Thursday November 22, 2012

WILLIAMSTOWN -- Last Friday night, I got an invite to catch up with a friend, and she suggested we meet at Coyote Flaco here.

I paused when I looked at the text message because I realized, after living in North County for the past year and change, I still hadn’t been to the Mexican restaurant.

It opened in 2006. Coyote Flaco has five other sister locations, three in New York and two in Connecticut.

I had heard great things, both from friends and from its four-star reviews on sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor, so my response to Trina was a definitive "yes." We got there a little after 7:30 p.m., and found only a dozen or so diners.

To the left of the entrance, three tables were occupied in the dining room. To the right, a middle-aged couple lingered over food and cocktails at the bar.

We decided the bar was more our style, particularly since we planned to just order a variety of appetizers.

Diners have options between entrees and small plates on either side though.

I instantly loved the bar area, not because I’m a big lush (though they do have a respectable range of libations to offer), but because it was so cheerful and bright.

The walls are a sunny gold accented with turquoise trim. The U-shaped bar, with red textured sides, is topped with golden ceramic tiles.

It was a warm welcome after leaving the frosty, dark evening outside.

In a Mexican dining establishment, it always seems like a margarita is in order, so we did order them. My friend got the house margarita on the rocks, which is Jose Cuervo tequila, Triple Sec and lime juice, shaken and poured over ice.

In honor of the restaurant’s name, I ordered the "Coyote" margarita, made with 1800 brand tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice, also on the rocks.

They were served in colorful bar ware -- one glass was heavy with a blue swirl, the other had a green cactus-shaped stem -- and were promptly delivered by friendly bartenders. Both had garnishes of fresh lime and orange slices, and a coarse, pink-colored salt rim.

A basket of warm, crisp tortilla chips was delivered at the same time with a side of salsa fresca and a colorful, tangy chicken salad dip, and by request, a hot sauce.

We then ordered a variety of appetizers, each getting an order of black beans (baked with a sprinkle of fresh cheese) and fried ripe plantains (served with a sour cream-like sauce).

My friend opted for a roasted corn salad. I ordered the Ensalada Tropical, a delightful vitamin-C packed mix of greens, slices of mango, jicama, blackberries, strawberries, oranges, grape tomatoes and cotija Mexican cheese, with a tangy citrus dressing.

Everything was delivered in less than 15 minutes, and all was beautifully plated and well-portioned. I took home four plantain pieces, plus half my salad.

Although there was a little bustle from servers and a small group of college-age looking customers who seemed to know the staff, the bar remained fairly quiet.

A Spanish-language television show and some music played softly in the background.

On one hand, the lack of other people was nice. My friend and I could carry on a conversation and not compete with a din.

On the other had, I’m pretty sure anyone walking into the bar got an earful about our personal lives.

That said, my friend noted that on other nights she’s seen the parking lot full and there was a Spanish guitarist playing in the restaurant.

Overall, the evening was pleasant and enjoyable. Based on this particular experience, I can’t give the Coyote Flaco full credit for offering a lively social scene, but I have a feeling, when I go back to try some entrees, I’ll find it.