Coyote Crossing
Long one of Conshohocken’s culinary shining stars, this alfresco destination raises the bar with a renovated space that includes a stunning open-air mezcal bar
by Bill Donahue

Years ago I used to make a beeline for Conshohocken, specifically to visit Coyote Crossing, at least once every other month, without fail, mostly to indulge in a salt-rimmed margarita (maybe two) and some guacamole with friends. In fairer weather we would inevitably congregate on the lushly appointed patio for which Coyote Crossing has always been known. For no reason in particular, I stopped going, instead choosing some other happy hour hot spot or Mexican restaurant nearer to my ZIP code.

When I heard the restaurant’s recent indoor/outdoor remodel had reached its completion, I knew it was time to pay Coyote Crossing a return visit. I’m glad I did.

Coyote Crossing has been an alfresco mecca pretty much since I’ve been of legal drinking age. Even though it’s just a stone’s throw from the asphalt of Spring Mill Avenue, its spacious patio, complete with a working fountain at its center, feels more like an oasis, hidden from view by well-placed foliage.

Since opening its doors in 1996, Coyote Crossing has been honing its identity as the perfect place to unwind and enjoy good conversation among friends en plein air—and, while you’re at it, enjoy some well-made cocktails and some above-grade Mexican food to boot. The restaurant is even more of a destination now, with a newly renovated inside/outside space—it’s wide open to the outdoors but can be sealed up when the weather turns ugly—adjacent to the patio that is nothing short of gorgeous. The renovations took 16 weeks, co-owner Carlos Melendez tells me, but any downtime or temporary inconvenience was well worth the effort.

These days, guests also have the option to dine and imbibe at one of the many high-top tables or simply take a seat at what has to be among the region’s most impressive bars—a mezcal bar, as it were. (Mezcal, for the uninitiated, is a distilled alcohol made from the juice of the maguey, which is a kind of agave plant native to Mexico. All tequilas are mezcal, but not all mezcals are tequila, as tequila is made specifically from the blue agave, also known as the agave tequilana.) There’s a ridiculous assortment of mezcals on offer here, some of which provide the foundation for the restaurant’s signature margaritas or mojitos. Also, Coyote Crossing Mezcal, its own proprietary brand, will be available by October. If mezcal is not your thing, there’s nothing wrong with ordering up a good, old-fashioned lime-spiked Corona or something from the wine list.

The stunning space and mezcal selection aside, Coyote Crossing has built its reputation on the kitchen’s ability to turn out its brand of authentic Mexican food. Any meal at Coyote Crossing should begin with a serving of the housemade guacamole. Bowled up with a trio of tortilla chips bearing remarkable resemblance to shark fins, this hefty concoction—a creamy/chunky blend of Hass avocadoes, tossed with cilantro and serranos, seasoned with a zesty shot of lime juice—disappears all too quickly. During a recent visit, my dining companion and I considered a second order but ultimately opted to move on to entrées, as guided by our more than knowledgeable and attentive server.

For entrées, take your pick; assuming you have no dietary restrictions, simply close your eyes and point to any place on the menu for a dish that is sure to please. If seafood is your game, opt for the camaron al Chile de árbol, a school of jumbo shrimp sautéed with garlic, olive oil and Chile de árbol peppers, all served over cilantro-seasoned rice and spinach. On the other hand, if terrestrial food is more up your alley, opt for the classic tampiquena, a marinated skirt steak served with a pollo tomatillo enchilada, sautéed poblano, onions and, of course, that famous guacamole. 

Just as you should begin any meal with the guacamole, consider ending every meal here with the flan. With hints of caramel and coffee, the flan—rich, moist and dense, almost like cheesecake—is nothing short of outstanding.

In the coming months, Coyote Crossing’s dishes will be taking on a flavorful new dimension, as the restaurant switches from gas ovens and grills to all-natural charcoal, according to Melendez. In addition, the restaurant is putting the finishing touches on its fall menu, due to be launched in October.

Like any restaurant, Coyote Crossing is not immune to criticism, as there are certain areas that might warrant closer consideration. First would be the lack of imaginative options for vegetarians. Beyond the guacamole—again, some of the best around—and a few standards (vegetable fajitas and the vegetable burrito), the menu lacks anything suitable for those who abstain from meat. These days, with so many Americans, including my dining companion, having moved toward a lifestyle that includes a largely plant-based diet or who simply have days when they choose to “go meatless,” not having ample vegetarian-friendly options on the menu seems like a lost opportunity.

The only other note has to do with pricing. Most of the items on the menu seem to bear a premium price point—$1 here, $2 there. Example: One appetizer-sized serving of guacamole, heavenly as it was, came in at $9.95. Higher prices tend to raise guests’ expectations, thereby running the risk of having guests leave the table disappointed, however mildly, with the overall experience.

That having been said, I don’t mind paying a premium for a premium experience. So, the next time I’m in Conshy and looking for a happy hour hot spot—Coyote Crossing also offers “late night” happy hour specials, from 10 p.m. to midnight—I’m likely to head here, especially if I’m looking to pair my libation of choice with some spectacular guacamole … and maybe some flan, too. The patio will stay open for as long as the weather cooperates, and we’ve got at least two more months before the meteorologists start bemoaning the return of the dreaded “wintry mix.” Even so, Melendez tells me Coyote Crossing has “had great nights” outside all the way into November.

Coyote Crossing
800 Spring Mill Ave., Conshohocken
610-825-3000 |

Photograph by Felicia Perretti