There are now nine Mexican restaurants in Port Chester, but only
a few have the longevity of Coyote Flaco, which will be celebrating its 25th
anniversary in December.
It doesn’t look much different from the outside than it did 25
years ago, but tiny Coyote Flaco, located at 115 Midland Ave., has grown over
the years, from a seating capacity of 20 to 30 inside and doubling from 25 to
about 50 on the outside patio.
Twenty years ago, Coyote Flaco was more expensive than other
Mexican restaurants in town, and owner Luis Lopez said it was because he had
adapted traditional Mexican recipes to the discriminating tastes of his
clientele, which he admitted was 90% American and only 10% Hispanic. The Hispanic
percentage may have grown since then, but on weekend nights it is largely American.
The prices at other Mexican eateries have increased, so Coyote
Flaco’s seem very reasonable, even though you can no longer get a single taco
or tostada as you could two decades ago. In fact, neither of those traditional items
of Mexican fare are even on the menu anymore.
Instead there are Mexican combos with chimichangas, enchiladas,
tamales and chiles rellenos ($15-$20); entrées including three types of
enchiladas served in pairs ($12-$14), a burrito California wrap ($12), a
Quesadilla Linda ($14) and a taco salad with your choice of meat, veggies or
avocado served in a baked nest flour tortilla ($12), fajitas ($15-$22), three
kinds of steak ($17-$20), Pollo al Ajillo (chicken cutlet with garlic sauce,
red peppers, green peas served with rice, potatoes and vegetables at $14),
Salmon Ranchero (grilled salmon topped with ranchero and green tomatillo sauce
served with rice, black beans and vegetables at $19) and Camarones al Ajillo
Four appetizers ($8 and $9), a kids’ menu and weekly specials including
at least two soups such as black bean, tortilla and crabmeat chowder round out
The prices of everything are a few dollars cheaper for lunch.
From the beginning Lopez made an effort to keep the food healthy,
frying only in no-cholesterol corn oil, and he has taken great pride in the
quality of the food he serves in his restaurant. His meats are top grade and
his shrimp comes from Ecuador or the Gulf of Mexico. Those from Ecuador are
white and more tender than shrimp caught in the U.S., he said.
Although I have my favorite dishes, I have never had a bad meal
at Coyote Flaco. Everything is fresh-tasting, the sauces are savory and
sometimes spicy but not overwhelmingly so, and nothing is heavy, so you don’t
leave feeling stuffed.
For several years the restaurant only served wine and beer, but
now it has a full liquor license, specializing in numerous types and flavors of
margaritas by the glass ($7-$15), half pitcher ($18-$35) or full pitcher ($35-$60),
mojitos ($9), martinis in eight fruit flavors ($8), red and white sangria ($8
glass, $18 half pitcher, $35 full pitcher) and Mexican beer ($5).
Eighteen-ounce frozen margaritas ($18) come in six fruit flavors (lime, mango,
strawberry, guava, passion fruit and cactus pear).
My favorite is the traditional lime margarita served straight up
with salt ($8), and they are excellent here. Your chilled drink comes in a
silver metal shaker that you pour yourself into a salted martini glass with a
blue rim and a slice of lime.
Non-alcoholic beverages include sodas ($2.50), Pure Leaf iced teas
($2.75), juices ($3), Jarritos Mexican drinks ($2.75) and aguas frescas which
includes homemade iced tea ($3).
Pleasant eclectic décor
Quarters are tight but surroundings pleasant inside Coyote Flaco,
which was once a hamburger drive-in called Golden Boy.
In recent years I’ve always made a point of frequenting the
casual Mexican eatery in the warmer months when you could eat outside on the
patio, but in the past week I have also sat inside and rediscovered its
The newest room is up a few steps from the main dining area and
seats up to 12 in quiet quarters.
While originally you to go outside and around back to use the
bathroom, harkening from the days when the location was a drive-in, it has
since been moved inside.
The focal point of the main dining room is a beautiful
bright-colored abstract oil painting by A. Vasquez. Metal fixtures with cut out
suns in different designs hang on the walls along with bright red and green
scarves. Walls are painted light green accented by darker green sponge painting.
On the other side of the room is a glass covered wall of assorted tequilas and
beers. Another similar display features tequila, soft drinks and Pure Leaf tea,
and a sombrero hangs from a coat hook.
Tables are covered with plastic cloths boasting a colorful
Mexican design over plain-colored salmon cloths and are set with magenta cloth
napkins. Wooden chairs with cushioned seats pull up to the tables.
A wood floor and sheer green curtains pulled together at the
windows complete the picture.
The spacious brick, eclectically decorated patio provides a fun
or romantic experience, depending on the number of people, on a warm evening.
Over the years I have spent many a memorable night with a large group of people
sipping margaritas and eating Coyote Flaco’s Mexican delicacies there.
Seating is at a mix of long green picnic tables covered by olive
and faded orange umbrellas and smaller tables for two or four covered with the
same tablecloths as inside. These are set with ice cream or not-so-comfortable metal
chairs with flower cutouts. They are shaded by two green awnings, one with a
circle of lights inside to provide added atmosphere.
Trees around the patio as well as planters filled with flowers
perched on top of the stone wall around it provide privacy from the nearby street
even though you may occasionally hear cars and trucks passing by on semi-busy
Ethnic music plays in the background loud enough to notice.
Besides eating either inside or dining al fresco, Coyote Flaco
does a big takeout business. In similar fashion as when this location was a
drive-in, you can pick up your order at a walkup window outside. There used to
be free delivery as well, but currently the restaurant is without a driver.
Two meals for two
Two recent meals for two at Coyote Flaco bore out my previous positive
experiences. For the first my husband and I sat on the patio and shared three
of our favorite so-called “margarita martinis,” according to our check (a reasonable
A basket of crunchy homemade tri-colored tortilla chips was
immediately served to our table with a small dish of homemade salsa (thin base
with chunks of tomato, peppers and onions). There is never enough salsa, and
you always have to ask for more.
Feeling crabby, we shared two specials: Quesadilla Acapulco ($12)
and Enchiladas Cancun ($18).
For the former, an appetizer, a flour tortilla stuffed with
crabmeat and cheese came cut in quarters. What I especially liked was that the
mild flavor of the crabmeat shone through and you could taste the creamy melted
cheese as well. If you wanted to spice it up, a large green spicy chile was cut
open on the plate.
A trademark of Coyote Flaco is their small crispy (and edible) baked
tortilla bowls which come with almost every dish filled with some tasty side. For
the appetizer, one was filled with sour cream, another with their freshly made chunky
guacamole for dipping. In the center of the plate rested a small, yet delicious
salad of greens, carrot strips, onions, tomato, cotija cheese and mild guajillo
(a Mexican chile) dressing.
The enchiladas, our main meal, brought two of them, each stuffed
with crabmeat. One was made with a white flour tortilla covered in fresh green
tomatillo sauce. The other featured a blue corn tortilla topped with a brown mole
sauce which had a slight kick. Both were finished with melted cheese.
Guacamole, refried beans topped with cheese and a colorful black
bean, corn, onion and red and green pepper salad filled three separate tortilla
bowls. While these portions are small, and I found myself wanting more, you do
get a generous mound of yellow rice in the middle of the plate as well.
Mexican fare, at least that made with tortillas, is never as good
the next day, so it’s best to get only as much as you can eat or to share, as
Our check came to $57.98.
On a humid Friday night, eating inside in air conditioning was a
pleasure. For this meal, my husband and I shared the Chile Relleno appetizer ($8)
and the Tampiquena Combo ($20).
The baked stuffed pepper can be filled with chicken, steak, pork,
veggies, cheese, ground beef or chorizo. I chose ground beef. This delicacy is
topped with red sauce and melted cheese for a mouthwatering combination and
served with salad similar to the one that came with the Quesadilla Acapulco.
The combo includes tender, charcoal broiled, sliced skirt steak
topped with a savory red sauce with onions, two slices of grilled chorizo and
one Chicken Enchilada Suiza covered in green tomatillo sauce and melted cheese.
These come with refried beans topped with cheese and guacamole in tortilla
bowls plus a mound of yellow rice.
We ordered a half pitcher of red sangria ($18) to accompany our
meal. The red wine is filled with apple and orange slices and served with short
glasses garnished with a wedge of pineapple.
For dessert, we thoroughly enjoyed the apple chimichanga ($6),
which was cut in half and served on a plate emblazoned with “Coyote Flaco” scrawled
with raspberry sauce. Filled with apples, the sweet treat had a flaky crust
that was crunchy and delicious. It was accompanied by a serving of Tartufo,
chocolate and vanilla ice cream covered in dark chocolate, and sliced
strawberries. Dessert was topped off with a warming Mexican coffee spiked with
tequila ($6) and an equally satisfying cappuccino ($4).
The price of our meal without tip: $66.57.
The servers at Coyote Flaco are friendly and plentiful, and the
efficient service is almost too quick.
Coyote Flaco’s beginnings
Since coming to the United States and Port Chester from his
native Ecuador in 1982, Luis Lopez, 61, worked in the kitchens of a number of
restaurants before opening Coyote Flaco in December 1991. Among them were the
former French restaurant Jillyflowers in Harrison, La Camelia Spanish
restaurant in Mt. Kisco, Meson Galicia, a Spanish restaurant in Norwalk, Conn.,
Pearl of the Atlantic Portuguese seafood restaurant in Port Chester, the former
Mallard’s Restaurant at Arrowwood in Rye Brook and Morgan’s in Glenville. He
also owned two restaurants in Ecuador before coming to this country.
When he worked at Arrowwood, Lopez went to Golden Boy for coffee
in the morning. One day it closed. He started asking about the space and
finally ended up renting it to open his own restaurant.
Although he was experienced in cooking continental and Spanish
cuisine, he decided on Mexican fare because it was popular and less expensive.
“I went to Mexico for 40 days and I learned more how they cooked
the food,” he said. While Lopez is still the head chef, he currently has two
other guys doing the cooking in Port Chester.
The restaurant’s name, which means “skinny coyote,” came from
that of a Mexican restaurant in Lopez’s hometown of Cuenca in the Ecuadorian
His son Jihnson, now 41, came over from Ecuador to help out when
he opened Coyote Flaco. His wife came over next and his son Jaime, now 39,
immigrated in 1995 followed by his son Christian, now 34. They are all involved
in the business.
In December 1995, Lopez opened a second location in New Rochelle
which his son Jaime managed and has since closed. Currently the family owns and
operates four Coyote Flaco restaurants in New York. Besides Port Chester, there
is one in Claverack near Hudson, another in Stanfordville north of Millbrook,
both rural areas, and a fourth in Poughkeepsie which opened very recently. They
all share a website: mycoyoteflaco.com.
Luis’s brother owns and operates a separate restaurant by the
same name in Williamstown, Mass. in the Berkshires.
Hours and parking
Coyote Flaco is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to
10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. It is closed Monday.
There is a small parking lot on the premises and plenty of parking on Midland
Avenue, which is free after 6 p.m.