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Maria Cardenas

Maria Cardenas was born in Villa Escovedo, Chihuahua, Mexico in 1924.  The daughter of a silver miner and school teacher, she lived a wonderful life surrounded by farm animals and a scenic hilly landscape.  Maria discovered her passion for food and cooking while working in Juarez, Mexico, cooking and serving the community under the tutelage of Virginia Pratts, a business woman and chef.

In 1955 Maria moved to San Francisco where she met and married Ramon, her husband of fourty-three years.  Together they moved toward their dream of a better life, and opened a Mexican restaurant called “Tia Mia.” It was a tiny restaurant, with a small counter and two tables.  Not only did Maria do all the cooking, but she also started a side business, making elaborate wedding cakes.   Soon “Tia Mia” became too small – business was good, demand for her wedding cakes grew, and they now had two children, Lucy & Ramon Jr.

In 1965 an uncle called to tell them about a great restaurant location called “The Casa Grande” that had just become available near him in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Having outgrown “Tia Mia,” they packed up their bags, moved to Salt Lake and took over the restaurant.  They quickly developed a loyal following.  People came from far and wide to eat Maria’s cooking – her Chile Rellenos, Chile Colorado, and Moles.

Maria and Ramon closed “Casa Grande” in 1985 to open the “Red Iguana” restaurant – a ‘hipper’ restaurant in an up-and-coming area of Salt Lake, and with her following, it was an immediate smash. The “Red Iguana” is considered by many to be the best Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake City and one of the best in the United States.  A customer once asked Maria’s daughter, Lucy (who now lives here in Portland, and helped us put this menu together), if the chef at the “Red Iguana” was a man or woman.  When Lucy replied that the chef was her mother, the customer replied, “I thought so, I knew I could taste the love in the cooking.”

We hope you taste the love, too!

Lunch / Dinner

Ensalada de Carne Desebrada (Shredded Beef Salad)

slow-cooked beef brisket tossed with avocado, peas, carrots & a special dressing, on a bed of lettuce with sliced tomato & avocado, served with tortilla chips

Dinner

Chile Rellenos de Elote y Queso

roasted poblano (pasillo) peppers filled with monterey jack cheese and corn, egg battered & fried, served with salsa espanola (a sweet tomato sauce) mexican rice pilaf & refried beans

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mole Coloradito

a sauce of ancho & guajillo peppers, nuts & spices, served with mexican rice pilaf

Entomatada (Enchiladas) de Pollo y Crema

corn tortillas filled with chicken and sour cream, topped with salsa espanola, melted jack cheese & jalapeno peppers, served with mexican rice pilaf & refried beans

Dessert

Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)

with raisins, peanuts, coconut, & spices, served with vanilla crème anglaise