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Fairfax ‘landmark’ Coyote Grille goes dark after 21 years

Fairfax City’s Coyote Grille and Cantina has unleashed its last howl.

The eatery abruptly closed its doors at 10266 Main Street for good on Oct. 1 after serving up tacos, margaritas and other dishes and drinks inspired by the American Southwest for more than two decades.

A paper sign taped to the door offers little explanation, stating only that the restaurant would be permanently closed as of that Sunday.

“We appreciate all our valued guests and staff,” the sign said.

While Coyote Grille’s closure may have come suddenly, it wasn’t a complete surprise to regular patrons, who lamented in Yelp reviews and social media posts that the food and service had declined in quality after longtime owner Tatjana Farr sold the business last year.

Farr launched Coyote Grille in 2002 with the goal of creating an oasis at a time when Northern Virginia “was suffering a drought of fresh, flavorful Southwestern-inspired food,” according to the website. After running the restaurant for 20 years, she decided to sell it so she could move to South Carolina, Old Town Fairfax Business Association (OTFBA) Chair Josh Alexander says.

However, Farr’s reaction upon learning that the new owners were shutting down the place she’d spent two decades overseeing was one of “shock and sadness,” according to Alexander, who worked as a manager at Coyote Grille for 14 years.

“It was definitely a landmark in the neighborhood, a local place for families and friends to gather, and it was tough to see it close,” Alexander said. “We all went in on the last day to celebrate it when we heard that they were closing.”

The current owners plan to reopen the restaurant under a new name as an “upscale, small plate concept,” Alexander says.

As chair of the OTFBA, Alexander says he wants all businesses in the city to succeed, but it’s not yet clear how much the rebranded restaurant will retain from its predecessor, if anything.

At the very least, Coyote Grille’s legacy will continue to some extent through Alexander’s own restaurant, Mackenzie’s Tunes & Tonics, which opened on June 1 at 3950 University Drive, Suite 210. He employs some former Coyote Grille staff members, and he threw a party there for Farr and Coyote supporters on Oct. 8.

“I want[ed] to say thank you for 20 years. Thank you for the memories,” he told FFXnow.

Some familiar dishes may even turn up on Mackenzie’s menu in the future, if the Coyote Grille owners opt not to use the recipes for their new establishment.

“Whatever the new concept, whatever they decide they don’t want to use, I’ll gladly bring to my place so that the locals can still come try some of their favorite dishes from over the years,” Alexander said.

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