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From the sleek interior and huge, gorgeous back patio to the top-notch cocktail program and lovingly updated Mexican fare, Comal is a welcome addition to downtown Berkeley’s burgeoning dining scene. Executive chef Matt Gandin takes a delicately California approach to regional Mexican cuisine: While the tamale’s tart, slightly sweet mole negro could have come from a Oaxacan marketplace, Gandin’s not afraid to throw in local—but non-Mexican—ingredients such as salmon and bok choy. The menu is broken up mostly into shareable small plates, plus a few large platos fuertes, and there’s plenty to try. Must-eats include the chile relleno, comfortingly squishy and spiked with salty-delicious queso fresco; and the tripe guisado, an endlessly rich, layered tomato- and chile-based stew with tender tripe and garbanzo beans. Steak house–quality strips of beef turn the carne asada tacos into a gourmet treat, and don’t miss the guacamole, made fresh to order all night. Dinner daily.
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