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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Dos Coyotes Border Cafe celebrates 31st anniversary

The restaurant features anniversary special and jobs for undergraduates

By RACHEL SHEY city@theaggie.org


Dos Coyotes Border Cafe, a Southwestern-inspired “people’s restaurant,” is commemorating 31 years of business this year. Dos Coyotes started in Davis, but is now a 10 store chain across Northern California, with the Market Square at Arden Fair location reopening soon after closing for COVID-19. However, the founder of the chain, Bobby Coyote, is originally from Southern California, where he began his restaurant career. 

I ran a restaurant, a very very high volume restaurant, in West Hollywood, for about 12 years,” Coyote said. “It was a lot of fun in my twenties, but then I ended up getting married, and had a baby on the way, and it wasn’t really going to be conducent to starting a family.” 

Dos Coyotes was inspired by Coyote’s love of the red and green chiles of Southwestern cuisine. Coyote envisioned a more casual, affordable restaurant, where it would be mostly self-serve but also feature good quality food. 

“One of my ideas was to do this New Mexican inspired, quick casual, restaurant quality people’s restaurant,” Coyote said. “It would be more on the affordable side, people might have to do a little work, for example, with the salsa bar, with getting their own drinks. The food was gonna come out on really nice plates with really nice glassware and it was gonna be really restaurant quality food and not fast food, so to speak.”

Coyote chose Davis as his location for the first Dos Coyotes, after his sister who was living in Davis told him about the marketplace where the restaurant is currently located. Thinking that it would be good business to open a restaurant near a high concentration of college students, Coyote decided to move to Northern California. 

“Living out in LA, I didn’t want to be a little guppy in a big ocean,” Coyote said. “My wife had family up north, and we were looking in the Sacramento area but my sister came upon a marketplace and told me about it. She said it was really cool, has a lot of artwork. She said it could be a really good area for students because there were a lot of apartments and homes around it.” 

The first Dos Coyotes was significantly different from today’s Dos Coyotes. It had a much shorter menu, according to the website.  

“The first Dos Coyotes opened in The Marketplace in North Davis on January 5th, 1991,” the website reads. “The menu was a little smaller than it is today. Our original tacos were – literally – two warm corn tortillas, tender, flame-broiled steak or chicken, onions, cilantro, a charbroiled cebollita green onion and whatever salsa you liked.”

Coyote said he experienced a bit of culture shock from Southern California to Northern California. Since he first arrived, Davis has changed immensely “for the better,” according to Coyote, who described it as “still on the verge of being a cowtown” in 1990. 

“It was pretty scary, the only thing that was up there was Safeway and Long’s, which became CVS,” Coyote said. “A lot of places weren’t open yet. It was definitely culture shock. Back then it was mid 1990 when I left civilization, so to speak. I came to Davis and I just remembered that things were a lot different. Way more birkenstocks up here.” 

Coyote also noted that Dos Coyotes has provided leadership experiences and gainful employment to many UC Davis students. Some students work at Dos Coyotes for their entire undergraduate experience, eventually becoming assistant managers.

“Once they figure out they are managers, they’re leaders, not followers,” Coyote said. “There’s something that rings with that and has propelled people into their careers. Maybe they’ll go into management in whatever field they’re studying, and they end up being leaders instead of just followers. So it’s very good for the character and we’ve had a lot of students who’ve done that.” 

Coyote is also proud of his profit share program at Dos Coyotes, which has helped out many employees when they retire or leave the restaurant. Former employees have received over a hundred thousand dollars after leaving the restaurant through plans from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

“It’s an ERISA plan and we usually fund about 5% every year of payroll,” Coyote said. “There’s stipulations, like you’ve got to be 21 and you’ve got to work X amount of hours. It’s a voluntary retirement plan that we do, kind of like an IRA, [and] we usually have done about 5% every single year. I’ve had a lot of really big payouts to people, a hundred thousand, one person just got 163,000, another person just got a little over a hundred thousand.”


Written by: Rachel Shey — city@theaggie.org




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