Trio behind popular taco popup SLO launches downtown restaurant: ‘A dream come true’
The owners of the famous Mexican pop-up Corazon 805 Tacos finally have their own brick-and-mortar location in downtown San Luis Obispo.
Corazon Café, as the new restaurant is known, is located on the corner of Higuera and Chorro streets in the century-old Wineman Hotel.
“For a few years, we’ve thought about what it would take to open a restaurant (and) where the perfect place might be,” co-owner Sara McGrath wrote via email. “This opportunity…seemed like a great way to start small and manageable.”
The cafe celebrated its soft opening at 847 Higuera St. on May 6, though a grand opening date has yet to be set.
In the meantime, the team is still serving freshly made tacos on handmade tortillas via their popup tent.
“Having a cafe space to bring the community into is a dream come true,” McGrath said.
Who is behind the new SLO restaurant?
The team behind Corazon Café combines cultures, love and friendship in a partnership that transcends borders and horizons.
Chef and associate Crescencio “Chencho” Villar, 50, runs the kitchen. McGrath’s husband, Pedro Arias Lopez, 44, manages the front of the house, and McGrath, 48, handles community relations for the Corazon Café, coordinating special events such as art exhibitions and some administrative tasks .
McGrath and Lopez met 15 years ago while visiting Mexico and then got married.
McGrath is currently the service coordinator for the Tri-Counties Regional Center, which works with people with developmental disabilities living in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. She is also a lawyer, artist, travel lover and breast cancer survivor.
McGrath said Lopez and Villar are longtime friends and colleagues from Mexico. Lopez, who was born in Chiapas, worked for the family’s pan dulce and tamale-making business, and Villar grew up on the family farm in Guerrero.
The guys worked in restaurants in San Luis Obispo for “the last decade or so,” McGrath said, at Big Sky Cafe, Novo and the now-closed Pepe Delgado’s Mexican restaurant.
The trio launched Corazon 805 Tacos five years ago as a pop-up tent with the support of the owners of Big Sky Cafe and Novo, who allowed the team to prepare meals in these kitchens during off-peak hours and have provided advice and guidance.
They regularly serve Liquid Gravity Brewing Co. customers in San Luis Obispo and host weddings and other events.
In April, McGrath and his partners announced their next big move – to a former coffee house.
“Chencho left Novo after 13 years,” the trio announced April 7 on the Corazon805Tacos Facebook page. “Pedro left Big Sky after 15 years. Why? Because we have a brick and mortar!!!”
“It makes you happy to have your own place, do what you love, serve it to guests and keep them coming back again and again,” Villar said over the phone. “Our first customers were our regular Corazon 805 Tacos. They showed up on the first day and kept coming back. “
“Me and Pedro, we have a lot of responsibilities now, a lot of work, a lot to learn about having a restaurant,” he said. “In 24 hours, you had to learn everything… But we worked so hard to get there. What is good is that we are happy, we like what we do.
What’s on the menu at Corazon Café?
The new casual, brightly colored cafe has a limited menu at the moment, but partners say they’re starting small on purpose.
“It’s a very small kitchen and all electric,” McGrath explained.
The international heritage of the three partners is reflected in the café’s current cross-cultural offerings for breakfast, lunch and coffee breaks.
The mid-May menu included “chilaquiles, farmer’s market-fresh strawberry pancakes, corned beef, hash with eggs and potatoes, kale, and a spring salad with honey vinaigrette and avocado and breakfast wraps,” she said.
One of the restaurant’s specialties is drinks, McGrath said, including aguas frescas and coffee drinks — some of which have a Mexican twist.
A specialty latte, tascalate, is made with an imported base of roasted corn, cocoa, and annatto seeds.
“It’s been so popular that we’ve sold out and are awaiting another shipment from Chiapas, Mexico,” McGrath said.
For other drinks, they will also soon be bringing artisanal chocolate from Chiapas.
SLO County welcomes Mexican cuisine restaurant
Responses to the Corazon Café so far have been enthusiastic and welcoming, McGrath said.
“Our first customers were our regular Corazon 805 Tacos,” Villar said. “They showed up on the first day and kept coming back. “
In a post, the San Luis Obispo Latino Facebook page urged its followers to “stop by this new place with lots of delicious things, supporting our Latino community with their small businesses.”
“We want the space to be very inclusive and welcoming to everyone, and especially to our very diverse Latino community,” McGrath wrote via email. “We’ve put a lot of love into it with the help of very supportive friends and family. It’s a dream come true. It’s the ‘American Dream’. Coffee. Community. Culture. And ‘comida’.”
“This is the story of immigrants, and this is the story of immigrants – hard work, risk and eventual success,” said McGrath’s father, former Port San Luis Harbor Master Steve McGrath. by text message.
He understands that. He was born in Glasgow, while his wife, community leader Sandi Sigurdson, is from Vancouver, British Columbia, and their daughter Sara was born in the Scottish border country.
“Immigrants – we need more!” said Steve McGrath.
Learn more about Corazon Cafe
The Corazon Café is currently open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, but the owners plan to expand those hours soon.
For updates and details, email corazonc[email protected] or follow the company on Facebook or Instagram.