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Celebrating 30 years at the Blue Coyote

blue coyote

A longtime family restaurant looks back at 30 years

By Melissa Daniels

Not every vacation destination has restaurants that have stood the test of the time. But Palm Springs has its fair share, and in uptown Palm Springs, the Blue Coyote Bar and Grill is celebrating its 30th anniversary of serving up southwest fare and memorable moments.

 

Known for their “wild coyote margarita” and elegant yet relaxed outdoor patio dining, the Blue Coyote is a staple visit for many Palm Springs visitors (and residence!) who come back year after year.

All In The Family

Sisters Kelle Baker and Shayne Alloway own and operate the restaurant which was started by their father Don Cavanaugh back in 1992. At that time, Baker said, it was a labor of love with family members chipping in to fund the start-up costs and help prepare the space.

blue coyote
Shayne Alloway, Don Cavanaugh, Kelle Baker

On opening day, they had six tables, Baker recalls with a laugh. But word traveled fast, and soon enough it was three people deep to order a drink at the bar.

Over the years, the restaurant’s footprint has grown to encompass several patios and hold 250 seats, while the surrounding real estate has slowly filled in with other successful local spots over time. Baker and Alloway credit the longevity to their top-notch staff, about two thirds of whom have been there for over 10 years.

blue coyote with guitar

“We always try to make people walk out happier than when they came in,” Baker said. ”I think we stay true to that as much as possible.”

Alloway, who learned to bartend at the Blue Coyote, said she’s grateful to the recurring guests who make the Blue Coyote one of their go-to spots year after year. “We’ll get calls from people in the air, saying ‘We’re on a flight, can you get our table ready?’” she said. “We have people coming in with their suitcases.”

Make It A Wild

One surefire way to win over guests is with the wild coyote margarita: this one-of-a-kind cocktail isn’t your standard tequila and neon green mixer. Instead, it’s a rusty tone and made in large batches with a secret house recipe. In recent years, it’s been named the Best Margarita in the Coachella Valley at least twice by the reader-voted poll from CV Independent.

Blue Coyote margarita

But it would be a mistake to consider the Blue Coyote merely a watering hole. The menu includes familiar and fulfilling choices like enchiladas and fajitas plus unique and complex dishes like pollo cilantro and molcajete. The fish tacos are a fan favorite – as well as the newer “Coyote Bowl” that includes chicken, rice and beans topped with cotija, pico de gallo, guacamole and ancho chile sauce.

blue coyote tacos

Dana Frey and her husband Glenn have been customers at the Blue Coyote for nearly 20 years. She said they were drawn in by the patio’s ambiance, but kept coming back because of the great drinks, delicious food and friendly staff.

“It’s our ‘Cheers’ bar,” she said. “We’ve gotten to know the servers and the bartenders, we’ve seen them get married and have kids.”

Friendly Staff

Cesar Moreno joined the staff about three years ago and currently serves as  the general manager. He loves seeing the customers have a good time, “especially after a wild coyote margarita.”

Head chef Herbierto Aguilar has been at the Blue Coyote for more than eight years. After about three decades in the restaurant business, he says Blue Coyote is one of the best for both its cuisine and atmosphere.

seafood salad blue coyote
Seafood Salad

You might recognize him – he’s the rare chef who likes to pop into the dining room from time to time to say hello to their guests.

“I put my heart into my food every time I’m cooking,” he said. ““When you treat people like family, they come and enjoy it and they appreciate it more.”

And The Award Goes To….

One of the most memorable moments the Blue Coyote staff had in recent years was when Quentin Taratino popped in before the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January 2020. When accepted his award for “Director of the Year” that night, he name-dropped the restaurant and said he had had three Blue Coyotes.

That moment, Baker got tears in her eyes: what Taratino didn’t know was that her father had passed away the year before, and the transition had been understandably emotional and stressful one for her and her family. But in that moment, she knew that her father would be proud, and that the Blue Coyote would move on.

Loving Hospitality

Among this tight community, one longtime fixture is Don Davis. He’s been a bartender, manager and waiter there for 28 years, after Don Cavanaugh coaxed him away from the Ritz-Carlton.

“I turned him down for a year,” Davis recalls. “And then I went in there, and I thought this is a great margarita, and I had the pollo cilantro, and I was hooked. I left the Ritz and moved to the Coyote.”

He’s been through too many memorable moments to count – including one time when a bachelorette party paid him $100 to jump in the fountain – and the difficult and stressful ones too, including the lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Longtime customers helped keep the business afloat with to-go orders.

blue coyote don davis

On this side of re-opening, Davis said what makes the Blue Coyote special is not just the ambiance and the menu items, but the same loving hospitality that’s been there since Day 1.

As Don Cavanaugh taught his staff: “Treat your normal people like VIPs and treat your VIPs like normal people, and everybody will be happy.”

Giving Back

He also said that he appreciates how the family-run restaurant supports local causes. Each November, they host a Don Cavanaugh Day to raise money for the Parkinson’s Resource Organization. And they have annual fundraisers for breast cancer awareness to benefit Shay’s Warriors, a Coachella Valley-based nonprofit that supports cancer survivors.

On Sunday April 24 the Blue Coyote will host a 30th anniversary “Cheers to 30 years” celebration with specials and giveaways.

Blue Coyote

Images Credit: Blue Coyote

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