Comal 2020 Shattuck Ave./University Ave., downtown. Several spacious seating areas welcome diners in this vast venue—the front bar, the middle dining area with wood booths, and the back open-air covered dining area and beer garden with picnic tables.
Inside, industrial decor and high ceilings blend with big art by local artists. And though a fuss has been made about the Meyer Sound system designed by this renowned audio engineering company headquartered in Berkeley, on a recent roaring Saturday night I barely heard any music. Though drink options here include draft beers galore and flights with selections from the library of Tequila and Mezcal (shots are served with house-made sangrita), cocktails are king. Made with hibiscus syrup and served in a stemmed margarita glass with a cacao-dusted rim, the pretty, pink, and peppery Jack Satan is hard to beat. But don’t overlook the addictive Comal Swizzle that is a sublime tropical combination of Tequila, pineapple, passion fruit, and lime. Many items on the Mexican menu emphasizing Oaxacan cuisine are designed for sharing, especially the Platos Fuertes section featuring a very popular spit-roasted whole brined chicken and wood-grilled whole fish. For an appetizer the guacamole is primo and served with really good housemade corn chips, but consider also a refreshing stack of jicama and cucumber sprinkled with chili powder and lime, or sikil
pak—a guacamole alternative made with a mix of grilled eggplant and habanero chiles topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. Specialties include a variety of mole dishes such as beef and pork albondigas in a smoky adobo sauce with ancho chiles, and enchiladas with pork or turkey filling topped with clovey mole coloradito. More popular dishes include lamb barbacoa quesadillas and rock cod tacos with avocado aioli. Dessert brings on a satisfying arroz con leche, topped perhaps with fresh cherries and toasted pistachios. Note that in lieu of a tip, a 20% service charge is added to all checks.