The former Subway location in Cruz Bay, above, was transformed into the tropical bar and casual eatery Iguana Grill.
Ric Ortiz outside his new Cruz Bay hot spot.
Texas natives Ric Ortiz and Nile Wright packed up a few recipes from the Lone Star State to serve at their new Cruz Bay hotspot – Iguana Grill.
“We are trying to bring a little bit of Texas to the island so every one can get a little taste of what we have back home,” Ortiz said.
The two owners took on a complete remodel of the centrally located space that formerly housed the governor’s campaign headquarters and Subway to create a family-friendly establishment in the heart of Cruz Bay that serves up specialty burgers, happy hour specials and a slew of fried delights.
“We wanted it to be a family restaurant with a great feel and a nice view of Cruz Bay,” Ortiz said. “It’s got the same happy hour vibe as Woody’s — it’s just higher up and fenced in so there is no need to worry about kids running in the street.”
Four garage doors create Iguana Grill’s open-air feel, transforming the restaurant into one giant deck when reeled up and providing a bird’s eye-view of the downtown happenings.
“We are just a burger joint with ice cold beers, hamburgers, milkshakes and hot dogs right in the heart of Cruz Bay,” Ortiz said.
Iguana Grill’s owners have a friendship stemming back from their days in Texas. Ortiz came to St. John from Corpus Christi two years ago to help Wright open his other Cruz Bay business, Cactus on the Blue. Wright, who has lived on St. John for five years, hails from San Antonio where his culinary roots run deep — his family owns Jacala, one of the city’s oldest Mexican restaurants.
Iguana Grill serves up nine specialty burgers — and the owners say the deliciousness lies in the secret patty recipe brought all the way from Texas. With the Blazing Burger, featuring Tabasco-fried onions, sautéed jalapenos and habanero peppers, the Swiss Bacon Mushroom Burger, a sizzling concoction of Applewood bacon, sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese, and a daily burger special, Iguana Grill already has garnered a following.
“People are liking the hamburger patties — they love our recipe for it,” Ortiz said. “But we are keeping it a secret. No one can know.”
The secret patty recipe is not the only thing Ortiz and Wright brought back from their home state. Among Iguana Grill’s specialties are its fried pickles, fried mushrooms, fried macaroni and fried Oreos — tributes to the Texas State Fair in Dallas, which prides itself on its ability to fry anything including butter and beer, and Wurstfest, New Braunfels’ annual 10-day-long German festival which coined many of the fried delicacies.
Aside from an array of fried food, Iguana Grill also boasts a kids’ menu with smaller portions of its specialty hamburgers, mini corndogs, hot dogs and chicken fingers.
While the owners are still testing out price points, they said they want to remain an affordable restaurant. Currently Iguana Grill’s burgers are $12, $15 will get you a burger and fries, and you can add any appetizer as a side for just $1 more.
The restaurant, which opened its bar on June 28 and began serving food on August 25, will stay open year-round. With daily hours from 11 a.m. until midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Iguana Grill also features a 4 to 7 happy hour with $1 Budweiser products and $2 wells.
“Business has been good — we’ve already got a great local clientele,” said Ortiz. “We just want to make everybody happy, to remain consistent and make sure every body has an enjoyable time.”