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In Dining Reviews

The Coa Plate includes three tacos, Mexican rice and Coa beans. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining Reviews

Appetizers, like the empanadas, are especially good. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining Reviews

Coa creats a nice cross-section of family dining and date-night destination. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining Reviews

Coa was the first local restaurant to open at Bayshore Town Center. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining Reviews

Diners can enjoy their meals in a classy, upscale setting. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

Coa excels at street fare in upscale atmosphere


When Bayshore Mall underwent a dramatic remodel and opened in 2006 as Bayshore Town Center, it added more than a dozen national chain restaurants, including the The Cheesecake Factory and Bravo! Cucina Italiana, but lacked a full-service eatery with local owners.

Now, local restaurateurs Marc and Marta Bianchini (owners of Osteria del Mondo, Indulge and Cubanitas) have opened Coa in the shuttered Cameron's Steakhouse -- 5750 N. Port Washington Rd. -- where simple "street food" is served in a sleek and stylish environment.

Coa's high-end interior -- floor to ceiling windows and even bathrooms with polished trough-style sinks -- is out of sync with its food concept and may jolt some first-time diners. But if you go to Coa expecting to eat vendor-style street food that is fun, simple and fresh cuisine (and not upscale, fancy, sexy food) you won't be disappointed.

I visited Coa for luch with a child (part of their menu reads, "Coa loves kids, and kids love Coa"), and again for dinner with an adult companion during the week, and both were very positive experiences.

Youngsters can choose from tacos, quesadillas or chicken fingers for $5, including a drink and fries or rice. Kids also dine free Monday through Thursday, from 3 until 6 p.m.

Throw in a basket of Coa's complementary chips with red and green salsa and Coa is a no-brainer for shopping parents, especially since this is one of the few restaurants I've visited where the server directly addressed my minor companion when taking our food orders and politely treated him like a regular diner.

Appetizers at Coa excelled. Queso fundido ($5) was creamy and sinfully rich with just a hint of heat from tiny pieces of diced poblanos, giving the cheese a warm and earthy flavor when tucked into hot corn tortillas. A pork tamale ($5) wrapped in a banana leaf had a lovely corn masa and shredded pork filling that rivaled what you'd find at El Rey.

A cold appetizer of tuna tartar ($9) was served carpaccio style and layered with a bright pineapple salsa that was just a bit too heavy handed. We removed about half of the salsa to expose a bit more of the gentle tuna flavors.

Coa offers a dozen options for tacos, served with your choice of white corn tortilla, flour tortilla, or lettuce wraps. We chose the corn tortillas and found favorites with the al pastor ($4), cubed, marinated pork paired with pineapple and a generous amount of fresh cilantro, veal ($4), with a tomato-chile sauce, and camerón ($5) shrimp with tomato, avocado, and chile-lime salsa. A pescado ($5) was slightly too heavy with a Dos Equis battered fish paired with slaw and mayonnaise.

A variety of nightly specials includes chicken enchilada mole ($12) on Wednesday evenings. The mole here was sweet and the chicken tender, but the accompanying Coa beans, thick with beer, bacon and chorizo, and the Coa rice with hints of saffron and tiny peas, was even better.

All the dishes we tried carried a gentle heat quotient except for the street vendor side of pickled vegetables. While I consider myself to have a pretty high tolerance for heat, I couldn't eat more than one of the carrots in this dish, and I dared not touch the jalapenos.

If you look past the incongruity of eating street food on china with cloth napkins, rather than wrapped in a piece of parchment paper while standing in a market or on a street corner, Coa makes an interesting new addition to Bayshore Town Center in Glendale.

It is both a family-friendly dining spot and, with a good selection of margaritas, a date-night destination, with or without the shopping.

Talkbacks

melkiper | Jan. 7, 2010 at 7:55 a.m. (report)

Ama - they do have corn tortillas. When I have been there a few times you are given a choice of corn or flour. My wife and I like the fact that its an "upscale" feel - going to conijitos everyonce in a awhile is great, but if you don't want to be peeling your feet off a sticky flour or look at a wall of sombreros and Mexican resort knick knacks (LaPerla anyone?), Coa is great option. Plus, you can't beat great margaritas - not syrupy nor overly sweet. We'll be back again.

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samsova | Jan. 6, 2010 at 3:06 p.m. (report)

I am a big fan of COA. It is about the experience. The atmosphere is upbeat and trendy in a way. The handful of times that I have been there the food has been great and the parties that I was with also had a very good experience. I love the way they double layer the tortillas because I absolutely hate eating a taco when the tortilla rips after the first bite. The prices are not that bad, a dollar or two more than they typical Mexican joint, but this one is not typical. The food is very upscale and the presentation of the dishes is very nice. I'll be back.

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Ama | Jan. 6, 2010 at 1:19 p.m. (report)

Street food? If so, those tacos would be corn tortillas, not flour. This looks just as horribly mediocre and inauthentic as Cempazuchi.

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yob | Jan. 6, 2010 at 9:50 a.m. (report)

I think that the owners committed themselves to a "mexican street food" concept, which is a unique for that area. What I think people cannot get past are the words "street food." The logical conclusion when those words are included in a concept is that the food will be inexpensive and simple, which are two things this restaurant is definitely not. I believe someone must have decided that the "North Shore Norm & Nancys" wouldn't be caught dead in a place that looked like Conejito's, whose decor/food/prices embody the concept much better. I say let the suburban aristocracy think they're connecting with the "man on the street;" the rest of us know better than to pay $4 for a taco. Just call it an upscale mexican restaurant like Haute Taco did when it opened last year, and nobody be so quick to point out the discrepency between your concept and your execution.

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DT | Jan. 5, 2010 at 12:38 p.m. (report)

Coa is very good. Guac, drinks, ribs and tacos. All very, very good. Agreed that the atmosphere could be a bit more "casual," but look at what was there before hand -- an upscale steakhouse. COA, local owners, did a fine job remaking it into a destination restaurant. Try it out. Bayshore, also, is very nice. Way better experience than Mayfair.

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