The Coyote Rooftop Cantina

On the Tuesday evening of our trip to Santa Fe, Linda, Cameron, and Mallory decided to have a low-key dinner at the hotel on their own, and Chris joined the three of us for dinner.

We walked the two blocks to The Plaza, and explored our options. Santa Fe is known for being the home of excellent southwestern cuisine, so we knew we’d find something good. We arrived at the top-rated burrito place we’d considered, only to discover that it was only open for breakfast. With the aid of modern technology (i.e. an Internet search via Chris’ cell phone), we remembered the Coyote Café & Cantina.

My hubby and I remembered hearing such good things about this place during our other visits to Santa Fe, but we’d never had a chance to see for ourselves. We found the restaurant and perused the menu in the lighted case on the outside of the building. The most expensive meal was around $13…perfect! We were still dressed in our Bandelier exploration clothes, and we had a toddler and stroller with us, not exactly your fancy dining attire.

Inside the door, we ascended the winding staircase. The pretty hostess asked if we wanted seating in the café or the cantina. Thinking the cantina was the bar and the café was the restaurant, we answered in unison, “Café.”

She told us to follow her, and she led us back behind the wall that was dividing the hostess desk from the rest of the dining room. All of a sudden, we found ourselves in a dimly lit, very expensive looking restaurant. Everyone there looked like they belonged there as they chatted quietly in the candlelight, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a man on bended knee proposing to the love of his life.

“Uh, this doesn’t look quite right,” I thought to myself, suddenly feeling very underdressed. I silently willed Claire to behave in this restaurant.

The hostess showed us to our table. The four of us got settled and I picked up the bound menu that was sitting on the plate. “Ummm…$42 rabbit tenderloin medallions??” I gasped. “This doesn’t look like the menu from the front!” The guys agreed, and we realized we’d made a very embarrassing mistake. I mean, all of us enjoy an expensive meal at a fancy restaurant now and then, but this wasn’t one of those times. Chris jumped up from the table and said, “I’ll go check out the Cantina. Maybe it isn’t just a bar after all.”

When he got back to the table, he confirmed our suspicions. The Cantina was a rooftop bar and restaurant. It appeared to be a more casual environment than the Café. Whew. Just at that moment, the waitress arrived. “So, can I get you folks anything to drink?” she asked. We all looked at her and before we could even open our mouths, she said, “Let me guess. You’re looking for the Cantina.”

Yep, that would be correct. What was the first clue? She was very helpful and said she’d go check on seating availability. When she came back, she said the wait would be 25 to 30 minutes and we were welcome to wait at this table until then. We thanked her, and she left to go put our names in with the hostess.

As soon as she left the table, I became ultra-paranoid that Claire would not be able to last half-an-hour without eating. I didn’t want to get out the Cheerios if we weren’t going to be staying at this table. And, I didn’t want to spend more on an appetizer here than what we would be spending on an entrée there. I told the guys my fears, and we decided to just find another restaurant. We got up from the table and found our waitress. I thanked her for her time, pointed to Claire, and said, “I really don’t think we have 30 minutes. We’re sorry.” She said, “Well, let me see what I can do.” She checked on the rooftop and came back to where we were on the landing, a balcony area just outside the hostess table and at the base of the steps. “Can you do 15-minutes? I think they can be ready for you in 15-minutes.” I told her we’d try, and if we had to leave, we’d let them know.

As we were waiting, I was holding Claire close. We were looking over the city from the balcony and just enjoying the cool night air. Just then, a woman with long black hair and delicate turquoise jewelry came up behind me. She touched me on the shoulder and said, “I just have to tell you…your daughter is beautiful. She’s just…wow. She’s so beautiful. I saw you two standing here and just thought I’d say something.” I was speechless, but I managed to thank her as she turned to leave. After what had happened in the restaurant that morning, I needed to hear just that.

A few moments later, they called our name, and we went to our table at the Coyote Rooftop Cantina. It was perfect. Claire was calm and relaxed throughout the entire meal, and the food was unbelievably delicious. In fact, I’m still dreaming about the chipotle shrimp and avocado quesadilla I had. Remembering the woman’s comments make me smile, and I’m glad we’d swallowed our pride, left the Café and stayed to check out the Cantina. That night, we were Cantina kind of people, and it was the perfect place for a beautiful Santa Fe evening.

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