By Dr. Ink
Don’t be deceived by the rope lines that often form outside of Café Coyote in Old Town, at least when they’re small.
The wait time to be seated is generally brief if you’re not picky about taking a table in the main dining room, the courtyard patio or the roomy cantina, which features a modest-size bar. And until gaining entry, there’s plenty of tortilla-making to watch at the front of the building to help kill the time.
Anchored within the pulse of San Diego Avenue, directly across the street from equally bustling Fred’s Mexican Café, the establishment is divided into multiple sections bursting with colorful banners and classic Mexican tilework.
Tourists love it, and to a lesser degree, so do I when the hankering strikes for jumbo margaritas and uncomplicated tacos made with tortillas fresh off the grill.
Happy hour is available only in the cantina and courtyard, except on “Taco Tuesdays,” when it runs all day and extends into the main dining room. The bargains include $2 tacos (add $1 for fish or shrimp), plus $4 drafts, $6 tequila shots and $6.95 margaritas.
For a buck more, I chose the pineapple-chipotle margarita served with ice cubes in a glass sporting the circumference at the rim of a medium-size tortilla. A straw was necessary for drinking it. Otherwise a good deal of liquid would have inevitably sloshed onto my lap.
The bar uses El Toro Tequila Gold, an inexpensive brand that blended adequately with the pineapple juice and the faint zing of chipotle hidden within the simple syrup used in the recipe. It was a stimulating diversion from the standard, lip-puckering concoctions I usually order.
I sat in the cantina, alongside open doors facing the courtyard. The space filled quickly as the opening ceremonies of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at Petco Park blared over several flat screens. At a few nearby tables, baseball-capped Padres fans slammed down the discounted tequila shots, some of them infused with pomegranate. Indeed, I wasn’t the only San Diegan in the place.
After polishing off more than a single basket of so-so table chips with tomato-y salsa, I proceeded to an al pastor taco. Though tiny, the generous plops of fresh guacamole and tender pork in it suited my taste buds and left room for tackling the high-volume margarita.