El Coqui Puerto Rican Restaurant | Santa Rosa

Puerto Rican cuisine in Santa Rosa doesn't skimp on the plantains or pique

coqui.jpgYou know you’re doing something right when folks are lined up, willing to wait 20 minutes for a table on opening day. Not even opening day, according to El Coqui’s Tina Jackson. After months of waiting for the Mendocino Ave. Puerto Rican spot to open, friends and family began spilling into the restaurant last week for a few “preview dinners” — and once passersby saw the lights on, there wasn’t much Tina and her business partner (and cook) Jacqueline Roman, could do.
“We had a line out the door and around the corner. People were drinking beers at Ausiello’s waiting to get in,” says Jackson, buzzing from table to table. She never stops moving — greeting friends, seating eager diners and managing the crush of folks who want to eat. Now.
(If you missed the lead up to the opening, read the post and 60+ comments). Turns out the gals tapped into a local homesickness for Puerto Rican cuisine.
To start, check out the plantain chips with avocado dip (a play on chips and guacamole with a few secret ingredients), or fried green plantains topped with shrimp or beef. Entrees are same at lunch and dinner, but BiteClub was taken with the Palomilla Encebollado: thinly sliced steak covered with sauteed onions — but make sure to get sweet plantains on the side. Very traditional is the Pollo Al Horno, marinated chicken thighs with sweet peppers.  We also wolfed down a Sandwich de Bistec — a steak sandwich we ordered with smashed plantains and avocado. Yum.
BITECLUB FAVE: Canoas con Carne Molida, a whole sweet plantain stuffed with ground beef and smothered with cheese. Don’t overlook the bottle of Pique quietly sitting on your table. Here, it’s a mild vinegar sauce studded with garlic, peppers and other tasty herbs.
Desserts rotate, but you’ll want to try the Mantecado de Coco con Guineos Fritos, (coconut ice cream with fried bananas).
The food is flavorful and brightly seasoned without the searing heat of other Latin dishes.  Sides include red or black beans and rice, though what I love most about island food are the fried sweet and green plantains — a starchier cousin to the banana.
El Coqui does have a beer and wine license, but for something really exotic, try a Malta (sweet molasses) or Coco Rico (coconut soda). Those raised on the stuff swear by it, but it’s definitely an acquired taste.
The interior has been transformed into a funky, casual dining spot with bright neon beer signs in the window, a tile bar running almost the length of the restaurant and a handful of two and four-top tables. Don’t miss the portrait wall of famous Puerto Ricans as you walk in. As things settle down, expect more native dishes, some live music and (hopefully) a full bar. But until then, be content just to get a table.
El Coqui, open for lunch and dinner daily, 400 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707.542.8868.


36 thoughts on “El Coqui Puerto Rican Restaurant | Santa Rosa

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  2. One word . . . addictive.
    Not hot, but spicy. The chicken, steak and shrimp are fantastic. Loved the spanish rice and red beans. I’m not a vegetarian, but the the vegetarian food here is so good, I could become one!
    All the food is delicious!
    Only drawback? The service is a bit slow. But who goes for the service? The food will make an addict out of you. In fact, I’m going back for my “fix” at lunch time!

  3. The food is good but the service is terrible. I’ve been there many times hoping that the service would improve, but it hasn’t. They lost another customer after the last bad experience. Too bad. SR is a small foodie town and it only takes a few bad experiences to give a restaurant a bad rep.

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  5. Stopped in at El Coqui last night for dinner. Got there around 6:45 and didn’t leave until after 8pm… needless to say the service was quite slow. Something about a busser with a cut open finger, short staffed, you know the drill. Our server was nice…. enough said. The owner at one point saw me check my watch for the time and stopped in at our table to make sure we were being taken care of. Now, she was quite friendly, and had she been our server, the wait would have been a little less off putting.
    So the food… Had the Empanada (SP?# and it was DELISH. Just what I wanted, savory with a little sweet, different exciting flavors in each bite. Main course for me was the Fried Chicken, ok, nothing exceptional – with it I ordered the Green Plantains.. YUCK. Just what you would expect out of a green banana, no flavor at all. My date had the Steak dinner, with which he ordered the sweet plantains.. YUM! His whole plate was exceptional, thinly sliced beef, cooked perfectly with yellow rice and beans. I was wishing I had got what he had!
    For dessert I tried the Fried Banana’s with Coconut Ice Cream and it was FANTASTIC. Real flakes of coconut in the ice cream and the banana’s were sweet, they really complimented eachother. Perfect finish to our #long awaited# meal. I would give the place a 4 out of 5. The service #aside from the owner) could be a little better and the Fried Chicken, although cooked just right – could have had a little more flavor. All in all, a fun, upbeat, tasty little place to eat.

  6. I just had lunch there yesterday afternoon. The service was fast and friendly and the food was quick and so yummy. Real comfort food and just the right portion size. This will not be my last visit for sure.

  7. FANTASTIC! From the get go we were treated wonderfully. Wait person took the time to explain the menu and made suggestions even giving us tastings of the plantain chips and both sweet and salty plantains. It was a bit loud but that was to be expected with the place filled to capacity (lunch time). We did sit at the window because it was the only seat available. Maybe some window tinting would help with the heat. My only complaint would be that the plates are too small to accommodate the amount of food. With the first few scoops I found beans and rice falling off the plate. No matter! Still loved the flavors and the service.

  8. We ate there last night and it was perfect! It was crowded but were offered a table for 2 right away. The service was very friendly. It was a new cuisine for us and the waiter was very knowledgable and explained the dishes to us. I’m a vegetarian and had no problems picking an entree. We will definately be back. We are hooked.

  9. We went this weekend. The food was alright but bland and we were refused condiments on the basis that they weren’t authentic (not true), the service was friendly but disorganized and slow, and the place itself was very loud. No, make that VERY LOUD, with the volume on the videos playing over the counter set to 11 and the sound bouncing off the walls. My ears were ringing by the time we left.
    It’s unlikely that we’ll go back, and if we do, it’ll be for take-out.

  10. I ate here Tuesday night for the first time, and won’t be going back. We got there early for dinner and got the last table, directly in the window, with the 6 o’clock sun shining right on us. After sweating it out, one of our party tried to move their chair to sit further back so the sun wasn’t in their eyes (since of course they have no shades) and the waitress actually asked her to move the chair back to the normal space! We waited 10 min after being seated for the waitress to come over and give us menus! We ordered water, and we had been seated 24 min (it was so rediciulous we started keeping track…) before we got water! At least she took our order when we got water, but was very irritated by requests for customization, such as no onions or mayo. The food was ok, but just ok. The chicken salad was very greasy (how is a salad greasy!?) and the rest of the food bland and lacking, definitely not work the incrediablly poor service and not so decent prices given the food. The waitress was very moody, seemed to be annoyed to be having to do her job. Also said next time if they didn’t seat us with menus and the right number of utensils (we were missing one) we should get them ourselves from the counter. Definitely will not be going back, lard packed food should be saved for the taco trucks, where the service is in fact better than this place.

  11. Helter-Skelter is da best way to describe my dining experience at El Coqui. I am old school from NYC and i love my island but the service was terrible and the food barely recognizable to the cuisine i grew up with. The owners (jackie n christina) are warm n friendly but they have to put their act together quickly and provide better service and food quality if they are going to survive beyond the newness of the place.
    For a small restaurant they have way too many people on the floor as well as their kitchen. I have seen food being brought out by the sous-chef and nobody on the floor knowing to what table the food is going. (inexcusable). My main dish was served b4 my appetizer (inexcusable).
    I think the owners need to travel to San Rafaels Puerto Rican restaurant and observe how service and food quality can be executed in proper fashion. I still have great hope for this restaurant being a success. I will give a month or so before going back and hope that they have worked out the kinks in their operation. Good luck mis amigas!

  12. In my want-to-be culinary mind, El Coqui has anchored a spot on a very volatile stretch of Mendocino Avenue. This area, between 5th and 7th, has witnessed ill prepared restauraunteurs remodel lonely spaces for twice the time they’re able to stay afloat. The “curse of Mendocino” has one criterion,…keep it real. El Coqui is the real deal my friends. I was there on Sunday with my son, weaving my way through the hordes of hungry patrons to finally relax and taste the meal I’ve been dreaming about for weeks, el pollo al horno. The chicken was moist and flavorful, white rice and black beans weren’t over salted and the cool avocado salad with yummy red onions (my favorite) provided the perfect balance to a warm meal on a very hot day. My son had the bistec encebollado, also a meal worthy of a stellar reputation. The service was unpretentious, friendly and more than likely, overworked at this stage of the game. That all said, I wouldn’t be a critic without critiquing. I had to settle for a Costa Rican beer in a Puerto Rican Restaurant…not good for PR pride. The fried plantains were a bit dry (possibly due to my inexperience with PR “chips”) and the flat screen television panels above the bar are begging to present more than your standard CD option menu (can you get PR baseball in this town 😉 Overall, El Coqui is a wonderful addition to my neighborhood, warranting frequent visits from folk who desire delicious wholesome food, culture and a great location. Spectacular job El Coqui! We expect and anticipate good times on the corner of 5th and Mendo.

  13. My husband and I went last Thursday and I was anticipating a wait. While we were waiting we were asked if we would like to sit at the bar for dinner. We sat at the end of the bar and we were able to see all the delicious plates coming out. This isn’t a place that I would expect to hurry be seated, food served quickly and then be on my merry way. This isn’t IHOP. If you haven’t been to a tropical island or have friends who are, then yes you might be put off by the timeframe of things. This is exactly why we didn’t bring out kids. Not that we didn’t want them to experience the food from Puerto Rico, but so we could relax and enjoy ourselves without looking at our watches. I have to tell you the waitress who happend to have my same name, was constantly on the go for her tables. I don’t know the people who own the restaurant but I wish them the best. We enjoyed our food and plan on coming back with friends to enjoy an evening out. I would also agree that people that are expecting Puerto Rican food to be like Mexican food is like expecting Japanese food to be like Chinese food. Each of these cultures are wonderful and unique in their own way.

  14. reading these reviews i’m guessing the owners have asked alot of friends to sugarcoat what seems to be a job for chef ramsey and kitchen nitemares to tackle. going with a friend for dinner the other night we were greeted by a kid who obviously has no experience as a host. we were told the wait would be 30 minutes which was fine considering the place is new. we ended up asking to sit at the bar and ordered a beer while we looked over the menu. the prices were fine, not to expensive, probably not a menu that would bring me back often but fine. we ordered our food ten minutes after our beer but got the food before we got the beer, i think the waitress forgot because we had to ask for it. looking around while we were waiting for our food it seems that way more people are waiting for tables than there are people actually eating. there was two top tables, one sitting i think 8 and the other 6 but other than that not alot of tables and tables spread out so far apart they could defenitaley bring in more. it seems when half of your seats are taken in two tables i highly doubt they are turning tables fast enough. It also looks like there are way to many people working there, and nobody seems to know what their specific jobs were they all seemed overwhelmed. the food was ok, nothing speacial, not a lot of flavor and seems like it would be easy to make at home. basically the idea is good but the service is terrible and i highly doubt that many people will be waiting 30 minutes for a table after the newness of this place wears off. i give this place 5 months

  15. After living in PR for 18 years, I must say that they were spot on. Service could be better and it will I hope but I don’t like to rush when I’m eating delicious food and having fun. Reminds me even more of home because that’s the way island time works. Being that I ate there for my bday, I was hoping to have a Cuba Libre (rum’n’coke) but I was thankful to have the great food in the same county. About 99% of boricuas living in PR shun spiciness but the few that do make a rockin’ mixture that’ll have you chugging your beer. If I knew how the crazy business world worked then I’d try to get them to import the sauce and Medalla Light (the best friggin beer). If your not living on an uptight schedule, then I’d recommend this joint for some good cookin’.

  16. As someone who was born in CA, I know that the Western US doesn’t have much knowledge about PR. PR food is not Mexican, at all. Just some of the differences are that PR food does not have the burn or grease that Mexican does. PR food is more like California cuisine, with the emphsis on tasting the fresh ingredients. I loved El Coqui, food was very good, service was excellent and I thought the prices were reasonable for the quality. Nice homey atmosphere, too. Anyone going there expecting Mexican is going to be disappointed.

  17. I visited El Coqui this evening and I must admit I was really looking forward to it. PR food had been described to me as akin to Mexican food sans the heat… Now I “love” Mexican food the spicier the better but I figured PR food should be tasty… and if I needed to crank up the heat all I would have to do is add a little hot sauce….nope.
    THEY HAD NO HOT SAUCE….not even Tabasco !
    What appeared to be the owner (very nice woman) informed me that they were trying to import a special chili from PR to keep as close to authentic as possible, which is great but how do you eat fried chicken without out hot sauce? A woman sitting behind us had the same complaint (She looked to be having the chick thigh meal). Alright enough about the hot sauce.
    The food was ok a little bland for my liking, as I said I had the fried chicken with black beans and yellow rice….and my date had the steak sandwich.
    Here is the problem… I was fully aware of the price of the food we ordered… but I must admit when the check came I was tingling with a bit of buyers remorse….I mean $30.00 for two fried chicken legs (which were obviously cooked in advance and placed under a heat lamp because we had our food in under 5 min) with rice and beans?!?! The steak sandwich was nothing more than a medium sized roll with mayo, thinly sliced steak and Avocado (for an additional $2.00) and no sides costing $14.95. Overall I can’t think of a reason to go back. Limited menu so / so food and priced to high in relation to the product.

  18. We went last night (Saturday) for dinner. It was all around just a GREAT dinner. We had been looking forward to this restauarant opening since we heard about it. While living in New York for several years, we fell in love with Puerto Rican/Domincan food. The food at El Coqui tasted like the great food my Puerto Rican co-workers and friends would cook for parties and dinners. I think the atmosphere is very comfortable and casual and the staff could not have been more warm and friendly. Even though during our dinner we experienced no glitches, it must be tough to open a restaurant and have the kinks worked out so publically. I am sorry for the people who came after us and had to wait for a table. But as any restaurant goer knows – this wait often means the food is good and it will be worth the wait. I am looking forward to having more meals at El Coqui, and to take my friends there, while the owners get this great restaurant established in Santa Rosa. PS – I HAVE NO AFFILIATION WITH THE OWNERS – just a happy Santa Rosan with a new favorite restaurant.

  19. Went to El Coqui for the first time last night with another couple, who were experiencing PR food for the first time. The wait to be seated took a little while & our order took a while, but the owner’s were very nice, apologized for the slow service & explained that they are still working out the kinks. The food was good, I just wish that the Pollo al Horno had more flavor. The yellow rice was very good, as well as the tostones & the deserts were very good. We will definitely go back.

  20. So here is your Wow! report.
    We went to El Coqui for a late lunch.
    We were seated promptly by a very friendly young waitress name Raquel, very pleasant, frindly and knowledable. Our soda came quickly with a lime twist just as ordered. Our lunch was white rice, black beans and mofongo. The food was great, tasty just as I remember from the Isla del Encanto.
    We can hardly wait to go back.

  21. Food was good…but was it good enough to outshine the poor service that we received? Possibly not. Our server promptly took our order after we were sat – only to come back 20 to 30 minutes later and ask to take our order again! Thus making me think that he forgot to put our order in from the get go…when this was brought up to management they told us that “he was probably confused and he did place our order already” unfortunately I am not buying it. There is no way that it should take 30 to 45 minutes for our plaintain and avocado dip appetizer to arrive. We were charged twice for some items and the price of wine listed on the table is not the same price as what we were charged, so I would say that they appear to have some kinks that need to be worked out with the service. Again, good food.

  22. WOW! I was so impressed with the great favors. I will go back again and again.
    I wished them great success!


  24. El Coqui is wonderful! I have been there a few times already and been pleased each time. We have had to wait, true, and the service has been a little choppy- but anybody who knows anything about opening a restaurant, especially for the first time, knows that there are always many kinks to iron out- and I know that El Coqui will find their stride. MY NEW FAVORITE SR PLACE!

  25. Given the reviews about disorganization I was almost tempted to wait until things had calmed down before trying El Coqui, but decided to give it a try last night for dinner. Glad I did!
    Our party of four got there at 6:45 pm and were seated about fifteen minutes later. The restaurant was packed and rocking! We were promptly brought water and menus. Our order was taken within 15 minutes, and our food arrived with no delay. It was delicious.
    We had the Pollo al Horno, Palomilla Encebollado, Arroz con Huevos, and the pork chops (forgot the name). The beans, rice, and salad on the plate were all as good as the main dish. Beer and molasses soft drinks were crisp and cold. Prices were very reasonable.
    We really enjoyed El Coqui and will definitely go back. I suspect the negative comments resulted from the usual newbie ups and downs in the restaurant biz. As a former waitress, I’ve been there. I am certain these will all be ironed out over the next few weeks.
    Thank you El Coqui!

  26. So I just got back from lunch today, it is the 3rd time in a week I have eaten there. Can’t help myself(I was raised on this food) and can’t get enough. Today I tried el Pollo Al Horno (Chicken made in oven), it was flavorful and reminded me of my grandmother’s cooking. I loved that they made it with mulo’s not pechuga (thighs not breast), because that would have been super dry and it would not have been authentic as this was. The beans also had that PR flavor and my mom had Platanutres con aguate which I had a taste of and was great!!! It is not guacamole, pure avocado. We had friends come up from SF to eat and they both enjoyed their meal. My mom’s best friend of 50 yrs. ate the Arroz con Huevos (you know, that is truly PR dish), her husband is Argentinan(but he is an honoary PR) and he had the bistec encebollado and loved the meal. As been mentioned before, yes, the service is pocito lento(not as slow as in PR), but, PR food is not fast food, it is not McDonalds. Like any new venture, there has to be a learning curve and I see it improving every time. Let’s see what can I say negative – nothing maybe a little more sofrito but other than that not a thing. I am there to enjoy the whole experience inlcuding the time visiting with my friends as I wait for an excellent meal. As they say to be continued….coqui, coqui

  27. I’ve walked by a few times and El Coqui is buzzing. I look forward to what looks like wonderful food. It seems to me that Santa Rosa is looking for culture, maybe getting tired of the trendy California cuisine. I’m happy to see us heading in the right culinary direction, towards variety, diversity, something different, exotic. My taste buds need rebirth, an awakening, born again. Now I can get Puerto Rican food on one end of town, and Etheopian food on the other. Santa Rosa is the county seat, let’s set the trends for goodness sake!!

  28. Our experience at El Coqui was exelent. We were there on Father’s day. We were seated right away, our waiter was quick and very attentive. The food came in a timely manner and it was very tasty, con sabor boricua! I know many other PRs that are also having great experinces. Personaly, we can hardly wait to go back.

  29. If you enjoy 30-45 minute wait, when there is less than fifteen people in the restaurant (and several open tables in view), sub-par waiters, and cold bland food…this is the place for you!
    A major disappointment, and insult to all other Puerto Rican cuisine restaurants.
    The place looks nice, but it becomes quickly obvious that the old term “looks are deceiving”, would be a trademark for El Coqui. Our first encounter with a waitress was met with a quick, “It’s a 45 minute wait. See those people? (as she points across the room), they are all waiting for their food”.
    We decided to stick it out for the full run, and got seated about 30 minutes after arriving. Fifteen minutes AFTER being seated (and yet to order), I leaned back to the couple behind us (that had been there since we walked in), and asked how long they had been waiting. “We order over 30 minutes ago”, what was replied.
    As I mentioned, our food was poor. The people I asked behind us left shortly after they got theirs, so I’m they either thought it was awful and left, or got it to go because of how much of their time was wasted.
    The bragging in the main review about getting a table, missed the whole fact that this place just can’t handle more than 3 or 4 of their tables seated at a time.

  30. Went yesterday for lunch and it was AWFUL. The service was bad, we had to ask for water 4 times. The food was cold and they forgot half of our order, having then to wait even longer for half our table to get it’s food. It was SO disappointing. I grew up with Panamanian food and was thrilled at similar cuisine to eat but they won’t be getting my business again.

  31. Checked out the restaurant for lunch Saturday afternoon. The food was very good. Had the chicken thigh lunch plate with red beans and sweet plantains. Lots of food and great flavor!! The owners need to look at the lay-out of the restaurant, because they need to add more tables or other seating. There is lots of room to seat additional customers. Now I won’t have to drive to Marin to get my fix!

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