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We’ve been digging the latin food these days, especially after events like Latin Food Festival and Taste of Old Town. Lucky for us, we were recently invited to try out mexican food at Café Coyote in Old Town San Diego. How could we say no?
Tourists love Old Town in the summer and during holidays but crowds do seem to clear up a bit when the weather cools. We found street parking on San Diego Ave 1 block south of the restaurant.
I was surprised to see such a long line at 6pm on a Sunday, but it moved fairly quick. The restaurant itself is gigantic, like a shopping plaza with multiple sections including upstairs seating, patio area, and dining on both sides. It could fit 900+ people at once. Wow.
Right outside the restaurant, you can see fresh tortillas being made. With a full house of diners, you know they are making thousands each day.
After getting seated, complimentary chips and salsa were brought out. Dennis decided to add Guacamole ($8.95). These are made fresh daily with Hass avocados and traditional ingredients and served in a fried tortilla bowl. Portion size was decent for two people. The guac itself was not fully whipped and had chunks of natural avocado. I think a tiny bit more lime would have made it perfect. I recommend eating with fresh hot chips. Request new ones if they aren't! Besides that, the standard appetizer salsa set off my "spicy" senses but it was still manageable.
Dennis had the Chicken Tortilla Soup. The chicken reminds me of slow cooked, easy shredded rotisserie chicken. The soup base was more brothier in flavor. The tortilla chips gave it more texture and contrast. Dennis preferred this soup over mine.
I had the Albondigas Soup, which had meatballs mixed with rice. The meatballs were super soft and easy to bite. I also thought the soup base had more spices and a deeper flavor. This is my soup pick.
On weekends, maybe weekdays too, mariachi bands walk around and play for tips. We decided to listen to a song while waiting for our main course.
Finally the entrees arrived. Dennis got the Tierra y Mar i.e. surf and turf ($16.95). It's basically carne asada and tequila lime shrimp over a bed of rice and refried beans. We would have liked the shrimp to have been grilled a little more to give it that extra edge. The butter dish was quite generous for only three pieces of shrimp! The carne asada was cut extremely thin. The top had an interesting texture and upon closer examination you can see these microcuts across the entire surface! Flavorwise, there was a nice meaty char to it and it was tender. Served on the side were the previously seen tortillas, which were incredibly soft and fluffy. Seriously, having fresh tortillas is the way it should always be!
I might attend a tamale-making party in November so I couldn’t resist ordering the Tamale Combo as “research.” The Santa Fe tamale on the bottom right is vegetarian but the beans inside did stick out a bit. I thought the flavor was little too flat and it could have used a little more heat. The verdes tamale in the middle was covered with tomatillo sauce and filled with pork while the top rojo tamale came with red sauce and beef inside. Both meats were tasty on their own but I actually wish there were a tad bit more sauce to go round! I especially am into tomatillo sauce these days. I admit I typically dread the rice and beans but surprisingly, I was really digging their Mexican rice. It was seasoned well enough to be eaten alone. The pinto beans, on the other hand, were too much on the firm side for my liking.
To end, it felt like a Fried Ice Cream kind of day. How can you go wrong with a crispy fried shell and glorious, glorious ice cream in the middle? The honey drizzle and cinnamon sugar coating was light and didn’t overwhelm the rest. Goooood stuff.
After dining, we roamed around the plaza. They are so ready for Dia de Muertos! Cool decorations and art abound!
The outdoor patio seems like a nice place to be seated. It's well-lighted and not too cold yet!
We've only sampled at Cafe Coyote during events so it was nice to finally try out Cafe Coyote. The prices are typical for Old Town but they do have specials too. We wouldn't mind coming back, perhaps after we make our rounds through other Old Town restaurants.
Disclaimer: we were hosted for the meal but the opinions are strictly our own.
2461 San Diego Ave
San Diego CA 92110