Springtime in Maine, while a welcome change from the previous six months of freezing temps, can be a confusing time. We’ve all experienced the schizophrenic nature of April and May weather: rain for a week, followed by two 90 days in a row, followed by five days of 50 degrees and fog, etc. The scenario is all too familiar.
Which is why, when two or three beautiful days manage to string themselves together, the siren song of the margarita often calls us to the nearest watering hole. Luckily for me, that happened to be the brand new Restaurante El Corazon in Longfellow Square.
After almost four years of serving up quick and easy traditional Mexican dishes from a cherry red food truck, often found parked on the corner of Spring and Temple streets, it was time for El Corazon to take the next step. Since snatching up the spot previously inhabited by Petite Jacqueline (which now resides on Market Street), it was only a matter of months before the brick-and-mortar location opened to the public, appropriately on Cinco de Mayo.
I’ve already been to the new El Corazon a handful of times and wish I could say it was because I was being extremely thorough with my research. But the reality is that I have a pretty serious guacamole addiction. Somebody stop me.
Since the weather has gotten warmer, they’ve put out few tables for outdoor seating, joining LFK and Pai Men in the cool kids club. Inside, the decor is simple and cozy with lots of wood, exposed beams and, most importantly, family photos on all of the walls. Many businesses in Portland are family-run, but it’s nice to be reminded every now and again.
Up a couple steps and to the left is the bar, which serves as the focal point of the restaurant. I grabbed my usual seat and ordered my usual drink: the house margarita with salt ($8). The mix is poured from a giant 10-gallon receptacle that sits on the back of the bar, and I overheard the bartender mention that they go through three or four of them in one day, which does not surprise me. The margarita is strong, not too sweet and served in a pint glass. Not bad for eight bucks.
To further wash down my chips and salsa, I ordered the Nostalgia Punch ($9) next. The combination of pineapple rum, amaretto and orange juice hit the spot and is a nice option for those not in the mood for a marg. A house sangria ($6) is also on the menu, along with five rotating taps (Allagash, Mast Landing and Rising Tide made appearances) and a great selection of cans and bottles.
Restaurante El Corazon is a natural extension of the old reliable food truck we’ve come to know, love and, depending on your level of guacamole addiction, rely on. A cozy atmosphere, cheap and delicious food, and a kickass bar make this spot a new staple in Longfellow Square.
WHERE: 190 State St., Portland
WEBSITE: facebook.com/elcorazonlongfellowsquare and elcorazonportland.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday
AMENITIES: Central location, outdoor seating, full bar, complimentary chips and salsa, pint-sized mixed drinks, friendly family-owned feel, the sweet smell of burritos in the air, daily food specials, frequently updated cocktail list
BOTTOM LINE: El Corazon’s new brick-and-mortar location is everything that’s good about their food truck amplified by an expanded menu and the ability to serve alcohol. Enjoy this new cozy spot on the West End with one of the tall, cool house margaritas as soon as you can.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes