Local Love for Little Coyote

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The good news of Little Coyote has spread. From local publications to out-of-town admirers, Little Coyote has been making a stir.

2023’s Best New Restaurants in the South

Not just a simple taco joint, Little Coyote starts by seeking to perfect the tortilla itself — by combining milled harina de maiz (cornmeal) imported from Mexico before adding lard rendered from Main Street Meats products and running the dough balls through a Mexican tortilla roller and oven. While vegetarian tortillas are available, the lard creates a succulent texture that makes almost translucent discs with a backbone and mouthfeel to complement the rest of the menu.

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Little Coyote Brings Texas Vibes and a Huge Patio to Chattanooga

Called Little Coyote, the venture would allow Erik, a James Beard–nominated chef, to flex his creative chops, preparing dishes inspired by Caribbean, Mexican, and Tex-Mex cuisines as well as paying homage to Texas barbecue.

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Restaurant Scene: Little Coyote is finally ready for its debut in St.Elmo

"I haven't even taken the first lick of guajillo chili-spiced vanilla soft serve ice cream or eaten any beef cheek barbacoa wrapped in a freshly pressed tortilla, and Little Coyote and I already have a special relationship. Even before Kate Kassin and Bon Appetit Magazine touted it as one of 'The 8 Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of Summer 2023'..."

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Erik has taken inspiration from a mix of Texas barbecue, Cuban, Caribbean, and Southwestern cuisines to design his menu. The offerings, including smoked meats, fresh tortillas, and homemade pico de gallo, will all be served family style on vibrant plating. 

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The 8 Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of Summer 2023

When you look up from the patio at Little Coyote, you’ll be met by a very above-average view of Chattanooga’s beautiful Lookout Mountain. Even if you’re seated indoors, Little Coyote’s airy dining room is meant to match its scenic setting with terra-cotta tiles and lots of happy cacti. With Little Coyote, chef Erik Niel is leaning into his love of Texas barbecue and Southwestern food, as well as Cuban and Caribbean influences.

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Restaurant Scene: Little Coyote will bring pampered chuck-eye and fancy soft serve to St. Elmo

The silver lining of Mojo Burrito's demise is that Chef Erik Niel's newest concept, Little Coyote, will take its highly coveted place at the foot of Incline Mountain. Niel (of Main Street Meats and Easy Bistro) will bring with him his James Beard Award-nominated pedigree from the Southside and West Village. “St. Elmo is a cool place with its own vibe and a lot of history in Chattanooga," Niel said.

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Little Coyote to open in St. Elmo this summer

Chef Erik Niel and his wife Amanda Niel are the owners of the upcoming restaurant. They also own two other Chattanooga-area restaurants, Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street Meats. Niel says his inspiration for Little Coyote’s menu comes from Texas barbecue, Cuban, Caribbean and Southwestern cuisines. The menu will be filled with items such as smoked meats, fresh tortillas, homemade pico and more.

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Sister Restaurant, Little Coyote Adds To The Niel Team's Culinary Scene

Little Coyote will feature smoked meats and fresh tortillas, leaving guests with a full belly and happy heart, said officials. Using the same ideals and fundamentals as Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street Meats, the Niels aim to bring their style of spirits and cocktails to St. Elmo as well as create shareable plates for the main course that can be spread across the table. “You always have a seat at our table,” says Chef Erik Niel.

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The Brand: Niel restaurants' mission is to provide quality food and drink to Chattanooga

Little Coyote will open in the former Mojo Burrito space in St. Elmo sometime in the summer or fall. The 2,800-square-foot space will be renovated and will be equipped with a wood-fired pit in the back and a new tortilla-making machine ordered from Mexico. It will seat 130 people in the dining area and will include an enlarged patio. Niel said in addition to the sit-down dining, the restaurant will "focus on to-go items."

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Little Coyote bringing smoked meats, fresh tortillas to St. Elmo

Erik Niel spent enough time living in Texas to develop an appetite for smoked meats and fresh tortillas. Niel, who co-owns Main Street Meats and Easy Bistro with his wife, Amanda, said he has long wanted to combine the two, but not in the way many people think of. He said Little Coyote, which he hopes to open in late 2022 in the former Mojo Burrito space in St. Elmo at 3950 Tennessee Ave., will fulfill that dream.

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