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Apr 12, 2012 11:04 AM

Comal - Berkeley

I missed this in December, the Chron reported that Comal, a 140-seat Mexican place with cocktails, is in the works for the old Paper Heaven and Other Change of Hobbit spaces at 2018-2020 Shattuck.

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  1. That looks to be pretty upscale, to me. I prefer the dives.

    2 Replies
    1. re: arktos

      Downtown Berkeley could use more bars, and upscale Mexican food can be good in a way that dives rarely are outside of Mexico.

      1. re: arktos

        Of course, arktos, great dives are great. But a place to chill out with a margarita and good food is also wonderful -- especially before/after a movie, play or music all of which downtown Berkeley has aplenty.

      2. Sounds promising! It would be a really great addition to downtown Berkeley.

        1 Reply
        1. re: escargot3

          The guy they've chosen to be their (I assume) lead barman will be great.

        2. Looks like they soft launched a couple days ago and open fully tomorrow:

          1. Went last night. Nice space, pretty amazing transformation.

            Sikil pak ($6.50) substituted eggplant for the usual tomatoes, tasty but a bit richer than I was expecting. Chips were fried golden brown and so thick that most of them I could split in two. Three salsas were all good and quite different.

            Grilled rock cod tacos (two for $12) were great. Pickled cabbage made me think of pupusas. Excellent fresh handmade-looking tortillas.

            Had a bite of the duck enchilada in red mole ($14), really good, some of the best mole I've had around here.

            Grilled bok choy with chile-pepito salsa ($7) was very good and tasted pretty Mexican even if bok choy isn't. Collard greens with garlic, olive, and lemon ($4) tasted more Italian but were very good. Green rice ($5) was good though I prefer my homemade.

            Overall, I was very impressed. It's nice to get first-rate Mexican food with lots of vegetables instead of heaps of starch and cheese.

            1. Great place. Just a week after opening they nailed it on all fronts: food, service, pacing, bar. Loved the duck enchiladas with mole, rock cod tacos, and wood fire carrots with bellwether ricotta and chile oil. But really, all the food was excellent.

              Price point feels right-on for the quality of the food (unless you're one of those close-minded people who believes all Mexican/Asian/Southern food should be served in cheap dives, in which case you should eat elsewhere). They sold themselves as a "small plates" spot so I was actually surprised by how large portions were and we probably ordered a bit too much.

              I see the most direct comparisons as Dona Tomas and Fonda (Albany / Berkeley / Oakland high-end / sit-down Mexican). Based on this one meal Comal is the clear champ.

              Great to see how Downtown Berkeley has taken off over the last few years. Used to be I just went there for the farmers' market, now there's Gather, Ippuku, Revival, and Comal - all among Berkeley's best dining options.

              I will definitely be back - I see this as a once a month spot.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                The style's most similar to Rumbo al Sur. The service is probably benefiting from them not having the patio open, once they start serving there the capacity will more than double.