Chow: Finding the Sweet Spot 

With help from friends and fans, the Chocolate Iguana has a new home in a familiar spot

The Chocolate Iguana is back!

Mark Whittaker

The Chocolate Iguana is back!

Remember when that old lady was yelling "Save the clock tower! Save the clock tower!" in Back to the Future?

Well, when the venerable Chocolate Iguana was set to shut down, it seemed that Tucson suddenly morphed into that half-crazed fictional fogey and declared "Save the Iguana! Save the Iguana!"

It makes sense that our community would be a part of such a noble crusade. I mean, who would want to put a lovely sweets-and-snacks café with an adorable purple awning out of business after more than a quarter century? Turns out the property owners planned to open a coffee shop, although it has yet to open its doors.

"It makes me sad to just see the corner shop just sitting there empty," says Ali Simpson, daughter of Chocolate Iguana owner Marci Conklin. "But so far, people have really warmed up to our new location. If it wasn't for our regulars, we probably wouldn't have had this second chance."

If you don't know about the Chocolate Iguana, then you either recently moved here or have been living on the way outskirts of town. The Chocolate Iguana is an all-in-one hangout that started around 1991 in a hallway location by Tucson High School selling pastries, ice cream, sandwiches and coffee drinks. The fanbase grew to such a degree that they had to expand and find a new home, and that's where the shop on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street came to be.

"I started working here when I was 14," says Simpson with an appreciative smile. "So, through the years I have seen students and our younger regulars grow up. And now they bring their own kids in! I even got married in the back of the old corner location. This is a family run business and our family is the reason we are still here."

Conklin was at first considering retiring and turning over the business to her daughters, Ali and Courtney, when the landlord let them know they had to move. But that's now on the backburner. According to Ali, Marci wants to wait until her grandchildren are a bit older and ensure that the new location gets off to a solid start as she gets a new partner acquainted with the daily routine of running the Iguana.

Shannon Reilly, owner of the Lindy's burger empire, offered the original Lindy's location to Conklin after word got out that the Chocolate Iguana was in danger of shutting its doors for good. The space might be a bit different, even smaller, but at least we still have the Chocolate Iguana around.

"For our customers, the change hasn't been that big of a deal, it seems," Simpson adds. "They were here at 7 a.m. the first day we re-opened, and told us that they love it. So far, it's business as usual and business has been good."

It is a bit surreal to walk into the Chocolate Iguana, seeing all the familiar candies, cakes and treats while knowing at one point it used to be the site of a famous joint with an insane OMFG burger-eating challenge.

But other than the location, little else has changed. The fantastic espresso drinks taste the same, the familiar turkey pesto sandwich is thankfully just as delicious and, of course, the signature house specialty drink—a double café mocha with mint ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate swirls and a delectable "iguana tail"—isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Tucson needs a place like the Chocolate Iguana. It just wouldn't feel like home without it.


More by Mark Whittaker

  • Good for the Soul

    Tucked inside a convenience store, Mama Carey’s serves up catfish, fried chicken and something called a pork roll
    • Jan 2, 2020
  • Muchas Pupusas

    A taste of El Salvador arrives on Campbell Avenue via Selena’s Salvadorian Restaurant
    • Dec 12, 2019
  • Boots and Bites

    Whiskey Roads provides serious eats before you dance the night away
    • Nov 28, 2019
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Fish Tricks

    The secret behind Hoki Poki’s fresh fish
    • Jul 26, 2018
  • Raw Power

    With Beaut Burger, vegans finally have a meatless burger joint to call their own. Just don’t ask for a salad.
    • Aug 9, 2018

The Range

Things to Do, This Weekend, Feb. 29 - March 1

Where to Rock, This Weekend, Feb. 29 - March 1

Things to Do, Friday, Feb. 28

More »

Latest in Chow Feature

  • Pop Stand

    Thunder Canyon offers something new every Wednesday night, courtesy of Jeronimo Madril and Matty Parsons
    • Feb 27, 2020
  • Sweet Tooth

    California-based Donut Bar opening its doors in Tucson this weekend
    • Feb 19, 2020
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Sweet Tooth

    California-based Donut Bar opening its doors in Tucson this weekend
    • Feb 19, 2020
  • Quick Bites

    The best culinary adventures and libations in town this week.
    • Feb 6, 2020
  • More »

Facebook Activity

© 2020 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation