Last time I was in downtown Santa Barbara (less than a year ago), I went to a pop-up sushi bar at Three Pickles Deli. Yes, inside a deli! But, as the deli itself is closed at night, it was a perfect location to set up a pop-up inside. Sadly, the pop-up sushi bar is no longer there but now there is a pop-up every Sunday called Corazon Cucina run by Chef Ramon Velazquez and his wife Chrissie.
Another big change since I was last there is that the neighborhood (aka the Presidio Neighborhood), which is centered around a historical Spanish fortress and Santa Barbara’s former Chinatown, is now booming. While last time we walked a few blocks from State Street to find Three Pickles Deli on an isolated street, now it is surrounded by restaurants, wine tasting rooms, coffee houses and shops. There were people everywhere and I almost didn’t recognize it.
Due to the popularity of the area, and the Corazon Cucina pop-up, it was difficult to find parking. And, once we did, we found ourselves at the back of a long line.
Corazon Cucina is inspired by the cuisine of Baja California and Chef Ramon Velazquez focuses on fresh seasonal local ingredients. Most of the ingredients are purchased at the local Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market. The menu may change based on available ingredients but the handmade tortillas stay the same.
The line didn’t take too long and when it was our turn to order, we decided to order everything on the menu (5 tacos, 2 ceviche tostadas and 2 Aguafrescas).
There are two freshly made Agua Frescas – La Rana Agua Fresca with pineapple, cucumber and mint and the Ginger Lime Chia Agua Fresca. There is also almond milk horchata, beer, iced tea and soda available.
Both of the ceviches ($10 each) were delicious. The fresh fish and bright flavors shone in both of them. It would be really hard to pick a favorite so I would order both again.
La Lola Ceviche (Baja California sashimi quality seabass, avocado, jicama, cucumber, serrano and pickled onions on a crispy tortilla)
Aguachile Ceviche (Mexican wild scallops, ginger, habanero, carrot aguachile, avocado and yuzu on a crispy tortilla)
Of the five tacos (ranging from $4-$8), there are choices for everyone – vegetarian, fish, chicken, pork. While I would order all of them again, the standouts were the fresh vegetable Mercado Taco, the Ensenada de Pescado Taco (perhaps one of the best fish tacos I have had) and the slow cooked pork Guisado Taco.
Mercado Taco (butternet squash, kale, asparagus, jack + goat cheese, morita tomatillo slasa)
Grobernador Taco (sauteed Mexican white shrimp, jack cheese, cabbage, pico de gallo, lime mayo crema, salsa cruda)
Ensenada de Pescado Taco (Captain Fatty’s beer battered ling cod, cabbage, radish, lime mayo crema)
Tinga Taco (poached chicken in chipotle, avocado, pickled onion)
Guisado Taco (slow cooked pork chop, adobo, ensaladita)
While the dishes had plenty of flavor on their own, if you want more flavor, pick up some pineapple habanero, pickled onions, peanut arbol, salsa mugrosa or salsa cruda at the salsa bar.
Corazon Cucina is only open on Sundays from 11:30am – 5:00pm. But, get there early because many of the popular items frequently sell out early well before 5pm.
Corazon Cocina ~ PopUp Sunday Mexican Specials
126 E. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101