“Sopa Azteca por favor,” he said. It had a much more sophisticated ring to it than had my order: “Your tortilla soup, please.”
He was the guy behind me in the Corazón de Maíz lunch line, Mexican, and he comes here, he tells me, whenever he’s in town, hungry for the taste of home. “Best soup in the city,” he tells me, as we chat at Corazon’s salsa counter. He takes his bowl of soup to go. I stay put and find myself a spot in the sun at one of the half dozen tables of this little Mexican café in ByWard Market Square.
Not sure I’m ready to proclaim it the best in town – this would require more research – but surely it must be up there. The bowl comes fully loaded, revved up and ready to get you through your afternoon, but “tortilla soup” doesn’t begin to describe the thing, nor do justice to the complexity of it. The tortillas are only one small part of it – used, in this version, as a garnish to crown the top. Corazón de Maíz’s sopa Azteca starts with a rich chicken-tomato-garlic-ancho pepper broth into which the Mexican herb epazote is added. Then shredded chicken, chunks of avocado, sprigs of cilantro, a swirl of Mexican crema, feta cheese in place of queso fresco, and pastilla peppers sauteed in oil at the end, to give it a bit more kick. It comes topped with strips of toasted corn tortilla and with pork rinds, if you’ve a hankering for those. You can add lime juice, a dollop of sour cream, and head to the salsa bar to jazz it up some more.
My Mexican friend gave me the impression he ordered it every week. I wouldn’t be surprised; it’s made, and priced, to be habit forming.
A bowl costs $4.25. Corazón de Maíz is Open Monday to Wednesday and Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm; Thursday and Friday, 11 am to 7 pm; Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. 55 ByWard Market Square, 613-244-1661