Café Corazon succeeds in every possible way
There are a few things in the bar and restaurant business that are non-negotiable:
- Providing what you say you're going to provide.
Then there are the standout bars and restaurants; the ones that have that critical element you don't see in every café or tavern that opens its doors -- passion. Passion for food, passion for service, passion for making people feel welcome and happy that they walked in your door.
Without trying to sound too cheesy, I couldn't think of a better name for Riverwest's infant eatery, Café Corazon, 3129 N. Bremen St., a restaurant that quite literally gets to the heart of what matters.
In an oddly shaped building with fewer than six tables mingled with old church-style pews and room for about a dozen more to eat at the bar, Café Corazon is an elbow-rubbing comfort zone with discerning flavors.
The beef and produce come straight from owner Wendy Mireles' dad's farm (it doesn't get more heart-warming than that) and the mussels appetizer will have you melting in your seat and checking your schedule to find out when you can return for more.
If you're not drawn in enough with the tiny space's blazing red décor and purple accents, a variety of Christian-influenced candles, sculptures and the amazing Dia de los Muertos pieces that Mireles' business partner and husband, George, and co-owner John Kelly assembled, perhaps the crowd of people waiting patiently in the doorway for one of the in-demand tables, or knowing that Wendy may be waiting on your table while George is cooking your food to order, will be enough to make you "heart" Corazon.
Visits here were two very different experiences, driven mostly by the surrounding clientele. Because everyone is in such close proximity here, Corazon is a place where you can sense the mood from the moment you walk in the door. A weekday night was a bit more somber and sedate, whereas a Friday visit was lively, joyful and just plain fun.
Chips and salsa ($3) come with mild or hot salsa and the chips come straight from a bag. But not to worry, the milder red tomato salsa with fresh onions and cilantro bodes well, as does the hot, a silky green rendition that had phenomenal flavors, but no substance. It was more like a sauce than a salsa.
I'd like to sample this again without it being fully pureed. The aforementioned mussels ($10) served with chorizo, tomato, jalapeno and cilantro, were simply genius. The chorizo proved a wonderful foil for the mussels, which were cooked so perfectly that the delicate mollusk easily detached in whole form. The sauce that collected in the bottom of the platter was made even more sumptuous with accompanying baguette slices of garlic butter toast. Just writing about this dish makes my mouth water.
Corazon always offers shredded beef, chicken, chorizo and roasted vegetable options for their entrees and subject to availability, pork carnitas (pulled pork) -- which we tried in a special of tostadas ($7) for superb results -- are also offered.
Corazon succeeds in giving a diner everything he could want in these dishes: fresh, thick green slices of avocado, generous helpings of cilantro and queso fresco. This same approach is mirrored in a stuffed and nicely browned chicken burrito with a cilantro crema ($8), choice of black or pinto beans and Corazon's rice, which is peppered with green peas.
Enchiladas ($8) come in a tightly wound and generously filled pair, served with more of the rice and again a choice of beans. The roja sauce on the chicken version tastes vaguely peanuty on the palate for a nice change of pace from typical enchiladas. Pescatarians and vegetarians can also find joy here in the form of salmon tacos ($10) with cilantro ranch sauce, or a tilapia ($11) served in a rich, white cream sauce with steamed vegetables.
Corazon is a true gem with involved, passionate owners who exude their love for their food and their patrons with every bite and every visit to your table. I look forward to returning soon, since so far, of the five dishes I sampled, my expectations have been blown away every time.
Went for brunch this weekend and it was amazing. Can't wait to go back for dinner.
1. More like a sauce than a salsa??? Salsa is Spanish for sauce. 2. Vegetarians do not eat fish. One should know a few basic terms before they are permitted to write about the food industry.
Look here Mr. sijan_heights, they maybe had that delicious-smelling breath b/c I bought them a drink for being so darn awesome the first time I was there! I'll take your advice on checking out the brunch, but not until I get YOU in the ring, pal.
I think I smelled liquor on the bartender, hostess AND chefs breath the ast time I was there. This place is the tops. I can't wait till they start seating outdoors. They do a killer brunch as well.
This place is SUPER small, with no real place to wait for a table. We weren't greeted when we got there and took off after a few minutes. Tried again on a weekday and things were better. Food is good and the prices are right.
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