Even I’m finding it hard to to keep up with, let alone try, all the restaurants that have opened recently: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, Tyger Tyger, the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, Oat Bakery, We Want the Funk, the Dutch Garden…. One of the most interesting, in my view, is Corazón Comedor, the first of many endeavors from Corazón Cocina founder Ramon Velazquez. It’s in the former Ca’Dario Pizzeria space (and at least one adjacent storefront) on E. Victoria Street.
The menu, which is not online yet, benefits from some advance study, because this is not the familiar rice-and-bean, combo-plate situation. The main motif is guiso, which the menu defines as “a traditional and homey Mexican dish prepared by braising or in stew.” And the homemade tortillas are a leitmotif, as at Corazón Cocina.
The atmosphere is spare but done with care; the blue tiles and open ceiling contrast nicely with the white walls and utilitarian furniture. I could do without the TV in one room, but I can allow an exemption for the World Cup (and anyway, you can choose not to sit there). As is increasingly the way these days, service is fast-casual: you have to order at a counter, but at least they bring the food to you and it’s on real tableware. (Don’t get me started about restaurants still using “disposable” plates and utensils.) And everyone was friendly from the get-go. “Everyone is smiling,” marveled my husband.
We ordered the fried cauliflower cakes; the griddled mushroom quesadilla; and, on a staffer’s recommendation, the chicken-poblano taco and a pork tamale. Everything was good, and while there were times when we wouldn’t have minded a bit more flavor, the quartet of salsas that you get for free (along with a small bowl of chips drizzled with a mole-bean sauce) are there when you need them. Portions are not large, and you may need to order more than you think, but it’s a measure of how much I enjoyed the meal that I soon made a list of what I’ll get next time: the four guisos with beans and tortillas, the quesadilla with rajas, and the cochinita pibil taco.
I never tell a restaurant I’ll be coming, especially when I think I might be writing about it, but I’m not about to go in disguise, à la Ruth Reichl, in order to avoid being recognized—which, to be honest, has never happened. So I was surprised when the manager introduced himself, said he was glad I had made it in, and supplemented our order with a chicken tamale and, for dessert, Rori’s mezcal ice cream (below) and two cups of champurrado. All of those also became contenders for the next visit. Velazquez’s mother makes the sauces for the guisos, the tamales—the chicken one was extra excellent—and the delicious champurrado, a combination of milk, corn, chocolate, and cinnamon (and I’m guessing some sugar). Speaking of which, keep an eye out for when the restaurant starts serving churros….
Corazón Comedor (29 E. Victoria Street, between State and Anacapa) is currently open daily from noon to 9 p.m., but while it’s still getting on its feet, you might want to confirm before you go.
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