EL CORAZON DE COSTA MESA
OC’S SOUTH OF THE BORDER EXPERIENCE
For those of us in L.A. proper, it takes a lot to get us beyond the Orange Curtain, especially if it’s under the guise of eating Mexican food as we like to think we have a lock on the best Mexican around. But venture past the East LA Bridge and trek to El Corazon de Costa Mesa and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Located atop The Triangle in Costa Mesa, El Corazon de Costa Mesa is no greasy spoon, but it’s hardly “mall food” either. They liken your experience there as a trip to the Tropics without leaving SoCal; think of your visit as a “sipcation” to all things Mexican fare and drinks have to offer. And make sure to sit out on the patio complete with palapas, fire pits, and Mexican blankets for chilly evenings. The beautiful outdoor area actually offers a resort-like feel that screams tropical.
Popular dishes from El Corazon’s scratch kitchen, which offers a fine farm-to-fork experience with a menu of Mexican favorites priced from $5 to $19, include Yellowtail in Agua Chile featuring raw Baja yellowtail marinated in aguachile, a blend of lime juice and Serrano chiles, tossed with red onion, mango and cucumber and garnished with avocado and olive oil.
And don’t forget the Cabo-style Camaron al Mojo de Ajo, which includes a medley of jumbo shrimp marinated in fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil served with whole garlic cloves and roasted butter. A nice, cold beer to pair isn’t necessary but highly recommended.
During our recent Brunch visit, we started with the incredibly tasty Horchata Colada, a refreshing mix of rum, coconut rum, house-made horchata, agave nectar, lemon juice, and pineapple. While I tend to stay away from “sweet” when it comes to my cocktails, I do have a soft spot in my heart for horchata and this particular drink was as good as it gets (come on, you’re mixing tasty rice milk with booze!). The Sangria is also a winner—its’ nice, cool and refreshing.
An order of Tableside Guacamole with fresh made seasonal salsa is a great starter item, plus the presentation is first rate. It doesn’t get fresher or tastier than this delicious guac. And it goes so well with a glass (or pitcher) of House Margarita with Milagro Silver.
We started brunch with an order of Spicy Tuna ‘Jicama Tacos’, think spicy tuna sashimi style on a thin slice of jicama topped with a tropical slaw of mango, cucumber, cilantro, red onion, and green apple, sprinkled with sesame, crushed pepitas and green onions. It’s a small bite-size order that goes quick but it is light and fresh, but if you’re already going to opt for a hefty brunch, then you may want to skip this mouthwatering appetizer.
The Camarones al Ajillo Baja Style Tacos are a favorite as flavorful shrimp are mixed with roasted garlic, white wine, tomatoes, onions, peppers and melted cheese, and combined into a fantastic and filling dish.
The Chilaquiles Rojas, tortilla chips simmered in a tomato chipotle sauce, fried eggs, chicken, Mexican crema and queso añejo, is an outstanding and wholly authentic dish. While I was raised with chilaquiles made with cut up tortillas, this dish, which uses chips instead, is hearty heaven filled with loads of flavor.
If you’re looking for a healthier option, but without losing anything in the taste department, the Spinach & Sweet Potato Enchiladas Verdes are a must-have. The green creamy-poblano sauce is so savory that you will scoop up every last drop. Prepared with fresh corn tortillas and topped with melted cheese and served with rice and beans, this dish isn’t overkill but is spot-on when it comes to taste. These are among the best enchiladas I’ve had.
A great feature at El Corazon is the Make Your Own Margarita Bar where you select two fruits, one herb, and tequila for your choice. I choose muddled blueberries and watermelon in my margarita and thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful taste.
If you’re looking for dessert, the Mexican Coffee—fresh brewed spiced coffee, prepared tableside with flamed tequila and liqueur (choose between Kahlua, Frangelico or Baileys), served with vanilla ice cream—is a winner. You can even mix tequila with Kahula and Baileys! I always think there’s nothing better than liquid dessert and this is a new found favorite. You have to love the presentation as a fully-stocked cart with burners and prep area is rolled out to your table where a barista prepares flambé-style coffee by heating tequila with Kahlua, Frangelico or Bailey’s Irish Cream. As the liquor ignites, it is precisely blended with spiced coffee and topped with vanilla ice cream resulting in a mix of warm and cool tastes.
You can also choose between Home-made Churros with white chocolate, raspberry and lemon dipping sauces, or Flan, prepared classic style, or as Cream Cheese Flan with Sea Salt (that’s my recommendation).
And don’t forget El Corazon’s happy hour Monday through Friday from 4-6:30pm, which includes $3 House Margaritas such as Berries & Basil, Spiked Melon, and traditional salt-rimmed margaritas with house-made agave. Bottled beer is $3 each. Small plates, which include grilled edamame, guacamole and chips, nachos, tacos and veggie quesadillas, range from $3-$4.75 each. Every Monday from 4pm until closing, House Margaritas are $3 and El Corazon’s signature Strawberry Horchata Margarita is just $4. Taco Tuesday gets underway weekly from 4-11pm with $2 chicken or al pastor tacos. Steak tacos are $2.50 and shrimp is $3.50. Go ahead and pair your tacos with a bucket of Pacificos for just $12.
So make a run for the border without the hassle and drama and live it up at El Corazon de Costa Mesa—no passport required.
El Corazon de Costa Mesa is located atop The Triangle at 1870 Harbor Blvd in Costa Mesa. Lunch starts weekdays at 11am; Brunch at 10am on weekends until 11pm Sunday-Thursday, and 2am Friday and Saturday nights. Call 949-612-2349.
By: Jose Martinez