Imagine this: Piles of robust chiles and aromatic spices laying quietly in bundles neighboring decadent Mexican chocolate ground to order. This small yet vibrant market, Mercado Benito Juarez, located in the center of Oaxaca, Mexico, is one of the many motivations that jumpstarted Scott Linquist’s launch of his Coyo Taco brand. And now, lending gastronomic connoisseurs from Miami to Panama a lesson on how its truly done south of the border—by handcrafting masa tortillas on site and serving up made to order guacamole—Linquist is redefining Mexican street food fare with an added hip factor, heating up local blocks with a kaleidoscope of flavors and wildly funky hit tunes.
So, just in time for Linquist’s expansion to Time Out Market, Ocean Drive sat down with this kingpin of Miami taco joints to hear more about how Coyo Taco celebrated Cinco de Mayo, bringing international fans a true taste of authentic home-style Mexican cooking, welcoming prodigious guests such as President Obama, and his upcoming plans to open new outposts outside of the US.
Scott, tell us about redefining Miami's Mexican street food scene with Coyo Taco?
SCOTT LINQUIST: I think we were in the right place at the right time for the Miami food revolution that has been taking place. I have been cooking Mexican cuisine for many years, mostly much more upscale and mostly in NYC. This was my first venture into quick service and also my first venture in Miami, and so far so good. It was the perfect storm! I have great partners, Alan and Sven, and we created the Coyo brand together, trying to bring authenticity, quality and value, with a bit of a hip factor, to Wynwood, not knowing at the time how Wynwood was about to blow up! Also a little luck thrown in.
Spotlighting Mexico’s authentic street snacks, how does Coyo Taco lend a lesson on traditional marketplace dishes?
SL: Well, the food starts from a very traditional and authentic foundation brought to a level that everyone can understand and at a price point that brings everyone from school kids to the rich and famous all in one place. We import many of our ingredients directly from Mexico and we hand press all of our corn tortillas, which is a good start to any Mexican menu.
What are some of your favorite plates and what inspired their recipes?
SL: There is a story behind most of our dishes, mostly from many adventures and culinary travels through Mexico over the past 25 years. One of my favorite tacos is our cochinita pibil, which is achiote-marinated yucatan style roast pork. I made this dish for the first time in the jungles outside of the city of Merida with the one person who is legendary for preparing it in a traditional deep pit, dug into the ground, and cooked for 12 hours. Obviously, we don't have a pit here in Miami, but other than that we prepare ours exactly the same way.
Was there one trip to Mexico that specifically motivated the menu?
SL: There were many trips that motivated the menu at Coyo. Our food is multi-regional. Mexico has such diversity in its cuisine and we represent a large swath of its cuisine. That being said, Oaxaca for sure! Oaxaca is one of my favorite cities in the world. Its cuisine, its art, its culture and its history are mind blowing. And the markets—the Mercado Benito Juarez in the center of the city of Oaxaca is fantastic. Piles and piles of chiles and spices, Mexican chocolate being ground to order, produce items like you have never seen before and food vendors making some of the best food you will ever eat.
Coyo Taco is also known to bring in some of the most prodigious guests in Miami, including President Obama. What are some of your most memorable highlights?
SL: Obviously Obama was the highlight! Honestly, his celebrity appeal is amazing. It was literally like the second coming of the Beatles when he stepped out of the SUV with this entourage. He was so gracious and so friendly, taking photos with many of the guests and all of our team.
It's hard to beat Obama but we have many celebrity regulars like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as well as many other Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins, and Marlins players as well. My partner Sven is the music, nightlife and DJ guru. He is the pied piper of DJs. Four DJs like Oscar G and Murk are our weekly residents on Monday nights, Walshy Fire of Major Lazer on Tuesdays and Dub Wise from Jamaica on Wednesdays. It is remarkable having such talent every week.
We recently celebrated Cinco de Mayo. What were locals able to experience at Coyo Taco?
SL: This year for the first time, we didn’t do our regular block party. There were just too many parties. We did a Takeover at Soho House in NYC which is pretty cool. Sven secured an awesome group of DJs and we prepared our famous tacos for the party, members only. In Miami, we had taco and drink specials and had parties at all of our locations. Our Palm Beach and Brickell locations were on fire, as well as the Wynwood location.
You’re also planning to open an outpost in Miami’s Time Out Market, while also expanding to locations outside of the US. What are your upcoming plans for the future?
SL: Our success has been amazing! We have to pinch ourselves and are so grateful. We have 30 or more people contacting us every week saying, "We want Coyo, we want to partner with you." Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Dubai, Vegas, Poland, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Korea. We carefully choose our international partners like our partners in Portugal, Multi Foods Restaurant Group. Currently, we have Time Out Market opening and we are building a new location in Coral Gables. We are also building a second location in Lisbon and one in Porto Portugal. As for other international locations, stay tuned!
Photography by: Photography courtesy of Coyo Taco