I’m pretty sure this was the place. Not really a hundred percent sure, but almost. Reasonably accurate, what I’m shooting for. This was the place that started the whole “Southwestern Cuisine” fad. The phase. Publicized the New Mexico Cuisine fad.
Symphony – not solo:
The place became popular, the Santa Fe location, then, I remember, the Austin location – never made it big in Austin – the whole “howling coyote” and “kokopelli” images? Fiery peppers, hotter hot sauce, the real New Mexico question, “Red or Green?”
The last review I read on the web suggested that the original Coyote Cafe had gone rather downhill. Which might be true. Popularity, selling out, the grind of trying to maintain quality while being original, too? It’s not easy. Stopped in there. Phone – or rather the iPhone – lied about directions but we found the place anyway. Up the stairs, someplace, there’s a whole legion of indigenous artists laughing out how the pales ones have embraced the image of Kokopelli.
Wasn’t hungry, just wanted a midday snack. Ordered up a $5 bowl of chips and hot sauce. What arrived, kind of an aloof waiter, like, he was straight, but would flirt with me to get a good tip, but he was straight, all that and then some chips.
The chips were recently fried flour tortilla chips, what some places would call homemade. Good. Close to excellent. Certainly a grade or two above restaurant-grade chips.
Three “salsa” dishes came with the chips. Excellent presentation in a little three dish wire-frame, then the chips themselves were in a paper cone inside a tall wire-frame holder. The first sauce was supposed to be a smokey chipotle salsa, and it was lacking. Tasted sweet, only a hint of smoke and no heat. The second sauce was straight pico (pico de gallo), and the third salsa was “tomatillo-avocado-cream,” just a pale, sickly green sauce. Individually, the none of the sauces were that good. Not bad, basic pico, sweetish hot sauce and weird, green cream.
The deal was, why the place was originally famous? Successfully combining elements. What worked? Separately, the sauces were, at best, uninspired. However, together? There was a tricky heat, some from cayenne, some from jalapeno, some from “I don’t know what,” and that flavor, I’d break a chip into flaky pieces and then sample a heaping portion of each and the effect was magical. There was a slow burn, not overpowering, just enough to assert itself, a palpable heat. The secret was in the mix. Sampling.
Didn’t stick around for lunch, or dinner, but I’d bet the secret is not just sampling one, but trying all of them.
Laeti edimus qui nos subigant!
Two Meat Tuesday (the book)