Creating a “People’s Restaurant”
Dos Coyotes is the result of two major inspirations: My love of Santa Fe and my childhood in Los Angeles. I grew up in a quiet corner of West LA, eating some of the best, most authentic Mexican food you can imagine. And as soon as I was old enough, I started making my own. I’d hang out with my friends and cook quesadillas, burritos, carne asada and marinated chicken. At first I was simply trying to recreate the traditional flavors I loved, but then I started experimenting, looking for unique ways to make them my own.
Around the same time, I took my first trip to Santa Fe and immediately fell in love with the people, the climate, the colors, the culture… And the food. I fell in love with the food. I felt a connection to Santa Fe chefs and how they played with the concept of Mexican food, creating the fusions and hybrids with other cultures that came to define “Southwestern cuisine.”
By the mid ’80s, I’d held a number of interesting jobs (including a gig as a laser light technician for the rock band WAR), but my love of food eventually led me into the restaurant business. I was managing the trendy Café Figaro in Los Angeles when I had the realization that — in a city with thousands and thousands of restaurants, bistros and eateries — there wasn’t a single place that combined great, unique food and an engaging atmosphere at a price the average family or college student could afford. A “people’s restaurant,” as I referred to it. It just didn’t exist. So I decided to build it.
I was refining the concept for what would eventually become Dos Coyotes but was having trouble finding the perfect location. Then my sister, who was working on her Ph.D. at UC Davis at the time, called and said, “Hey Bobby – I think I’ve got the spot you’re looking for!”
The first Dos Coyotes opened in The Marketplace in North Davis on January 5th, 1991. The menu was a little smaller than it is today. Our original tacos were – literally – two warm corn tortillas, tender, flame-broiled steak or chicken, onions, cilantro, a charbroiled cebollita green onion and whatever salsa you liked. Simple. Pure. Delicious.
One of the first big changes we made was adding “seasonal specials.” Our fixed menu was popular, but it didn’t give us the room to explore or opportunity to truly take advantage of the region’s incredibly flavorful, diverse produce. The seasonal specials changed all that. They gave head chef Mark Casale and I the freedom to experiment… to create new items and give customers a vibrant, evolving culinary experience.
In the 20 plus years since we opened that first restaurant, Dos Coyotes has grown, but the core principles haven’t changed – delicious food, engaging atmosphere, exceptional value. That’s why I started Dos Coyotes and why I go to work today. I love watching people walk through the door, enjoy our food and appreciate what we have to offer. That’s why we’re in business.