Review: Comal, fresh flavors, a dizzying choice of tequilas

Comal, which opened on May 4 in downtown Berkeley, has already created a buzz in the city. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Comal
2020 Shattuck Avenue, between University and Addison
Berkeley CA, 94704
510-926-6300
Comal Berkeley
Open for dinner daily

This place has been buzzing since day one, and it looks like it will be a new and successful venue for downtown Berkeley. The space is beautifully designed, with reclaimed wood and hard and shiny surfaces — unfortunately this translates into lots of noise when the crowds are there. There’s an open kitchen where you can watch a team of at least eight cooks orchestrating your meal. The large service staff is speedy, informed, and personable — you feel welcome from the moment you arrive.

The food is inspired by Latin America, with a large number of small plates, all moderately priced, and a few more pricey larger plates. Everything is quite delicious with a wonderful freshness of flavors. The chips and guacamole are a terrific way to begin your meal.

However, probably the best feature of Comal is the cocktail, tequila, and Mezcal list — a dizzying array of choices, and definitely the drink of choice here, although there is also wine and beer.

If you order a number of dishes and a few cocktails the bill does add up, but this should not deter you from trying something new and delicious in Berkeley. If you do not want to sit at the bar or at the counter top community table, reservations are definitely recommended.

Lucille Poskanzer is the co-editor of  “Restaurants in the Berkeley Area” (read about the guide in our February story). Also, read Berkeleyside’s April 30 feature on Comal, including an interview with its owner, John Paluska.

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  • Charles_Siegel

    I pass by there most every evening, and it looks like it is jammed during dinner hour.  I am glad to see that it is such a success.

  • Sarahs

    Went there last Friday on opening night with a few friends.  After a quickly resolved snafu with our reservation, we were seated in a booth on the periphery between the “bar” area and the “dining” area.  Even though it was pretty thoroughly packed in there, we remarked that we didn’t think the noise was overwhelming (we’re 30-somethings with decent hearing) and we didn’t have to raise our voices to be heard.  The dishes were a little hit-and-miss, definitely get the meatballs and the duck mole enchiladas, the tacos were a little so-so for the price (hopefully they’re working out the kinks, it was the first night).  But the cocktails, oh the cocktails.  To. Die. For.  I love a well crafted cocktail and they do not disappoint.  I can’t wait until they get the back patio open and am hoping they’ll be open for summer afternoon drinks.  It’ll be wonderful to have another outdoor option, with more than beer to boot.  I definitely will be back, they didn’t have the mango bread pudding this time!

  • batard

    Peeking thru the window I saw a bottle of Luksusowa vodka behind the bar .. I knew they at least got the drinks right.

  • Susie

    I went on opening night, without a reservation, and we got a spot at the communal table. The place is gorgeous. Food was delicious. The salsas that come with the guacamole are incredibly authentic. Drinks were DIVINE. The palomaesque was out of this world. The bartenders at Comal actually shake their cocktails, apparently a lost art in most bars these days. In fact, they shake the cr** out of them which results in a fine, fizzy, ice-cold drink. For me, the noise was completely manageable and seemed much less than most places these days. To boot, they played a great mix by my favorite band, Los Lobos while I was there. What’s not to like? I was hoping to love this place, and I do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rselover Rob Selover

    Also there opening night, food hit or miss (hit or miss on availability as well) – Cocktails pretty decent, overpriced for Berkeley ($9-$11). The group of 3 women next to us at the communal table was pretty loud… otherwise great! My office is 100 yards away, so I plan being a regular!

  • Logan

    shockingly rude on the phone – I’m spending my money where people are polite to me.