Andrew Tonry
La Iguana Feliz
10834 NE Sandy Blvd.

They say that if you see Chinese people eating in a Chinese restaurant you know it's good. The same goes for Jews in a Jewish deli, Indians in an Indian restaurant, and of course Mexicans in a taqueria. Such is the case for La Iguana Feliz, a Mexican restaurant patronized by plenty of Mexican folk on the outskirts of Portland.

La Iguana Feliz is tucked among a strip of taquerias around 110th and Sandy, and it's not the most welcoming of the bunch. With bars on the windows, a spare but sprawling dining room, and the addition of loud Mexican music, an arcade skill crane, and a television, it's not elegant, but it is damn good.

My friend Judy first discovered this place when she was working at Parkrose High School. Despite the bevy of dining choices nearby, she ate lunch at La Iguana Feliz every day. Two of their best items are the tostada and the fish taco. The carnitas tostada is piled high with rich, tender pork, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream, served on a crispy, deliciously salty tostada. The whole thing is too big to pick up, especially if you're prone to spilling, so you might want to ask for a fork. Much like the tostada, the fish tacos are simple and greaseless, two little filets of fish served with onions and tomatoes on warm tortillas that somehow keep from getting soggy and falling apart.

Along with any meal you order at Iguana Feliz, you get a generous tray of tortilla chips, three kinds of homemade salsa, and a boat of radishes and limes. I screwed up when eating the chips, not noticing until it was too late that I was supposed to use a spoon for the salsa, and instead double-dipped into the bowls like an idiot--so let me make that mistake for both of us. Surprisingly, none of the salsa was all that spicy, but each had a tasty, distinct flavor; one of cilantro, another of green chiles, and another that was a typical but tasty red sauce.

Feliz's chicken enchiladas aren't as good as the other selections. While the pork and steak are pleasantly fatty, the chicken is excessively gristly. Then again, I'm never much of a fan of the dark meat-laden chicken at Mexican restaurants anyway, and unless you hate all other meat, I'd advise ordering the beef, pork, fish, or even the savory lamb-like goat.

In addition to the host of meaty delights, Iguana Feliz's rice and beans are some of the best. The rice is rich with tomato flavor, rather than white rice sprinkled with Mexi-mix, and the refried beans are lovably runny and flavorful. They were so good I took to eating the rest of my friend's plate after he was too full to go on.

Oh, and if after all this you're wondering why you might ever have occasion to dine on 110th and Sandy, here are a few good reasons. Number one: try Iguana Feliz after you pillage the wealth of thrift stores on outer Sandy, Stark, and 82nd. Two: swing by after a trip to the airport. Three: stop in after a long day of nearly drowning at the Sandy River. And number four: drive out there just for the hell of it. The food is worth the extra gas.