As if the city of Bell needed another Mexican powerhouse, they got one. Though, this one isn’t your traditional Mexican cenaduria and has craft beer on draft too. I first caught wind of Corazón y Miel when I covered it for Grub Street last month. Besides that it was a spinoff from a former Salvadoran American chef at Animal named Eduardo Ruiz, I didn’t really know what to expect, because well, let’s just say that, that part of L.A. isn’t exactly known for their thriving food scene. But after my meal there, it is my civic duty as a born and bred Eastside resident to report.
It is made clear that the meal will be something different when you are served a bowl of chile-lime fried peanuts, peas and chickpeas instead of the usual totopos and salsa. Whenever I visit Mexico, snacks or botanas such as these are the things I look forward to the most, they are usually complimentary and can range from things like sliced jicama fruit to shrimp broth, as long as you keep drinking. And that’s exactly what these salty, addictive treats do: pique your appetite and make you want to order a lot more food and drinks. The menu filled with almost too-good-to-be-true underpriced innovative takes on Latin classics will confirm that yup, this will pretty much be one of the most memorable Latin restaurant meals that you will have in Los Angeles.
We visited on one of their opening days, so most of the eating customers that night were close friends and family. Including a worried mom of one of the crew members who saw us snapping photos. “I’m sure everything will be successful,” my girlfriend Paola assured her.
We started off with some of their cocktails, okay, a lot of their cocktails.
I’m proud to announce that each and every one of them was extremely nice, rivaling the complexity and easy drinkability of other popular Mexican themed bars, maybe even better.
Along side these drinks, we were served a bunch of their appetizers.
Who would have thought that the city of Bell would be responsible for a deconstructed Carnitas plate? A good one at that, crispy with a thick layer of browned bread crumbs and a tender inside. It’s what a traditional french forcemeat would look like if it took a vacation in Mexico and ended up falling in love with a Milanesa Poblana. Then there are the little things, like the “scallion ash” dip that accompanies their potato chip like Patatas Bravas. It’s nothing too crazy, but the smokey, powdery, intensely oniony charcoal-colored dip is cool enough to keep you slightly excited about their food in general.
Main courses are on another level as well. For $10, you will get a whopping fistful of a burger with Mexican, Salvadoran and American roots. The patty is thick, medium rare and it’s lamb. The bright Serrano curtido topping will remind you of the stuff that you pile on top of your favorite greasy pupusa, and the sturdy, slightly sweet sesame seeded cemita bun will not fall apart. The main star of the menu–that also happens to be the most expensive at $16–is the Salvadoran classic known as Pan con Champipe. A turkey leg that is braised until it falls apart, topped with a gravy boat full of tart, tomato salsa, pickled stuff and then disproportionally placed atop a fluffy bolillo roll smothered with mayo. It can feed two, easily.
By this point, we were stuffed beyond belief but realized that we still hadn’t sampled the Ceviche, and when you have a significant other that was raised in Puerto Vallarta, this is unacceptable.
Their Ceviche is $9 and comes packed with fork-tender octopus and satisfying large shrimps, despite that they add the flavors of soy, ginger and fried peanuts, it still stays relatively true to ceviche and doesn’t lose the battle with sashimi. I’ve always loved the toasted Peruvian corn element on ceviches too.
When it comes time for dessert, you will probably be stuffed beyond belief. But alas, do not skip and just go for a run later in the week.
Specifically, the Niños y Buñuelos dessert, fried puff pastry stuffed with perfectly ripe bananas and served with caramel and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It sounds like a lazy afterthought and tacky as hell but actually awesome, flaky, almost like phyllo and barely sweet. The Pastel de Leche is cool too, but not as unforgettable as the former.
I’m really happy for these dudes and wish them all the best on their first brick and mortar endeavor. I know it’s quite a leap from their past catering career, especially in the area. A lot of people probably told them it was a bad idea but I’m glad they didn’t give a fuck and decided to open up.
Corazón y Miel
6626 Atlantic Ave