Food & Drink

Review: Coyote Ugly Saloon

By Ellie Philpotts

I would say I basically have no words after experiencing Cardiff’s take on Coyote Ugly, but a blank review is kind of a novel concept, so instead I’ll settle with starting that it’s definitely something different.

Coyote Ugly is a hit film centred on 21-year-old Violet, who’s keen to make it as a singer in New York City, but instead ends up joining forces with a team of staff-with-a-twist, the Coyotes, at the fashionable bar of the same name.

Despite bursting onto the scene in 2000, it’s clung onto its position in modern popular culture, and so the themed venue opening its first British branch here in Cardiff has become quite the talking point since it injected some Stateside energy into our city centre in December.

When Coyote Ugly Saloon asked me to swing by to do a review for Quench Food, I had no idea what to expect, but before I’d even finished my descent down St Mary’s Street, its bright colours and even more blaring music had done a good job of educating me. Although it’s fair to say Cardiff can get rather energetic, an average Saturday night quadrupling when the rugby’s on, absolutely nowhere has the same fast-paced atmosphere as here. You’re straightaway thrown in, and it’s go-go-go – which is why I was surprised to hear that it was still considered ‘quiet’ when I went (7pm on a Thursday), compared to its typical weekends.

While I was waiting for my friend, whose ability to last-minute rush is even more impressive than mine, the head honchos gave me a debrief, explaining that it’s already such a hit that they’ve seen groups into their hundreds; bookings a year in advance; and visitors from abroad who’ve travelled especially. Welcome news for Cardiff’s tourism! With the support of major sponsors like Coca-Cola, it’s easy to envision the venture expanding to other sites in the UK – there are future plans to set up in London.

Despite the global links, the Cardiff branch is pleasantly Welsh-focused, with meat supplied by Douglas Willis of Cwmbran, and meat is certainly big business at Coyote Ugly. It’s not the best place if you’re vegetarian – although my friend is and still didn’t head home hungry, thanks to the saving grace of the Return of the Mac, aka breaded mac and cheese, a large grilled mushroom, extra cheese and salad all in burger format.

The staff understandably wanted to showcase their menu highlights, so brought out the Hot Chilli Dog, fries and ribs between us. If I’d have chosen, I probably would’ve gone for a burger – options span from the Hogfather (yep, pulled pork is pivotal), to Jack’s Special (featuring Cajun spices, Jack Daniel’s whiskey and Monterey Jack… wonder which Jack gets the honour of being named after!?), but the ones we were given were great – ridiculously generous portion sizes. In a further nod to the American influence, you could also go for BBQ wings; a Dirty South burger or Pulled Brisket.

The head chef, Jason, is experienced at BBQ cooking, and it shows. And although you’re probably not going to Coyote Ugly specifically for the food, it’s fair to say you’ll be set up for a night of drinking if you visit here first…

Coyote Ugly is loud and proud, and certainly not one for the faint of heart, a civilised date, or those who fancy a catch-up over a quiet drink. In fact, we had to head to a bar when we’d finally worked our way through the food, because we’d barely been able to hear each-other over the music. However, the whole unique package compensates. It’s splashed with vibrant design – even the loos are covered with retro musical posters (and we don’t often reference the loos in food reviews), and definitely knows how to preserve the enthusiastic energy that’s made the Coyote Ugly brand last the test of time. The waitresses look the part, their outfits channelling the Coyotes of the film, and yep dancing plays a role…

The 9 Rules of Coyote Ugly include a warning that if you pick a bad song on the jukebox, it may be skipped; to have fun; and that if you’re easily offended it’s not the bar for you, and from my evening there I saw these are rooted in reality.

Dubbed ‘the most famous bar in the planet’, Coyote Ugly Saloon is open til 3am and it’s easy to understand its popularity with stag and hen dos. Although far from your typical student night, it’s reasonably priced, and while nights out aren’t always remembered in the morning, there’s no chance of forgetting this one…

All in all, Coyote Ugly has been successful in its mission to liven up the city centre. It’s entertaining, crazy and booming – definitely somewhere to visit if you fancy trying somewhere new. Never mind cautiously dipping your toe in the water – this is all about diving straight in.

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