The music had been calling to my family for a long time.

Specifically, it was a radio jingle for El Corazon restaurant in Portland. Every time my wife and kids heard it, they’d start singing along to the infectious rap, which rhymes basically everything on the menu, from burritos and tacos to chimichangas and enchiladas.

But being creatures of habit who stay close to home, we never got around to going to El Corazon. Now we don’t have to, because it has come to us, by opening a South Portland location called Casita Corazon. It’s located near the Southern Maine Community College campus in the building that housed 158 Pickett Street Cafe, a popular neighborhood spot that closed in August after 20 years in business.

Though the song brought me to the new Casita Corazon, which opened in April, the food will bring me back there. Everything we ordered on a recent Saturday night was fresh and flavorful, and delightfully different than other Mexican food I’ve had. That said, I’m not very adventurous, so I mostly stick to tacos and burritos.

I did, in fact, order tacos dorados ($12.25), described simply as hard-shell tacos. I usually get soft tortillas, but hard-shell tacos – made with Old El Paso store-bought shells – were what I ate as a kid. I guess I was feeling nostalgic.

Tacos dorados with beans and rice at Casita Corazon in South Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

These tacos came in lightly-fried tortillas, not corn shells. I got two large tacos stuffed with shredded chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and Chihuahua cheese. They were delicious and filling, and the tortillas didn’t crumble like a corn shell, plus they had a nice flavor. The tacos came with sides of rice and refried beans.

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My daughter, Dinah, tried a chimichanga ($14.95). Neither of us had ever had or seen one, and we quickly decided it was basically a deep-fried burrito. Golden brown on the outside, it included shredded chicken, cilantro, queso fresco and Chihuahua cheese. It also came with rice, beans and pico de gallo.

Tamales with rice and beans at Casita Corazon in South Portland, run by the owners of El Corazon in Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

My wife had the tamales ($14.95), which are made of cornmeal dough wrapped around fillings and cooked in corn husk. These had a beef/pork/red chile combination as the focus of the filling.

We also got a side of chips and salsa ($4.50), plus some guacamole for $1.25 more. The chips were light and crisp, and the guacamole was thick and rich.

Some other menu items I’d like to try include the fried green tomato tacos, the pollo en mole enchiladas, the tostados and the Sonoran hot dog. The latter described online as a bacon wrapped hot dog in a bun with Chihuahua cheese, refried beans, guacamole, pico, mustard and mayo.

The interior dining space has been redone inside with hues of blue, orange and yellow. A large photo mural of a farm worker covers one wall. But the location makes it ideal for takeout, since it’s only minutes from possible picnic spots, like Bug Light Park and Willard Beach.

This mural is a focal point of the dining room of Casita Corazon in South Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier 


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