Coyote Diner – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Coyote Diner for burgers and so much more
Coyote Diner for burgers and so much more

Restaurant critics, whether we write online reviews or are published in print somewhere, must think we’re so smart.  We use polysyllabic (there’s one) words when a more prosaic (another one) word will do.  We endeavor (yet another one, but you get the picture) to wax eloquent every time we describe something we obviously like or disdain. Here’s one critic who’s eating humble pie courtesy of Erica Ruth, an erudite (I can’t stop myself) Duke City diner who, in recommending a favorite restaurant, gave me one of the best reviews I’ve read in a long time.

When Erica wrote to me and told me of an “amazing hidden treasure in the Heights” serving the “best burgers I have had in Albuquerque,” I asked her what it was about those burgers that made them the best.  Here’s her reply. “I think they’re great because they’re one, the perfect size–not so thick that you can’t take a big bite out of them, and not so skimpy in width that the bun envelopes it.   Two, they are always cooked to perfection. I am pretty sure the patties are hand formed.

Albuquerque's Coyote Diner is a hidden treasure.
Albuquerque’s Coyote Diner is a hidden treasure.

When you order them, they don’t have any filler, so they ALMOST fall apart–almost being the key. They hold their form nicely, even if they don’t look as pretty as a processed patty. They’re so juicy that they soak the bun (in fact this is my only complaint about the burgers–a nice, thick onion roll would suit them better than the buns they use). The buffalo burger is amazing, and if you order it with chile (like any self-respecting New Mexican), you’re as close to burger perfection as you’re going to get without driving to San Antonio to eat at the Owl Cafe. seriously. I cannot rave enough about this place, and I truly hope it survives.”

Wow!  I couldn’t have said it better myself–and that’s the truth.  Without the sometimes gaseous hyperbole critics sometimes use, Erica motivated me to bump the Coyote Diner ahead of other restaurants on my list.  She did my job better than I do.

Green chile cheese Buffalo Burger
Green chile cheese Buffalo Burger

There’s not much I can add to Erica’s description of the buffalo burger other than to confirm her high opinion of this two-fisted treasure and to add that it’s even better when you add green chile (isn’t everything).  Just look at the picture above to see for yourself as close to burger perfection as you’ll find in Albuquerque. It truly is one of the most flavorful burgers I’ve had in the Duke City, a burger worthy of frequent repeat visits to the humble diner which opened in the summer of 2007.

The Coyote Diner is ensconced in the Louisiana Plaza Shopping Center.  It’s on the southwest quadrant of the shopping center and if you blink as you approach it on Montgomery, you’re bound to miss it.  That would be a shame. Open Monday through Friday from 8AM to 3PM and on weekends from 10AM to 2PM, it’s not a restaurant that will beckon you with over-the-top signage or with sheer size. This is a tiny diner with a limited number of tables.

Beef Stroganoff Soup
Beef Stroganoff Soup

The elongated dining room is comparatively stark in terms of decorative touches, but if you’re a fan of vintage metal signage (the kind with which some of fossils us grew up), it’ll be a treat to reminisce at such signage as a Dr. Pepper sign extolling the beverage’s “good for life at 10-2-4.”

Note: Dr. Pepper’s trademarked 10-2-4 aren’t random numbers, by the way.  They represent the times of day when the human body needs a little “pick-me-up” to avoid an energy slump.) The other noticeable aspect of the dining room’s decor is the red and white 50s style banquettes.

The Coyote Nachos
The Coyote Nachos

Okay, we’ve established that the buffalo burgers are wonderful, but what about other menu items?  I can tell you in all sincerity that the Coyote Diner is not a one-trick pony.  If the items we had are any indication, this is a restaurant with a palate pleasing menu. Discover that for yourself with an order of Coyote Nachos, a bed of crisp tortilla chips topped with cheese, pinto beans, onions, tomatoes and green chile all served with a side of salsa.  You can add beef or chicken for a mere pittance.  Alternatively, you can try chips and salsa (pictured below).  The salsa is pureed but has a nice bite and the redolence of fresh cilantro.

The menu does commit one cardinal offense in that it spells New Mexico’s state vegetable “chili.”  That misspelling usually means committing the culinary faux pas of preparing the chile with cumin, that accursed despoiler of great chile. Alas, cumin does rear its ugly head on a dish that would otherwise have been outstanding. A daily lunch special of buffalo enchiladas prepared with an otherwise memorable chile would be extraordinary were it not for the acerbic taste (and even worse aftertaste) of cumin.

Salsa and chips
Salsa and chips

The perfectly seasoned buffalo ground beef is wonderful as are the layered corn tortillas topped with sour cream and melted cheese.  The accompanying pinto beans and roasted potatoes are terrific.  This is a dish that would be competitive with the enchiladas at many a New Mexican restaurant were it not for the cumin.

If you ever happen upon the Coyote Diner on a day in which a lunch appetizer special is deep-fried green beans, order at least one portion.  Having lived almost eight years in the deep South where everything is fried, seeing deep-fried green beans on the menu widened my eyes in anticipation.  The green beans are lightly battered and despite being deep fried have the snap of freshness at each bite.  They come served with a ramekin of ranch dressing which lends a nice contrast to the sweetness of the beans.

Patty melt and some of the best onion rings in New Mexico.
Patty melt and some of the best onion rings in New Mexico.

Specials of the day certainly earn the sobriquet “special.”  When you think about it, beef stroganoff soup is a darned good idea, so why don’t you ever see it on any menu. We never had until an April, 2009 visit to the Coyote Diner when it was offered as a special.  This is an idea perhaps ahead of its time, an idea executed very well.  The soup had the characteristic richness of Stroganoff with New Mexico green chile thrown in for added depth of flavor.  Talk about comfort food!  This is an excellent soup which would be a starring attraction on many a restaurant’s menu.

Recent commercials for one of the ubiquitous burger chains touts its “home style melt” and would have you believe it’s so good that enraged mothers are after the King’s head (as if you hadn’t already guessed the commercials are for Burger King). Maybe it’s a good thing those hormonally influenced mothers don’t try the Coyote Diner’s patty melt or they might chase after Mark, the restaurant’s affable owner.  It’s the real thing–a hand-formed patty, grilled onions and mustard on dark rye bread.  It’s as good a patty melt as we’ve had in the Duke City.

No matter what you order, you’ve got to get a side of the onion rings.  They’re among the very best in Albuquerque bar none.  Lightly coated (beer battered) and golden brown, their prominent taste is of sweet, delicious onion.  Even if you order pancakes from the breakfast menu, have the onion rings on the side.  You’ll be happy you did.

The Coyote Diner is, as Erica described it, a hidden treasure.  It’s too good to stay hidden for long.

Coyote Diner
7200 Montgomery Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 29 April 2008
BEST BET: Buffalo Burger with Green Chile, Coyote Nachos, Patty Melt, Deep Fried Green Beans, Beef Stroganoff Soup, Onion Rings

6 thoughts on “Coyote Diner – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

  1. I finally went by for lunch. It is all the same people including the owner. When I asked about the rumor that they were closed I got a coy response, “Maybe a couple of days like Thanksgiving or Christmas.” I am unsure what that meant but it seemed evasive. I had the buffalo burger with red chile and onion rings since I am not a fan of their green. The past couple of times I found the buffalo a little overdone (dry). This time it was perfect. The rings were as good as you described.

    I did however find another item to add to my long list of character flaws. I loved the red chile but could not identify why-then I realized that it tasted much like a very improved version of the Tex-Mex sauce which I ate for years. Suddenly an epiphany. Tex-Mex sauce uses cumin. I had never identified it or cared as it tastes nothing like the cumin in beans or Indian Curry and I did not grow up on the unpolluted red chile of your youth. It explained why so many places add it to their chile, I and other flawed people really like it.

    I do love the Coyote Diner though.

  2. I just drove by the Coyote Diner and it is definitely open. Whether it has the same owner is unknown to me. Based on my count of customers I never understood how it stayed open but I always liked it. The green clile was awful though. I couldn’t tell it from chopped bell pepper.

  3. I LOVE the burgers at Coyote Diner! I did not grow up eating Burgers. I do not usually like burgers, but the buffalo burger I had there was PERFECT. It was moist and not greasy, It was a perfect medium rare as asked for. As requested, it arrived without ‘plastic’ American Cheese.

    Now I suggest you doubting Thomas’ return and try the Yak Burger … that is something to die for!

    I will be there again and again ………. when in town.

  4. Hi Gil,

    In most cases I agree with your assessments. I find you kind of “go easy” on a lot of places. This can kind of be understood, as no one really wants to beat-up a local employer and businessperson for what may just be a personal preference. In the case of Coyote Diner, however, in my humble opinion you are way off base. I tried them twice, just to see if the first visit was a fluke. The only redeeming thing about this place is the positive attitude of the owner/employees. The buffalo burger I had was terrible. The other stuff members of my party tried was on the par with Sonic. I regret going back the second time, and I won’t make that mistake again.

    I am a long-time reader of this blog/webpage. Thank you for your work and dedication to the food scene in Albq and NM, but when we seek a review we need more “objective” information. It’s kind of like Rachael Ray saying everything she gets is “yummo”. Sometimes bad food happens to good people.

  5. Hi Gil,
    Tried the Coyote Diner after reading your blog. The place is indeed small but bigger than it seems from your photo. The staff were friendly and very accommodating. My companion and I both ordered the buffalo burgers with cheese and green chile one with onion rings and the other with fries. Despite the fact that we ordered exactly the same burgers the two showed up with different cheeses on them. Go figure. Burgers were good tho buffalo always seems dry. But a good burger. Not perfect, but good. The green chili was plentiful but unremarkable. McD’S green chile double cheese burger has better (Bueno) chile on it. The Coyote’s bun held up better than I expected from your review.

    I would never descibe the onion rings as “among the very best in Albuquerque bar none.” They were greasy and many seemed over cooked. Rexs is still king of the rings. The fries do not bear mention. Prices were very low for what we received. We’ll go back if for no other reason than to try their Yakety Yak.
    John L

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