Corazon De Maiz Mexican Food
By Sue Nador

A shared passion and vision

Mariana Torio’s love of food began in Mexico in her grandmothers' kitchens. “I would visit and we would cook together,” she recalls. Those early lessons proved a good foundation for her later studies at the esteemed culinary university in San Angel, Mexico (CESSA), where she obtained her degree.

After graduation, Mariana moved to Oaxaca to work as a chef in a restaurant bar. She eventually fell in love with a colleague, Eric Igari. They shared a passion for Mexican food and the same vision. “We always wanted to open our own restaurant,” Mariana says. Eric moved to Ottawa in 2006 and Mariana followed two years later.

Mariana and Eric’s early jobs in Canada were both in the food industry, working for others; Eric worked in a bakery and Mariana worked as a chef in the Zambian embassy. In 2010, Mariana and Eric realized their dream and opened Corazon de Maiz in the ByWard market. “We are a very good team,” Mariana insists.

Be nice to people because you don’t know what they’ve been through. - Mariana Torio, co-owner
Corazon de Maiz co-owner Mariana Torio cooks authentic recipes from her native Mexico.
Co-owner Mariana Torio cooks authentic recipes from her native Mexico. Photo courtesy of Corazon de Maiz
Corazon de Maiz serves authentic Mexican food, including burritos.
Photo courtesy of Corazon de Maiz

The real deal in Mexican food

Eating at Corazon de Maiz is the real deal. Everything is fresh and made from scratch with authentic ingredients. The most popular dishes are the soft tacos and burritos, but the menu continues to expand with recent additions such as tamales and ceviche. “My tortillas are amazing, and I feel very proud of the tostadas,” Mariana says. Customers from Mexico have said that the food at Corazon de Maiz tastes exactly like the food back home. “We try to keep it very very real," says Mariana.

At Corazon de Maiz, the service is as outstanding as the food. Mariana and Eric work with a small team, who were hired for the right attitude. “We look for people who are very kind,” says Mariana. “A lot of our customers tell me, 'This is my comfort zone because you are so nice to us.'” It is important to Mariana that their customers leave happy. She says her motto is: “Be nice to people because you don’t know what they’ve been through.”

Photo courtesy of Corazon de Maiz

Hard work builds a loyal following

Mariana and Eric work hard and bring unique talents to their business. They begin their day at 6 am and work till late. Eric focuses on administration, shopping and also some prep. “Eric is my sous-chef,” says Mariana. “I prepare the marinades and hot sauces, and do the cooking.” Mariana admits they sometimes have their differences – like agreeing which side of the fridge the lemons should be stored.  “This business requires patience. Lots and lots of patience,” she laughs.

Corazon de Maiz has a loyal local following. Many patrons work nearby or make it a destination to satisfy their cravings. Regulars, some of whom have been coming since day one, will brave rain, snow and heat to eat at Corazon de Maiz every single week. “This makes me think they like our food,” Mariana points out.

The summer months are busier, with tourists coming from around the world. Corazon de Maiz is a busy spot, and while the restaurant only seats 13, many will come for take-out. “We get a lot of support,” says Mariana, “which is amazing.”

[Header photo courtesy of Corazon de Maiz]

Corazon de Maiz is located in Ottawa's bustling ByWard Market.
Photo courtesy of Corazon de Maiz
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