The city of Bell creeps up on you suddenly. One minute you are driving along the 710, past a field of warehouses and industrial smoke stacks; the next you are suddenly on Atlantic Avenue, the hub of Bell that includes a few chains and family businesses. And that's about it, save for Eduardo Ruiz's Corazón y Miel, an inviting Latin restaurant that opened in May 2013 and is still bringing curious diners in from all over LA. It's easy to see why: Ruiz (formerly of Animal) has created an atmosphere where both adventurous and cautious eaters can enjoy themselves (chicken hearts for the former, the corazon burger for the latter). It's a neighborhood spot (on a recent visit, a boisterious group huddled around the bar, watching the Stanley Cup playoffs) that has quickly become a dining destination—and, with a few exceptions, a well-deserved one at that.
The first thing you might notice about the portions at Corazón y Miel is that, for the most part, they are huge. We couldn't believe the bowl of ceviche de corazon that was plopped in front of us. Filled to the brim with large chunks of shrimp, cucumber, burnt peanuts and onions, the ceviche could have been a meal in itself—which was somewhat perplexing. It wasn't that we didn't like it, more that we were confused by its role, and by the fact that we felt it should be eaten with a giant spoon as opposed to being scooped up by the accompanying tortilla chips. The burrata y tomate, on the other hand, is a delicate construction, complete with strands of flower chives that lay atop fresh burrata and pickled tomato. Here is a dish I will remember for a long time: some of the best burrata I have had in ages is coupled with a perfectly balanced salsa molcajete, the two sides of sweet and salty meeting each other in an unforgettable bite (though charging $1.50 for grilled bread on the side? Come on, man.). Our waitress tried to take our plate away with one remaining bite, but we quickly made it known that that wasn't going to happen .
There are a few entrées that seem to effortlessly straddle meals here—is this a breakfast bowl in front of me, or a hearty dinner plate? One such dish, the lomo hash, was incredible. Sliced pork tenderloin is mixed in with potatoes, bell peppers and blistered cherry tomatoes, with a translucent poached egg perched on top. "Go ahead and break it," coaxed our waitress, though it is clear from the get-go that there is no other way to eat this dish. The yolk becomes a cohesive bind, bringing all of the ingredients together so that the result is a savory scramble of sorts—something I would enjoy no matter what time of day. I wanted to love the wild boar chilaquilles, too, but there were a few issues that couldn't be ignored. Homemade tortilla chips are buried below a pile of sliced radishes and halved tomatoes, guajillo chilis and roasted carrot crema, crumbles of cheese and flavorful pork. Add a fried egg (that curiously arrives on its own small side plate) and there is a lot going on. We enjoyed it until the tortilla chips started to soften, and it suddenly became a lukewarm mound that couldn't be finished.
Despite a few missteps from the kitchen, there were so many solid moments that I wouldn't hesitate visiting again for that lomo hash. Or the namesake appetizer—the corazon y miel, featuring tender, sautéed chicken hearts and onions drizzled with honey for a sweet and unexpected start. Or the exceptional service from our waitress, who seemed to appear and disappear at just the right time. Or the capirotada, a decadent Mexican bread pudding with walnuts and fig whip and some of the best bites of fresh figs in recent memory. Corazón y Miel may be one of Bell's only gems, but at least it's a bright one.
What to Eat: Corazón y miel ($3). Burrata y tomate ($10). Lomo hash ($16). Capirotada ($6).
What to Drink: Among a fine list of beer and wine at Corazón y Miel is also a selection of signature cocktails, which is where you should focus your attention: there is an impeccable array of drinks, including the Dealer's Choice ($12). You pick a spirit, give your bartender some guidance (do you prefer something sweet? something sour?) and let he or she do the rest. If you're not so ballsy, the Flor y Miel Sour ($12) is a dream. A tantalizing mix of pisco, cocchi Americano, benedictine and prickly pear is topped with frothy egg white and a gentle squeeze of lime, resulting in a creamy sip that is at once sweet and sour.
Where to Sit: The restaurant is small, and you can either sit at a table or at the bar. For larger groups or intimate dates, the booths are your best bet.
Conversation Piece: For those who want to experience Ruiz's cooking without driving out to Bell, the chef recently opened Picnik, a beer and sausage house in Old Town Pasadena. We're partial to the Sweet Sicilian with sauerkraut and peppers, paired with a Dogfish Head 90 Min IPA to wash it all down.