Chef Robin Emrick likes to meld a variety of global cuisines

Robin Emrick is happy to say there isn't anything quite like Coyote Jane's in her immediate neighborhood - or beyond.

The Merion Village restaurant, 1586 S. High St., is based on a simple premise: affordable, homemade Santa Fe cuisine and festive drinks in a laid-back environment.

Emrick, the chef and co-owner, said that while the cuisine has its roots in the artsy New Mexico capital, it melds global ingredients.

"My cooking style is to mesh different flavors that nobody else would think of putting together," she said.

Yet the bill of fare, in which everything is currently priced less than $10, has been subject to vast interpretations.

"It's not Mexican," she said. "The menu right now is a little misunderstood."

So, in short, expect the unexpected.

The "Hop Sing" green chili burger, for example, uses 8 ounces of Angus beef topped with deep-fried jalapenos, sharp cheddar and green chili agave pesto on grilled brioche. The steak chili uses a splash of Jack Daniels and is touched off with a drizzle of Mexican chipotle chocolate.

There are tacos, burritos (called burros) and deep-fried burritos, otherwise known as chimichangas. Many have Coyote Jane's signature touch, such as the "poppy shrimp" tacos, filled with deep-fried buttermilk popcorn shrimp, a traditional garnish and cayenne mayo.

The signature cocktail is the grilled watermelon sidecar -- tequila, agave syrup, grilled watermelon and fresh mint. An unconventional version of a bloody Mary offers shrimp and pickled egg.

After leasing the building in March, the restaurant had a few stutter steps because of liquor license and permitting issues. It is open dinner only until March 1, when lunch hours are introduced. Emrick said she will have an entirely new lunch menu while adding some entrees at dinner.

Emrick is a partner and chef in the Banana Bean Caf, which got its start in Schumacher Place and later moved to Greenlawn Avenue. Her other business associates are Angela Caskey, also part of the founding partnership of Banana Bean and Skillet, and Jane Ann Wentzel, whose name served as the inspiration for the new restaurant.

The building, at the northeast corner of High and East Morrill Avenue, had been home to Craters Restaurant and Bar for about 25 years. Then, the Eagle bar had been in business for about six months before Coyote Jane's moved in. Emrick said she liked the look of the place: wooden floors, exposed brick and a cozy dining space. She shortened the bar and added several Southwest appointments for a rustic look. The dining room seats about 30 and the bar space seats another 25.

"I've been down here for 15 years," she said. "I've seen Merion Village grow in the last 10 years. And the people want something different."

Coyote Jane's is open five days a week, closed Sunday and Monday. For more information, call 614-444-5460.

-