GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Toward the east end of North Avenue there's a little-known gem of a restaurant - the student-run Coyote Cafe - inside the Career Center at 2935 North Ave. It's open for lunch, Tuesday through Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. - and only during regular school days - so you might want to check it out before they close for Christmas break! The food is good and the price is right.The cafe has its share of regulars, such as Garry Meek and Mike Bambino who came for lunch Tuesday. Meek ordered his usual, the club sandwich, and Bambino chose the Howling Burrito, filled with meat and beans, and smothered with homemade green chili and cheese."It's probably the best burrito in town," Bambino said.And the club sandwich: "It's wonderful. I love it. Nine times out of 10, I get it," Meek said.Tuesday's special was a curry chicken salad sandwich, a recipe that came from one student's grandmother."We had a contest where several of the students brought in recipes and made them," culinary arts teacher Michele Redington said.Career Center staff members tasted the student creations, and the curry chicken salad won - thus it's become a regular special.Sandwiches, which range in price from $3 for a grilled cheese, to $6.50 for a chicken panini, come with a side salad, French fries or cup of soup.Tuesday, the soup was French onion, topped with homemade bread and cheese."I found the recipe in 'Cook's Illustrated,'" which called for baking the onions for two hours to really bring out the flavor, Redington said. Culinary Arts is one of ten different vocational programs offered at Mesa County Valley School District 51's Career Center. Students from around the Grand Valley attend Career Center programs as part of their school day. They ride buses from their home schools to one of two sessions offered each day at the center. Sarah Lomax, 15, learned about the culinary arts program from her English teacher at Fruita Monument High School."Cooking has always been my passion," Lomax said. "She noticed my passion from my writing and recommended (the program). I want to run my own restaurant some day, and I thought this would be good experience."I came into this with no experience. I'm going to leave this place knowing how to do a little bit of everything."At the opposite end of the counter where Lomax was making a salad, Kasey Payton, a 15-year old homeschooler, was preparing plates for various sandwich orders."I want to be a chef when I grow up, and I heard the program is very good, and it is," Payton said. "I recommend it to anybody." Another popular daily special is meatloaf and mashed potatoes, Redington said. And, "our ribs are huge," second-year student Tyler McDowell said.Redington, and her assistant, Laura Pacheco, teach two sessions daily. During the morning session, from 7:30-9:30 a.m. students do all the prep work, and most of the baking. Pies, cookies and brownies are all made from scratch."This morning they made a cherry pie," Redington said. "Last week, they made cheesecake." In the 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. session students cook, make salads and serve customers. The first six weeks of the school year are spent studying safety and sanitation. Students earn a food handler's card during the course, plus elective credits, and half credits in math and science per year, up to two years. In North Dakota, Redington taught family and consumer science - "what used to be called home economics" - before coming to teach at the Career Center seven years ago."We have a lot of students who really like to be here," Redington said. "We're lucky." Coyote Cafe students also cater lunches, and fulfill special cookie and brownie orders."Our most popular is the Coyote cookie, oatmeal and chocolate chip," Redington said. "Right now they're making a variety of cookies for Christmas."For more information, call 970-254-6023.
Coyote Cafe serves up delicious, affordable fare in Grand Junction
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