Mi Corazón, the newest restaurant in Cannon Beach, promises to be a visual banquet for art lovers as well as a satisfying culinary experience for those hungry for Central Mexican cuisine.
The restaurant, which celebrated its grand opening the evening of Jan. 10, draws its aesthetic appeal from hand-crafted tables, glass chandeliers designed with upcycled materials, vivid paintings, hand-carved Milagros from Mexico, and other customized décor.
“We really want people to feel like they’re in Mexico,” said Emiliano Alvarez, who owns and operates the restaurant alongside Enrique Monrroy.
Disappointed with the clichéd décor — such as sombreros, ponchos and mustachioed mascots — often employed at other Mexican restaurants, Alvarez and Monrroy sought to create a dining establishment with an authentic representation.
“You will see more art than anything else,” Alvarez said. “You don’t see those clichéd things you see here (in the U.S.). We just want to show people the real way we have Mexican.”
The two men have long possessed a dream to open a Mexican restaurant in the community they love. They both have roots in the local restaurant industry: Alvarez worked several years at the Lazy Susan Café and Monrroy worked his way from dishwasher to breakfast cook at the Stephanie Inn.
They opened a restaurant in Warrenton about four years ago, but still hoped to eventually find a location closer to home. According to Alvarez, they also were determined, “If we’re going to open a restaurant, it doesn’t matter how long it takes us, we have to be in downtown.”
“We feel like it’s worth it,” he said, adding they passed up other locations in Tolovana. “We’ve been waiting for this for so many years.”
Their patience paid off when, about a year ago, they found the ideal spot. Fruffles vacated the building at 140 S. Hemlock, Five Zero Trees took part of the space for a cannabis store and Alvarez and Monrroy jumped on the other half, which included an upstairs space for Alvarez to rent and use for a salon.
The building needed plumbing, electricity, and restrooms — everything to transform it into a restaurant — but they could not be deterred. In February, they closed the restaurant in Warrenton, eliminating the commute and freeing themselves up to run the salon, which opened in March and where Monrroy is a makeup artist, and more importantly, focus on the new restaurant.
Their journey during the past year has not been without challenges, mostly professional, but also personal. Their friend and partner Claudia Salgado, a Cannon Beach resident, traumatically passed away July 8 in a car wreck near Salem.
“It’s been hard for us, because we were a team of three,” Alvarez said. “She wasn’t really an employee. She was part of the family.”
She was Monrroy’s de facto right-hand in the kitchen. The men relied on her work ethic and enthusiasm, and they expressed regret she will not see their collective efforts come to fruition. They have planted an herb garden near the restaurant, which doubles as a memorial to Salgado. When they sent a video of the nearly completed interior to her children, they responded that their mother would be proud of what has been created.
All the furniture within the restaurant is customized, except for the chairs. The light fixtures were created by Russ Morgan, who designs upcycled chandeliers and light shades with found objects, wire, and tumbled glass. Local woodcarver Dennis Thomas hand-crafted the tables, which each have a unique shape. Socorro Sanchez-Cantu’s art hangs from the walls, along with hand-crafted Milagros, decorative heart-shaped votive offerings traditionally used to ask for healing in the Catholic Church.
“They’re pretty trendy at this moment, but very traditional, as well,” Alvarez said.
Under Monrroy, the head chef, the restaurant’s menu derives its range of dishes and flavors from Michoacán, a state in Central Mexico. The food will be made from scratch, down to the condiments and tortillas. Even the bar drinks, served on the rocks, will incorporate fresh-pressed ingredients.
They also have made a conscious effort to create an environmentally friendly location. They will not use plastic straws and the to-go boxes are made with recyclable materials.
Sitting inside the restaurant, reflecting on the months of hard work they have poured into it, Monrroy confessed, “there’s a lot of feelings right now.”
“I’m excited and emotional,” he said. “It’s my baby.”
The restaurant will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the off-season and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the summer. For more information, visit the Mi Corazón Facebook page or call 503-436-4074.