Coyote Blue (Middletown, CT): Tex-Mex with Potent Adult Beverages!
We went to Coyote Blue last Sunday afternoon for lunch. It’s about our fourth recent visit over the past few months. I’ve been many times over the years. Though I generally prefer Mexican to Tex-Mex, Coyote Blue is a fun hometown place and I have always enjoyed their drinks! Their chili enchiladas are very satisfying and something I order frequently, but not this time.
Some key info up front: They don’t take reservations and you can’t order food in the bar. You can have a drink and some chips and salsa and wait. Since this place is very close to home for us, if it’s a long wait, we just head back into town and figure out another option. But as the place is fairly small, it’s easy to see how it can fill up quickly—even in the middle of the week. We’ve had to walk away on a Wednesday before on two occasions, just so ya know.
For our last two visits, I had a Barbados Rum Swizzle—“Goslings Black Seal rum, Mount Gay Eclipse rum, apricot brandy, falernum, pineapple juice, orange juice, lime juice and nutmeg.” Their menu says, “This packs a punch!” Yes, indeed, and a very delicious one, I might add! My designated driver had the house margarita. My favorite margarita is their blue margarita—served, as all of them are—in a Mason jar with a handle.
Meals (or drinks) always begin with housemade chips and salsa. Though their salsa is not my favorite, I still manage to eat enough of it despite this fact. It’s not that it doesn’t have spiciness to it—it does—but there’s no cilantro or anything identifiably green in it. Corn is a component of it, too.
For lunch, we had two appetizers from their specials menu and shared them as meals: a mushroom & chile quesadilla (Portobello mushrooms sautéed with garlic in a flour tortilla with mild green chiles and Gruyere) and Tucson-style crab cakes, served over garden greens and drizzled with wasabi sauce. The crab cakes were very tasty and appeared to be made in-house. Nice job! I’m fairly sure a version of the mushroom quesadilla is always available.
If you don’t mind a bit of a wait on a busy night and have a craving for Tex-Mex with a tasty beverage, I don’t think this place will let you down. If you’re not into waiting, you might try stopping in on Sunday afternoon. I think it tends to be slower then.
Photos as follows:
- Coyote Blue sign
- Coyote Blue's dining room
- Coyote Blue's bar
- our tasty adult beverages!
Coyote Blue Tex Mex Cafe
1960 Saybrook Rd, Middletown, CT 06457
I am a harsh critic when it comes to Tex-Mex and Mexican food. Texas is in my blood.
We recently ate at Coyote Blue Tex-Mex Café, where the name says it all. It tries very hard to look the part.
If you were taken into Coyote Blue blindfolded, you might think it similar to other upscale New England “Gringo” Mexican food place like Baja’s (Cal-Mex in Orange, which I rate as edible) or Aunt Chiladas, in Hamden, which I try to avoid. The food at CB has upscale items on the menu and there are normally specials. Some items stand out as quite good food. A few achieve Tex-Mex status. Overall, CB falls short of a Tex-Mex cafe, which is not to say the food is bad, by any stretch.
I got the “Coyote Combo” and liked the plate overall. A spinach and feta enchilada was substituted for the cheese enchilada. The enchilada was flavorful, the spinach and feta were tasty. The refried beans were very good and authentic. I tasted Kattyeyes beef enchiladas, a special, I believe. They were very good; rich with bold, red chile flavor!
Part of my “Coyote Combo”, the pork burrito was large, and decent, but the pork boring and sliced, not shredded. No cheese or sauce on top or in it. The chicken tostada was good, but odd. Served in a puffed flour shell, like is used for a taco salad, rather than on a flat flour tortilla, it was without a refried bean base, yet had a small amount of a tasty chili-like substance way down it the bottom. This could be easily missed.
I can’t remember what Kattyeye’s SO had…I know he liked it and she liked hers. This is one of their favorite places and a regular stop.
Margaritas served in a pint Mason jar with a handle were good. I didn’t notice much difference in my top shelf margarita and the first “standard” one. Just get the house margarita; it is plenty good. The Barbados Rum Swizzle, Kattyeyes mentions above, is a tasty fruity drink in a Hurricane glass.
We really liked the "Wanna Play With Fire?" (habanero) and the "It`s Smokin" (chipotle) hot sauces.
There were a number of things I thought funny or quirky about Coyote Blue. Regarding things that did not quite hit the Tex-Mex mark for me:
The guacamole, while passable, was lacking in flavor and seasoning. Perhaps not all of the avocados were quite ripe. It did not have a rich, creamy taste, but neither did it have much, if any, "filler"; it had no tomato or jalapeno. Done in some kind of machine, the guacamole came out looking like it was dispensed from a soft-serve ice cream machine, replete with the little point in the middle of the perfectly round, two-tiered plop of guacamole.
The salsa was anything but Tex-Mex. Huge chunks of canned stewed tomato in a bland, slightly sweet concoction that included corn! I can’t recall seeing much jalapeno in it and certainly couldn’t taste them.
The multi-colored house made chips varied from crisp to not so crisp.
I asked the waitress if they had any hotter salsa and the waitress was proud (and quick), to announce that they, in fact, did. She brought out almost a dozen hot sauce bottles in a tote... with funny names like "Hot Lips", "No Snifflin", "It's Smokin", "Tear Jerker", “Wanna Play With Fire?" and "Holy Shoot". These weren’t salsas… Only a couple had some significant heat. I tried all the versions, pouring almost a teaspoon on a chip alone, without breaking a sweat, getting teary eyed or a sniffle! Several were extremely salty, though the labels denied it. Mixed with the stewed tomato salsa, several made for a rather decent combo. They should have a second, more authentic (and spicy), salsa fresca.
A special appetizer, their Texicanized chipotle crab cakes were pretty mediocre; they were too juicy, undercooked and smelled a little fishy.
The spinach and feta cheese enchilada, while tasty, was done with a corn tortilla, rather than flour, and topped with chili sauce and yellow cheese. This all but overwhelmed the spinach and feta filling. Cheese on cheese! What happened to an authentic, light, white queso sauce or green sauce or cooked fresh tomato salsa? That would be authentic! With real Tex-Mex, you often get your choice of red (chile or chili), green (tomatillo) or white (queso cheese) based sauces. Sometimes more choices!
The special that my SO got was a blackened tuna salad. It was not really blackened, but overcooked and almost dry. Flavorful, but dry. The simple, undressed mixed greens were very fresh, but it was a faux pas to use kidney beans instead of black beans.
The total loser was the rice. This was not any kind of “X”–Mex I have ever had! It was more like “tomato paste with rice”. It had far too strong a tomato flavor and tomato content in this supposed Mexican rice dish. I couldn’t eat it.
And where were the jalapenos, cilantro, nachos with jalapenos, tamales, chile rellenos, tortillas or real salsa? Why feta instead of Mexican cheese or Monterrey Jack? These are absolutely required to be real Tex-Mex!
Cayote Blue has a pretty face and lots of bling-bling to make it look Texican and Southwestern. A very polished, touristy look along with cute names for things, like the hot sauces. What’s up with Tex-Mex pizza? Make a real tostada and call it one! Serve cheese nachos with jalapenos on them… We’re not here for pizza!
Southwestern cutesiness extends into the tiny bathrooms which seem like an afterthought. You squeeze awkwardly through bar-like swinging doors, with a Saguaro cactus silhouette cut out of them, to tiny, one-hole cubicles replete with Texas-Western-Mexican stuff everywhere. Galvanized tin coats the lower walls, just like in a cheap dive bar! No urinal troughs though! No room for two people… They even have rope as vertical molding for the walls. BTW, the discolored tin looked intentionally peed on, just like in cheap toilets. That was a turn-off though the bathroom smelled fine and was otherwise clean.
At prime-time on Friday night it was crowded and very noisy. The bar area was full. They do not accept reservations and you can end up having quite a wait.
After all the negativity don’t forget the positive comments above. It’s an OK place; it is popular. It doesn’t need my business. I hope that you try CB if in the area. Like many places that serve spicier food, I think it has been slightly New Englandized and has lost many of its roots to true Tex-Mex. Standing on its own for quality of food, drinks and service I think it is well worthy of trying. You may think it fantastic! It certainly rises above the level of your average New England Mexican food place.
While fairly different in atmosphere and size, I think Puerto Vallarta, in downtown Middletown, does a better all-round representation of real Tex-Mex: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3725.... Still, even they don’t offer you jalapenos!
OK, buddy. Full disclosure here: you read my review above first. Nowhere in it did I say this was the best Tex-Mex in the world. I've said it was one of my hometown favorites and that we enjoy certain dishes there. When you and I talked, I also said it might not be to your liking, knowing you are picky about your Mexican food, but you said you liked Tex-Mex and insisted you wanted to try this place. Not only did I warn you in person about the salsa, I said it publicly in my review. I also remember telling you in the car about it one day when we were riding back from Wild Ginger.
Like you, I enjoy Mexican food. In fact, I enjoy "real" Mexican food more than Tex-Mex. Still, I find the chili enchiladas very tasty, despite the fact they contain red beans which I don't usually like in my own homemade chili, they work for me just fine at CB, are very flavorful and filling. In fact, the other enchilada is waiting to become my lunch tomorrow. The chili enchiladas are not a special, but part of the everyday menu...and my guy ordered the beef enchiladas, which he did enjoy. On our last visit, he had a pulled pork burrito, which is a special, but was not available on Friday. It was so good I kept stealing bites on our last visit.
Hey, speaking of authenticity, since when do enchiladas come in a flour tortilla? Everything I've ever read about enchiladas indicates a corn tortilla is part of what makes an enchilada in the first place, so I'm not sure what you're talking about.
I don't usually order guacamole out. It's easy enough to make at home, and yes, I use onions and tomatoes...I missed the part where our guac looked like some sort of DQ soft serve. I think your top shelf margarita might have done you better than you remember! LOL!
Having never used the men's room, I can't address your comments--nor do I understand why we're discussing the bathroom in a food review--but can vouch for the cleanliness of the ladies' room, however small, with its bottlecap decor and Texas kitschy theme. I couldn't care less what any bathroom looks like as long as it is CLEAN, which it always has been in my experience in many years of dining at Coyote Blue.
As to good Mexican, I enjoy select items at Puerto Vallarta (enchiladas rio bravo, for example), but by no means would say it's a shining example of good Mexican, either. I like Monte Alban in Hartford, Rosa Mexicano in Manhattan (which is a totally different league from anything I've had in CT) and look forward to trying other restaurants that excel in the cuisine of Mexico. But when we feel like enchiladas, margaritas in a mug and a three-minute trip down the street, we are always more than happy with Coyote Blue.
OK, you're pissed. I've poo-pooed your hangout. I hope we're still Chow buddies. I got all that stuff (you've restated), going in and I read and reread your OP before I posted. I know you and SO like the place. I hope you and SO invite us back there again. I'll be nice.
Guacamole looked like this for those that had too much Swizzle.
Puerto Vallarta is a good example of Tex-Mex, NOT Mexican.
I think ambiance is a big part of the dining experience, thus the descriptions and the part about the bathrooms. If nothing more, the swinging doors at the bathroom entrance make for an impossible situation if you don't pull outward on them. BTW, I have complained about the steps and front door of Union League Cafe for similar egress issues.
Texas Tex-Mex places, if anything, look somewhat like a Mexican cantina, not a Chili's. CB's interior decorating is cute, but there's nothing like it in Texas.
They're halfway there with the food. There are definitely some good items on the menu.
PS: taking that pic of the guac bwoke my camera! :)
And Veggo said to say, "what is the problem with flour tortillas and enchiladas? Enchiladas suizas are always made with flour tortillas."
"Those who had too much Swizzle" think you posted a picture of a Slush Puppie above!
It's not only that you $#*+ on my hangout--it's that you call my credibility into question a little. I tried to provide a balanced viewpoint in my original reviews. By the way, my SO did agree with your point about the crabcakes on our visit with you; however, we ate them one Sunday afternoon and they were a different story--much tastier, not watery...I had reviewed them and posted a pic, even. I can only say no restaurant is perfect. Most places have an off night now and then. But we did have a nice time together--in the words of the somewhat famous Weight Watchers card, "Maybe this snack not for you." But I think we can still be Chow buddies.
Ambiance for sure is a part of the dining experience, but we weren't dining in the bathroom. ;) Reminds me of that Comcast (?) commercial where the guy is watching TV in the bathroom and he offers his friend a snack and the guy won't eat it 'cause they're in the bathroom...anyway...
There are comfortable/reliable/tasty places and there are mindblowing ones. I never put CB in the mindblowing category, but I do think it's worth the trip for at least the red chili enchiladas, the margaritas, the swizzle and the pulled pork burrito when they have it. I have had other menu items I wouldn't rave about (so I haven't raved). Good Mexican or Tex-Mex is a challenging Chow quest in our neck of the woods. Of course, we have our $2 taco joint downtown, but your SO won't be interested b/c they don't serve adult beverages....so no place is perfect, you see. Kiss, kiss...have a mojito for me. I can't buy any vanilla rum and I am truly bummed!
re: c oliver
I think I know what you're getting at--using Tex-Mex as an example here, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. All "rules" about "what should be" (or perhaps "authenticity") go out the window on a quest for what tastes good. There should be nothing set in stone unless they're your own personal expectations. Again, using this restaurant as an example, why the enchilada is spinach and feta rather than spinach and quesa fresca. I agree with this line of thinking, but I'm not a purist about most things. :)
I'm not going to get into a drawn-out discussion arguing about cuisines becoming bastardized and even worse, what is right and tastes better to who. There are huge threads already devoted to it.
Feta is a stronger, saltier sheep and goat cheese than a Mexican farmer's cow milk cheese, I believe. The salsa bears no resemblance to any Tex-Mex salsas I've ever had and I don't care for it. It's a stretch to infer or suggest that I'm a purist because I want something on the menu to resemble Tex-Mex.
Tex-Mex has been around for a long time and there are certainly a lot of restaurants doing their high-end variations of it for big bucks. Tex-Mex is more upscaled Mexican peasant food than anything else. More meat, more cheese...Anyway, it's been bastardized Mexican long enough to be an authentic style of food. Just like there are wide differences in Mexican food, there are too in Tex-Mex. Texas is a huge state! I think CB really hit the mark for refried beans like you get in the DFW area.
If you find a restaurant you like where "I just like whatever it is to taste good" applies, that's fine. Most restaurants pride themselves on the ethnicity of their food or the area they are trying to replicate. You hardly ever seek out a new place for their "mysterious good food". Most places label themselves or have a linkage to a type of food (like Neuvo Mexicano).
I could probably have CB grow on me. I know I would if it were a mile away.
It's still hard for me to ignore that their name includes "Tex*Mex Cafe". If I take all the different items that I tasted on my first visit, I have to say there's not a lot of Tex-Mex there.
I would also ask that we stay focus on Coyote Blue and not go off on a tangent about snobbery.
I finally went, on the advice of katty, (on a Sunday afternoon) and was not disappointed. I had the tostada la casa, a side of pickled jalapenos (free), and a couple of margaritas. The tostada was crispy and full of chicken, very filling. I had expected it to be a glorified salad, but I definitely walked away full. Also checked out the tote of sauces....the hab sauce was just waaay too hot. Great service, bathrooms seemed just fine. I'll be back for sure. Hard choice for me between CB or Jalisco in Glastonbury
But was it Tex-Mex, in your opinion? I wished I had of known that they had jalapeno peppers! I saw no signs of them and they weren't offered when I asked for something hotter. I wasn't sure they knew what they were...
The bathrooms... well, I'm not sure if you read what I said the way I meant it. The bathrooms functioned fine and were clean. I talked about esthetics and ergonomics. The bathrooms were just a curiosity to me and not a factor in my returning or not.
I'm glad you enjoyed it and I intend to return. I will check out Jalisco. It looks very interesting. I really liked El Sarape in Hartford. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5225...
Since I grew up in Dallas I thought I would share a good food blog with you, featuring some of the best Tex-Mex places in town. http://www.dallasfood.org/modules.php...
The picture is of a bean tostada from Herrera's. This is a classic tostada.
Their food site, http://www.dallasfood.org/ make me salivate. This guy, Scott, obviously loves and knows Tex-Mex, from the haughty Gringo places to the unknown restaurants serving primarily Mexican-Americans. This is how I grew up eating Tex-Mex in Dallas; many places where they spoke primarily Spanish to those places where they could not understand Spanish.
BiscuitBoy: I meant to add I'm fairly certain my mom went to Jalisco this weekend and tried a little bit of everything and liked it. She went with friends and is not big into Mexican food, so her vote doesn't really count. ;) I never noticed it on the New London Tpke, but will look for it. BTW, If you like mole, definitely try Monte Alban in Hartford. They're from Oaxaca!