed specifically by type of meat (or non-meat) entrees: steaks, chicken, pork and seafood combination items beyond the pale. They also provide a “Make Your Own Combo” option, allowing the customer to select two items alongside a standard tortilla, rice and beans base.
Mexico Lindo also offers a few dishes I hadn’t seen before — the various Alambres and Molcajetes came as a pleasant surprise.
I opted for the Molcajetes Montezuma, an impressive steak/shrimp/chicken/chorizo mix in a stew-like broth, mixed with peppers, nopal and other veggies, with melted chihuahua cheese and grilled onions, and served in a traditional pumice Molcajetes bowl, alongside a rice and beans salad plate, and tortillas. It was truly a feast for a king and queen — it left me both needing a to-go container and wanting to keep eating. This has become one of my personal area favorites, and it’s definitely a delicious dish for two!
My companion selected a less ostentatious option, the Vegetarian Enchiladas. She was very impressed by the cheese enchiladas, smothered in grilled mixed vegetables, accompanied by rice, beans and a salad mix. I am a carnivore through and through, but I must admit, for my taste, that the flavor combinations of the Veggie Enchiladas left me craving more (which she wouldn’t let me have!).
We shared an order of flan for dessert. It was delicious: light and well-rounded, not too sweet and with just a touch of chocolate syrup and caramel.
The menu is so vast one could eat at Mexico Lindo every day for a month and still not try everything they offer, which makes it a great destination for adventurous foodies. While much of the fare is on some level “standard” for a Mexican-American restaurant in the Midwest, the quality is top-notch. The menu also contains some lovely surprises, twists on old classics, and neat, adaptive combinations.
Being open only a couple weeks, the wait staff is still learning the ropes, so please be patient, tip well and do order that drink, if only to buy yourself some time while you perform a deep dive into Iowa City’s latest south-of-the-border splash.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 264.