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El Comal - SD

mimosa Aug 1, 2007 09:38 PM

I think it was Dining Diva who posted awhile ago about this place and a wrong turn the other day brought me past it. Off the beaten North Park track (on Illinois just north of University) this little gem is gonna need some support to get established!

I ate there tonight and had a wonderful conchinita pibil as well as a chicken tamal with salsa verde that was on the verge of too spicy, without getting there - perfect really. The pork was tender and richly spicy and came with a side of pickled onions, radishes, lard-free beans, and terrific hand-made corn tortillas. Also tried a generous sample of a goat dish (barbacia chirra?) that will definitely make next visit's entree consideration. Only demerit is the semi-stale chips, but the accompanying salsas (one a semi-chunky mild red, the other a peppery green) were so good they got consumed none the less.

The combination of good food and a full-bar seems to have eluded Mexican establishments in this town, but El Comal may turn that around. The tequila selection seemed a bit limited but I think as their audience grows this will change. The margaritas are served in hurricane glasses and are pretty darn good though and well-priced for the area at $5.00. It was nice to have an option other than beer or sodas which tend to fill me up before big Mexican meals.

Total tab for 2 margaritas, conchinita pibil and pollo verde tamale - $22.50



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  1. Ms. Verde RE: mimosa Aug 2, 2007 05:31 PM

    Hurray, someone else has noticed this hidden gem! It opened around Cinco de Mayo and I've been about 6 times. Each time, I've tried something new, and have always been happy. I agree on the pork dish--yummo! I also really liked the shrimp diablo--not too hot, but definitely spicy. I tried the Albondigas on day when I was fighting a cold--very comforting.
    I regularly go to Super Cocina for lunch, since I work nearby. However, El Comal is now my go to mexican place for dinner. The neighborhood is defintely better, and I like the margarita option! I love the fresh made masa items, gorditos, huaraches etc.
    Another new face is Casa Adams on Adams just east of 30th. I enjoyed it much more than El Rancho or Ponces for the standard combo plate. Good salsas and beans!

    9 Replies
    1. re: Ms. Verde
      JeffSD RE: Ms. Verde Aug 16, 2007 01:38 PM

      We like El Comal a lot! We've been there twice now and the food was very good both times. The cochinita pibil and the chilaquiles were wonderful. The service was very good and friendly, in fact the whole place had a very good feeling about it, even though it was mostly empty on both occasions. I hope they do well and we plan to keep on going there.

      1. re: Ms. Verde
        DoctorQuality RE: Ms. Verde Aug 16, 2007 02:17 PM

        another neighborhood option is cantina mayahuel on adams. i like it a lot more than casa adams or ponces and has great atmosphere.

        1. re: DoctorQuality
          mikec RE: DoctorQuality Aug 16, 2007 02:43 PM

          My only problem with Cantina Mayahuel is its fairly limited menu (and price, one taco is $5, IIRC). Casa Adams is light years better than Ponce's. Having lived in the neigborhood for over thirty years, about once every ten years I forget how much I dislike Ponce's and go back there, only to be reminded.

          An overlooked/unmentioned place near the same neighborhood is Ray's on ECB just West of 30th (by the Subway). They make some darn good authentic Mexican specialties like Birria. Also, the hole-in-the-wall place on Adams just East of 35th makes a mean Shrimp Diablo.

          1. re: mikec
            DiningDiva RE: mikec Aug 16, 2007 02:57 PM

            I really like the house mole at Cantina Mayahuel. It's very well balance and I must admit to being partial to it's floral flavors. Plus they serve it as it would be served in Mexico, i.e. way more sauce than protein. HOWEVER, I'm less enamored fo the really firey seasoning they use on the chicken breast. The heat from the seasoning totally overwhelmed the mole. Mole is not necessarily a delicate sauce, but it shouldn't need to compete with the chiles on the chicken. Also think they could do a lot, lot better on the quality of their corn tortillas. But I do love, love, love the art on the walls.

            1. re: DiningDiva
              ibstatguy RE: DiningDiva Nov 19, 2008 03:43 PM

              anything new to report on Cantinua Mayahuel? only became aware of it yesterday and that was in reference to its tequila selections.

              1. re: ibstatguy
                kare_raisu RE: ibstatguy Nov 19, 2008 05:09 PM

                what about the tequila?Good selection?

                1. re: kare_raisu
                  rotie77 RE: kare_raisu Nov 19, 2008 05:28 PM

                  We love Cantina Mayahuel! It's dangerously close to home so we're there about once a week. At first I thought the food offering was too limited but that's because I saw it as a restaurant instead of a tequileria. Food is only a side project here - it's all about the tequilas! We discovered their sangrita and even got the owner to share the recipe. Haven't tried to recreate it at home yet, but we will. If you're into tequilas and mescals, this place is a must visit. Extensive list and a staff that's passionate about the art of tequila. And though the food menu isn't as extensive as the tequila list, what they offer is pretty good too. We generally get the ceviche and quacamole as a light nosh.

                  1. re: kare_raisu
                    ibstatguy RE: kare_raisu Nov 19, 2008 09:16 PM

                    I'm told by my tequila obsessed friend that they have a very nice line up of tequilas, particularly for such a small place

              2. re: mikec
                kare_raisu RE: mikec Aug 16, 2007 10:08 PM

                I swung by today -- the tacos are 4 a piece. I actually like the fact that they have few things on the menu and rotating specials. That - to me - is a sign of a great restaurant willing to sacrifice the too many dishes to appease many approach and concentrate. Learned it first had from working at in n out. I also appreicated the open kitchen,

          2. l
            lmmsdca RE: mimosa Aug 22, 2007 07:47 AM

            Ate at El Comal the other day and it was delicious. Had the Cochinita Pibil and my husband had the chile rellano. Both were excellent, the handmade tortillas were fantastic and the 4 salsas were a nice touch and several were nice and spicy.

            It was happy hour at the time and the bar was crowded so the place was a bit too loud for a truly relaxing meal.

            7 Replies
            1. re: lmmsdca
              Ewilensky RE: lmmsdca May 13, 2008 01:14 PM

              Just sitting here finishing my my Veggie Burrito from El Comal -- rice beans, cotija, sour cream, mushrooms, potatoes, cactus and squash and I think it might be the finest veggie burrito I've ever had. Stopped by for lunch to go and the place was dead. But I'll be back for sure...

              1. re: Ewilensky
                Eat_Nopal RE: Ewilensky May 13, 2008 02:25 PM

                Eliminate the Rice... and thats something I would order!

                1. re: Eat_Nopal
                  Ewilensky RE: Eat_Nopal May 13, 2008 03:30 PM

                  Rice and beans were actually pretty skimpy -- no complaints from me. The burrito was mostly squash and cactus. Sublime.

                  1. re: Ewilensky
                    Eat_Nopal RE: Ewilensky May 13, 2008 07:15 PM

                    That is right baby.... Eat Nopales!

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal
                      Josh RE: Eat_Nopal May 14, 2008 01:21 PM

                      Just had a nopal taco from El Comal for lunch. Damn good.

                2. re: Ewilensky
                  beantowntitletown RE: Ewilensky May 13, 2008 08:41 PM

                  we had dinner at the downtown chula vista location about 3 weeks ago. i had lengua de res en salsa verde and a taco nopal as appetizer. great dinner! there is much left to try on the menu. luckily it's nearby and very wallet-friendly.

                3. re: lmmsdca
                  Ms. Verde RE: lmmsdca May 14, 2008 07:57 PM

                  We continue to hit this neighborhood joy, but recently discovered a whole new reason to enjoy it. Got the flu a few weeks ago and their Albondigas was way more soothing to my clogged up head than chicken soup! Huge bowl of soup, meatballs and homemade corn tortillas -- my new comfort food!
                  BTW Casa Adams makes a fine Albondigas as well.

                4. s
                  SD Native RE: mimosa Nov 25, 2008 10:59 AM

                  The chilaquiles con carne asada at El Comal are as close to homemade as I can find and very very good.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: SD Native
                    Bobierto RE: SD Native Dec 1, 2008 12:26 PM

                    I last ate at El Comal a couple of months ago and the owner mentioned that business was kind of slow ... I hope people keep supporting this great neighborhood spot! Thanks!

                  2. s
                    stevewag23 RE: mimosa Dec 31, 2008 02:32 PM

                    Just ate here yesterday.

                    Alcapulco style mexican food.

                    Super legit.

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