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El Comal - SD

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

www.elcomalsd.com

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  1. 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

      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

        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

          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

            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

              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

                what about the tequila?Good selection?

                1. re: kare_raisu

                  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

                    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

                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. 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

              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

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

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

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

                  1. re: Ewilensky

                    That is right baby.... Eat Nopales!

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

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

                2. re: Ewilensky

                  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

                  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. 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

                    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. Just ate here yesterday.

                    Alcapulco style mexican food.

                    Super legit.