Family-owned restaurant El Corazon serves up vintage Tex-Mex in McKinney


In Spanish, el corazon means “the heart.” Co-owners John and Gilbert Cuellar said they named the restaurant El Corazon because they consider it to be “deep in the heart of Tex-Mex.”

The Cuellars, who are cousins, were born into the restaurant industry. Their grandmother started selling homemade tamales in 1926, and their fathers helped start a popular line of Mexican food restaurants in the 1940s. At one point, there were more than 100 of their restaurants across the U.S.

But El Corazon is one of a kind, Gilbert said. The restaurant features the Cuellar family’s old-school Tex-Mex recipes, which have been passed down and perfected over the years, he said.

“We want to take people back to the type of Tex-Mex they had growing up,” Gilbert said. “What we want to do is give people up-to-date food in a vintage setting and style. We want people to eat the food and say, ‘God, I haven’t had that in years.’”

The food is prepared from scratch every day, General Manager Nick Gonzalez said. The tomatoes are smoked every morning for the salsa, and the tortillas are hand-rolled and pressed in front of customers.

Menu items such as the sizzling-hot fajitas, tacos nortenos, Super Nachos, and margaritas are what the restaurant is most known for, John said.

The margarita selection is extensive, with more than 10 types, ranging from sweet mango or watermelon flavors to spicy jalapeno-infused cocktails.

While the food and drinks keep customers coming back, El Corazon’s Dining for a Cause program helps bring in new crowds.

Through this program, El Corazon partners with local nonprofits, booster clubs, churches and schools to host fundraisers at the restaurant. The organizations receive 15% of the food and drink proceeds during the event.

“It’s our way that we give back to a lot of the organizations in McKinney,” Catering Manager Deza Rae said. “We want to give back to the community.”

El Corazon
1222 N. Central Expressway, McKinney
Hours: Tue.-Thu. and Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., closed Mon.

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Emily Davis
Emily graduated from Sam Houston State University with a degree in multi-platform journalism and a minor in criminal justice in Spring 2018. During her studies, Emily worked as an editor and reporter at The Houstonian, SHSU's local newspaper. Upon graduation, she began an editorial internship at Community Impact Newspaper in DFW, where she was then hired as Community Impact's first McKinney reporter in August. Three fun facts about Emily: 1.) She is a lover of mystery novels, movies, TV shows and podcasts. 2.) She has an 11-year-old, 3-pound Pomeranian. 3.) She loves lacrosse, and was captain and then coach of her high school team.
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