Sunday, December 3, 2017
12967 Route 21
We wanted Mexican, decided to go to this place. Just a short drive down the road from our nearest Mexican joint, Los Portales in Hillsboro.
No real reason, just because.
For me it was that we hadn't been to Coyol in over three years, a lot can change in that slice of time. We'd been pretty happy with it in the past.
In the same parking lot as KFC (the place we shop for Christmas dinners) and across the road from a Walgreen's, right along old 21.
'Coyol' is the name of a certain palm tree that grows from the southwest U.S. all the way down to Argentina. Since there are plam trees depicted on the signage and the menus, I assume that's where the name comes from. Inside it was bright and nearly half full of patrons, even at this early hour (5:00 P.M.) on a Saturday night. The decor is all about shiny, lacquered primary collars. Bright reds, yellows and greens.
The walls and tables sported bright, Mexican-themed
murals. One could get swept away by the overhead music, 80's American pop. . . I didn't get that either. . . it made no sense to me culturally speaking.
I was in a Chinese restaurant a few years back. They played nothing but Sinatra songs. I was just as confused at Coyol. I wanted lively Mexican Corrido or Banda . . . But no, instead we had Huey Lewis and Pat Benatar. . . I was alive in the 80's and I'm pretty much over most of the music from that dark, wretched period. "Where's my Narcocorridos!" I shouted silently into my own head.
We were told to seat ourselves, so we went for a booth in the back. As we discussed who sat where, I pointed to the side that would have me looking out at the restaurant, my preferred vantage point. Our lady host witnessed this and said "Rock, paper, scissors?"
I had to answer. "I would never leave such an important decision up to a mere game of chance." (I can be kind of a smart-ass when reaching for a chuckle.)
She seemed amused. By that I mean she didn't punch me in the throat or call the cops. She seemed friendly enough though. She introduced herself as Jackie or Jacky, I couldn't quite tell which from her pronunciation.(it also might have been Jacquey, I suppose)
She asked about drinks and as she did so, she dropped her pen. She unnecessarily explained that this was the third time she'd dropped it this shift. Once again, I felt compelled to respond, because apparently, that's what 'lovable jerks'* tend to do.
"If it's happened three times today, there is a good chance that the problem is not with the pen itself. . . "
I let it hang there. She quickly caught on to the shtick and laughed and agreed. I fell in love with her right there on the spot.
We asked for un-sweet tea. She dropped a couple of gallons of tortilla chips on the table for us to gorge on. Along with the chips was the requisite salsa decanter and a couple of disposable aluminum ramekins. This was a seriously large amount of chips.
We started in on them.
Jackie returned with our tea and asked if we needed more time. Nope, we'd discussed this earlier in the car. We were on a mission, our destination was already pretty much decided. Usually, and by that I mean almost always, at Mexican places I ask for enchiladas. This time we were switching it up.
Why? Well sometimes in this cutthroat business of reviewing eateries, you've just got to step out of your comfort zone. Besides, as soon as Angel had mentioned it earlier, I was reminded of the sizzling, aromatic platters that passed us by at other Mexican restaurants. The 'some assembly required' aspect of it neither impressed or dissuaded me, but the the thought of wrapping a warm, soft tortilla around some sizzling chicken, beef and shrimp sounded like just the ticket.
Angel ordered the 'Texas Fajita' which included those three meats. I was having what she was having we told Jacky.
"Want to make it a double then?" She asked, explaining that this would be family style with separate side plates of beans, rice and salad. Yes, perfect!
We munched on more chips, but both of us stopped before a sixth of the chips were gone. We have been known to overdo it with these crispy, spicy delights and then have no appetite for the main course.
I sipped my unremarkable tea and looked around, trying to size up the joint. Somewhere along that time the music changed to a few short bursts of my beloved Mexican ballads. We thought they'd changed the dial on the music machine, but as it turned out, the kitchen crew had just cranked up the volume on their music, drowning out the wretched 80's pop. I didn't complain.
It looked gorgeous. Perfectly sauteed bell peppers and onions, and thin strips of meat along with some short, fat shrimps.
Though there seems to be a history of this dish going back to the 1930's, the original dish was pretty much only beef strip steak. Other proteins are fairly recent options. The first occurrence of the word 'fajita' appeared in 1971. Though it has Mexican roots, the dish as we know it and love it now was most likely Tex or Cali based.
The sides were delivered shortly after the sizzling platter. that luscious plate of refried beans, rice and the lettuce/sour cream/guacamole salad. Man I just love this stuff! I mixed it all together as I tend to do. I make this at home occasionally. I have a wonderful rice recipe and the beans I prefer to mash and re-fry myself from dry beans I've cooked up and flavored at a slow simmer. But that's a story for another time.
We were each given three, foil wrapped and warmed soft flour tortillas. I filled one up as fast as I
Angel did likewise and pretty soon the table was quiet. Both of us savoring the smoky meat and veggie mix. There wasn't a lot of spice to it, no pepper heat. That was just fine to me. The proteins were tender and moist, the shrimp was grilled to perfection.
Jackie stopped by a few times to check on us and keep an eye on our drink levels. As Angel and I sat back in a near stupor, she offered us a takeout box. She brought two, one for the remaining fajita mix, only about two thirds gone, and the one remaining tortilla, the other for the chips, which would not all fit. Yeah, there were that many chips.
Thumbs up all around! The food was fantastic, Jackie , a true pro. The price came in just under thirty bucks, not bad at all for all we could eat with enough leftover to have for lunch on Sunday.
So food, staff, price, all really good! Highly recommended!
Bonus: I now have a new go-to Mexican meal. Fajitas! Who knew?
*Lovable jerk: Earlier in the week I asked my many, many Facebook friends to help me write a bio for my new place of work. One of my so-called friends, Mary, a lady I worked with at a large beer company a few years back, commented with a single bullet point: 'Lovable jerk.'
Fortunately I know Mary pretty well and understood and appreciated it immediately. Of course, she could have been serious too, but that's okay as well. I've never heard it actually said about me, and I have never really thought of myself as 'lovable' but I guess there are worse things to be called, like 'poetry lover'. For this insult I have to thank my writer's group friend Kim. That was just mean.