Food and Drink

Dining review: Saint Coyote’s menu is an enigma worth exploring

Saint Coyote has been around for a few years and has an enthusiastic fan base, but it kept slipping down on my list of places to review. I could never quite figure out what kind of restaurant it was meant to be, so I could never decide if I was in the mood for it. Is it Mexican? Italian? Fine dining? Casual? Date-night only? Family-friendly?

I finally have the answer, which is … all of the above. Saint Coyote is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma — served on a tortilla. And after all, who doesn’t like a good mystery?

My husband and I dropped by this South Anchorage strip-mall eatery on a recent weeknight, a day when we were lacking dining inspiration. After being warmly welcomed and seated promptly, we had time to take in the décor and the menu. Both are perplexing. The dining room is adorned with Old Master reproductions in elaborate gilt frames. The bar has a vaguely nautical theme. Meanwhile, the tables and comfortable, spacious booths are evocative of a hotel lobby waiting area. While the room is pleasant — open and airy — it’s anachronistic.

This becomes even clearer when you open the menu. Nothing about a 19th-century portrait of an aristocratic lady screams “jalapeno poppers” to me. The menu, which reads like a Reader’s Digest version of a Cheesecake Factory menu, has an almost hilarious breadth. Salmon sashimi? Eggplant parmesan? Piña colada? This menu has you covered. At first, this culinary lawlessness was off-putting. Were there too many cooks in the kitchen?

But then the food began to arrive.

We started with an order of steak skewers ($17), a dish of polenta with roasted mushrooms ($12), and the most “kitchen sink” dish I have ever confronted, aptly called Drunken Cheese ($20).

I’ll start with the less insane appetizers. While we enjoyed the polenta, it ate more like a side dish than a starter. The mushrooms were meaty and buttery and the polenta was pleasingly light — not stodgy like many versions out there — but it lacked oomph as a stand-alone dish. That said, they were a nice complement to the steak skewers, which were a big hit. These flavorful bites of marinated ribeye were skewered with hunks of sweet onion and peppers cooked to a perfect tender crisp. The steak is so flavorful and well-seasoned that it did not even need the bright and grassy chimichurri sauce served alongside. The skewers with the polenta would make for an excellent and ample main course.


And now we come to the Drunken Cheese: part appetizer, part fever dream. If you’re picturing a skillet full of melted cheese, congratulations! It’s a skillet full of melted cheese. But that’s not all. Sharing space in the cast iron skillet are heaps of mushrooms, tomatoes, jalapenos and asparagus. But that’s not all. On top of the whole thing is a row of juicy grilled shrimp. But that’s not all. The whole skillet of melted decadence is set onto a giant bed of fried tortillas. This recipe was developed by someone who has never heard the phrase “less is more.” It’s decadent and a little bit silly, and way too much food for even two hungry people. And at $20, it might be the best deal in town.

Our entrees, by comparison, were positively restrained. But both were well-conceived and well-executed. My lamb chops ($32) were ordered and served a perfect medium-rare. The cherry red wine demi-glace added subtle flavor, allowing for the sweet earthiness of the lamb to really shine through. The protein was served over nicely roasted seasonal vegetables and a choice of side dish.

Here’s where I have one — small — menu-related problem: All of the entrees come with a choice of mashed potatoes, “coyote” rice or a half Caesar salad. Unfortunately, unless you already know the menu, it’s hard to make the best choice. I’m not usually campaigning for fewer options at a restaurant, but this seems like a case of Chef Knows Best. In this case, the mashed potatoes — highly seasoned, garlicky and topped with melted cheese — was too much side dish for the lamb. While tasty, it was too assertive to play second fiddle to the deliciously subtle lamb.

My husband had a similar issue with his perfectly cooked halibut fillet. To offset our very rich appetizers, he ordered his entrée with a Caesar salad. But his fish was served on a veritable lake of a delicious, lemony dill sauce calling out for something to sop it up with. Like, say, rice. In other words, I don’t want to play matchmaker with my main course and sides. I’d rather trust the process and trust the chef.

The philosophy behind Saint Coyote appears to be simple: Make tasty food and people will come. I was clearly overthinking it and have only myself to blame for all those missed steak skewers and lamb chops. During our visit, the room was humming and the diners seemed happy. The chefs in the open kitchen also appeared to be having fun — always a good sign. So either they really love the food they’re serving or they’re cracking each other up as they consider adding one more ingredient to the Drunken Cheese.

If that’s the case, I’ll be back to order it. Maybe I’ll even order a piña colada to go with it. There are no rules at Saint Coyote.

If you go

Saint Coyote

135 Dimond Blvd., Suite 111


Open daily 3-10 p.m.



[Review: My Shawarma House forks out big flavor as it expands in Anchorage]

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Mara Severin | Eating out

Mara Severin is a food writer who writes about restaurants in Southcentral Alaska. Want to respond to a column or suggest a restaurant for review? Reach her at