Café Corazon Exudes Charm, Warmth
Mexican restaurant is Riverwest’s latest dining option
The small bar is front and center, with a few tables surrounding it. The wall behind the bar is filled with some Day of the Dead skulls and religious artifacts. The Spanish word “corazon” means “heart” and, appropriately, red is a dominant color at Café Corazon.
Owners John Kelly and George and Wendy Mireles can be seen bartending, cooking and waiting tables. They make a versatile team.
Mexican menus can often be frustrating to vegetarians and vegans, but this one is accommodating to all. An example is the quesadilla ($5-$7), which offers flour tortillas with a filling of meat, cheese, grilled vegetables or even soy cheddar. They are topped with sour cream, chopped lettuce and tomato. With hints of aged cheddar, the soy cheese is surprisingly flavorful.
One surprise starter listed among the salads and soups is mussels ($9). Mussels never appear on Mexican menus, but these are given the appropriate treatment. The blue mussels are cooked with white wine and some fresh onion, garlic, jalapeño, chopped tomato and crumbled chorizo. The chorizo is on the mild side and the jalapeños are restrained, for results that are daring and good. There is plenty of bread to soak up the flavorful liquid, and when the mussels are gone there will still be more chorizo flavored with the broth.
The rest of the menu consists of tacos, burritos, enchiladas, grilled tilapia and a burger. Brunch is served on weekends.
The cheapest, most basic item is the truck stop taco ($2). After you choose a filling, tomato, onion, cheese and cilantro will be added. Meat options include carne asada, chorizo, chicken and mechada, which is Venezuelan, slow-cooked beef that tastes a bit like Cuban ropa vieja. The meat is pulled and makes a great filling for tacos and enchiladas. Meat-free options include a tasty mix of grilled vegetables, soy chorizo and a vegan taco. The soy chorizo is an excellent substitute that tastes like the spicy pork sausage—all that is missing is the grease.
The enchiladas ($7-$8) come in a pair with any of the previous fillings and the typical cheese and onion. They are served with a mild red sauce and include rice and beans. The beans are a choice of pinto or vegetarian black. Vegetarians have another winner.
On the down side, chips and salsa cost $3 (and the red and green salsas are both on the mild side). The margaritas could be better as well. They are too sweet; the sugar removes any tartness from the lime. But you’ll find a thoughtful beer selection, a few wines and an interesting choice of specialty drinks listed on a large chalkboard. The food is good though not great, except for those mussels with chorizo, and the restaurant’s small size can be a problem on weekends, as there is little room for those standing and waiting for a table.
But Café Corazon is worth the trouble. It exudes charm, the service is warm, and the unique building is a classic. n
3129 N. Bremen St.
Credit Cards: MC, VS