El Coyote, Hollywood's most iconic old-school cantina, was once called "Movieland’s idea of a Mexican restaurant." There's the twinkling strings of Christmas lights and the kitschy decor, the colorful, petticoat-clad waitresses, the numbered combo plates plastered with melted yellow cheese, the chunky salsa that might remind you of spaghetti sauce and the slushy margaritas that are as strong as they are sweet.
Then there's the history: El Coyote Mexican Café opened on March 5, 1931, the creation of Blanche and George March, and it's still owned and operated by third-generation family members. The autographed photographs that line one wall inside the entrance include John Wayne, Ricardo Montalban and the prince of Monaco. The most infamous incident at El Coyote involved Sharon Tate: She ate her last meal there before she and four others were murdered by the Manson family in 1969. (Regulars can even show you the booth where she last sat.)
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In a city filled with truly authentic Mexican cooking, the glowing neon appeal of an evening at El Coyote isn't as pronounced as it used to be, but that hasn't kept it from amassing a generation-spanning set of devotees.
El Coyote is rewarding those fans next month with a special 85th-anniversary celebration that will return prices to Great Depression levels, if only briefly. On March 5, diners can get a taco (shredded beef, shredded chicken or potato) served with rice and beans, or one cheese enchilada with rice and beans, for the throwback price of 85 cents. If you're unable to make it on anniversary day, the restaurant will be offering for the entire month of March an 85-cent order of El Coyote pizza (nachos, essentially) per table and 85-cent bowls of the house-made chicken tortilla soup.
El Coyote, 7313 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax; (213) 939-2255, elcoyotecafe.com.