April 24

COA introduces new chef, updated menu

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Although COA Mexican Eatery & Tequileria has been open for less than a year after replacing Divine at 7919 Roosevelt Way N.E., it’s already undergone some big changes.

In the last three months, owner Edgar Carreon has redesigned the color scheme and hired chef Luis Castro, shown at right, who has created a new menu that now touts the term “MexiSeattle.”

“The whole ideas has always been to showcase Mexican flavors in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Carreon said. “I honestly think we are finally presenting a piece of the culture in a much different light.”


Chef Luis Castro calls the Mole Short Rib the signature dish on the new COA menu.

Now, the new menu includes an explanation at the top from Castro that reads:

We’ve done something that you’re going to love. We’re focusing on healthy and real mexican cuisine with the infusion of experience and culture. Kale, egg plant, squash and yam are some of the delicious ingredients you will enjoy. This is Mexican food, this is Tequila. 

Indeed, healthy and Mexican food aren’t usually two words we see in the same sentence, and it’s a change from the previous menu that focused on Carreon’s family recipes and other traditional meals.

Now, Carreon and Castro both emphasize that the restaurant is using local vegetables and meats, with Castro putting a new focus on balancing every meal, a skill he learned during three years at a sushi restaurant in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

“In Asian food you have to have balance,” Castro said. “We want to balance all of the elements in each dish so it’s not too sweet, not too salty, not too citrusy.”

He uses the Plantain Sopitos dish at right as an example, explaining that the ripe plantains and cream sauce are sweet, while the meat gives the dish its savory flavor, and the guacamole and pico de gallo add tangy citrus flavor.

In addition to his experience with Asian cuisine, Castro said he also brings with him experience cooking American, French and Italian food, as well as Mediterranean food at Capitol Hill’s Terra Plata before Carreon approached him.

“Edgar said he wanted to create something new,” Castro said. “The whole menu is my creation. I used all the knowledge I had and all the knowledge from back home (Columbia). … I don’t describe the menu as authentic Mexican. It’s more Latin-Mexican.”

And with Castro, it’s not just about the flavor. Although he studied culinary arts for three years, he has also studied design, and he says he tries to implement just as much visual appeal to his dishes as flavor.

“I’m really crazy about food,” Castro adds. “I love to cook.”


Juan Barco, on guitar, and Paul Anastasio, on violin, have been playing Thursday evenings at COA.

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  1. Overpriced drinks? I had a wonderful house margarita for $4. Even Mr. Villa’s margaritas aren’t that cheap. I had the enchiladas verde and it was wonderful. My friend had the burrito and it was so huge she had to eat half the next day (me too on the enchilada). Each of those items were only about $10. My other friend had the short ribs. He is a totally foodie and all he could do is rave about them. I think you all should try it again. I know we will be back.

  2. The right concept, the right location. You should be able to make this place work, but haven’t managed it thus far. I’ve been in on a couple of occasions. It would have been more, but I was terribly underwhelmed by the food, the service, and the overpriced drinks. I’ll give the place another shot to check out the new menu, but the recipe for success is pretty easy. Get good help, prepare a quality and limited menu, and don’t cheap out on the cocktails. A decent outdoor space is always a plus too. Good luck to you. I really want this place to succeed.

  3. We were in tonight — very friendly service, excellent food and drinks, and super kid friendly to boot! We will be back for sure.

  4. For quite a while, COA was my favorite spot to get great Mexican food. It is so close, the food was amazing and priced just right. I loved it so much I would take all my friends there. Once the menu changed though, it just hasn’t seemed worth it. The food is still “okay”, a little too “modern” for my tastes. I loved the more authentic original menu. I might still love COA even with the new menu, but having to put up with the slow service just isn’t worth it. Waiting 30 min to get a margarita and a beer when the whole bar is empty except you because the bartender can’t be bothered to do his job rather than play on his cell phone gets frustrating. I know they do process orders on the iPad. That part was such a fun novelty. But I am talking about the waitstaff and bartenders texting on their personal cell phones while customers are waiting. Having to tell all my friends that “I promise the food is worth the crappy service” just doesn’t cut it anymore when the food is no longer with the crappy service. Sad to see COA go from such a great place to get together to somewhere I will tell people not to bother even trying. 🙁

  5. I’m the owner at COA and really appreciate all your feedback and comments. We’ve made some significant changes that we feel were necessary in order to accomplish our goal of providing a quality experience and we hope that everyone can feel welcome and enjoy our food. We’ve priced our menu items much better and do our best to source local product (meats from yakima & ferndale etc)

    Our entire POS system is on mobile devices (iPhone/iPad/iPod) so it may seem that our servers are being distracted but its how they place orders, print receipts & charge credit cards.

    I really enjoy Maple Leaf, I live here (as does all our staff) and continue to always think of how to make COA a better place for our neighborhood.

    Hope to see you all soon 🙂

  6. I want to try it to support our local businesses, but I’ve read several reviews that says that wait staff at COA is not super friendly to people outside their target market. Those reviews have kept me from going there because I’m not in the target (too old).

  7. Used to go here once or twice a week. Now that the best deals are gone (quesadillas before they were filled with goat cheese, the tacos when they had 5-6fillings to choose from and were $2 a piece). The new menu leaves a lot to be desired and the slow service can make dinners long. We once watched the bartender text on his phone for 15minutes before he attempted to make a single drink that had been ordered on a Saturday afternoon. Now The Yard in Greenwood is our favorite mexican spot.

  8. Was there last summer and two weeks ago and I love the new menu, the flavors a so on point! Servers are always so nice every time & they make delish margs.

  9. Fix the basics first (hint; rice and beans)… We’ve been within the last month and feel Coa’s food and service is a half-hearted effort and leaves much to be desired. PS – your “Divine” is still showing…

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