Gone are the $16 margaritas. Goodbye lobster and quail. Effective yesterday, Chris Israel’s highly anticipated Mexican cantina in downtown’s West End has rebooted with a more casual menu. Just one month in, with mixed word of mouth, Corazon is changing focus and overhauling service. Says Chefstable’s Kurt Huffman, Corazon’s collaborator and business arm: “We got a lot of critical feedback from the food community that Corazon wasn’t the restaurant we set out to build.”
The original idea was to capture the accessible, Baja-inspired Mexican beach food of Israel’s youth. But according to Huffman, Israel, who is part Mexican and a lauded culinary icon, felt an obligation to take a more sophisticated approach. “The general manager sported a jacket,” says Huffman. “It was way more formal and rigid than we had planned. People got angry just seeing the menu prices, and we had to get rid of them. We were getting pigeonholed with the dreaded ‘authentic’ word.”
The new plan expands the tacos menu, with seven options at $3 on Corazon’s stone-ground tortillas. (Dinner portions add rice, beans, salsa, and guacamole, for $16-22).
A few staples will stay (the Caesar salad, grilled corn elote), but the entire menu will be available everywhere, unlike the first iteration. It’s now possible to get a full dinner at the bar or a few tacos in the dining room. The re-design includes a happy hour menu with $2.50 tacos and $4 pints.
But ambition is not off the table. The revamped list still holds five desserts, including a house-ground masa cake. Meanwhile, the likes of papaya salad with hibiscus vinaigrette, and a wild Mexican white prawn ceviche roam the list—the kind of things we’d expect from the owner of Gruner and legend behind Zefiro.
“We really just want to be a Portland interpretation of Mexican food,” says Huffman. “Over time, we want to have the best tacos in Portland. We want it to be a rock n’ roll taqueria, the way we intended it from the start.”
1205 SW Washington St
Happy Hour: 4-6 and 10-12