Disguising this semi house we call El Gran Malo, is the greenest of all lime green paint. Streaming lights from rooftop to table make for a cozy casa. Repressed memories of its predecessor, Heights West, quickly poured in upon parking, thus causing an unexpected pause in thought… leave or stay? Um, stay.
Visit Number One Feeling:
Out of control crazy perfection is the only way to describe El Gran Malo. Having recently opened, this building of complete Mexican magnifico manages to maintain spastically spot on service, including feelings of fall on your face sexy décor.
Screech. Halt. Slam on all first impression brakes.
Pure joy was quickly reduced to above average happiness upon visiting El Gran Malo a second time. As business picked up, the bar hustle bustleness took its toll on our server. Best describing her vibe is a massive cross between Nicole Kidman’s weathergirl role in “To Die For,” a shady car salesman, and the always enticing Bob Barker Beauty during the showcase showdown on the Price Is Right.
Sadly, an unknown potential whippersnapper could be seen ripping her a new apron in the center of the bar. While morphing into a hand talker, his growl about service is no secret. Running food as her first mission is a priority she must maintain.
That’s fine & dandy, but jeez, relax guy. When this service industry soldier-maker wasn’t barking at our server, his demeanor status was comparable to that of the Grinch stealing all of Christmas.
Houston artist, Kevin Hernandez, is guilty of creating endless murals, adorning ruby red walls, inside the smallest of all small dining rooms. Owners Steve and Shaun Sharma, Lea McKinney, and Dimitre Dimitrov have pulled together a fantastic décor win.
Bar humans overflowing into El Gran Malo’s grazing room seems to be the only growl from food writer friends thus far.
Is this place a restaurant or a bar?
Enter into evidence one raised bar table in the center of the dining room. This particular placement equals fail for the restaurant end of this venture. With a mini Mexican curtsy slash please & thanks, would someone remove this mental anguish causing bar bringer?
Having eaten earlier in the day, life remained rainbows & sunshine. That’s not to say the hubbub of tequila slinging stuporness would not force an annoyance at night. A drunk can fall into my lap causing a tequila fusion fiasco, just don’t land on my snapper nachos.
El Gran Malo is not playing any kind of freshly squeezed juice game. Squealing almost commenced as a bartender defiantly defined the toxic level of juice stellarness in which this establishment maintains.
Daydreaming became reality while deciding if this fella, wearing a semi tilted hat, is actually a hipster tending bar or… The Manager.
A specialty drink for hangovers offered at El Gran Malo is called… Painkiller. Creation occurs using Meyers rum, *fresh* orange juice, *fresh* pineapple juice, coconut cream & nutmeg.
As we continued to listen, this bartender’s moan about the freshly squeezed plethora of juices behind his bar caused an instant attention getting moment. This service industry saint all but pulled out a pineapple & started squeezing it! After slurping down the Painkiller & all its deliciousness, claims of juice joy were quickly confirmed.
Strawberry cucumber infused tequila, agave nectar, and lemon & lime juice (freshly squeezed– of course) complete the strawberry margarita. We wondered if we were secretly tip toeing into tequila drunkness, as it may potentially pop up after one more drink. Our bartender quickly agreed, followed by a mini recant of… not so much. Time to relax.
Former Voice chef, Greg Lowry, created a menu so exciting, though small, both hands were forced to fiercely grab each side & smoosh this printed present against my body. This spectacle of madness exists solely to profess complete menu affection in the most inappropriate way possible.
Written high on a wall with chalk sits the special for the evening… snapper nachos. Stop it right now! Thoughts of fish nacho fail flow frivolously throughout one’s mind when hearing nonsense such as this. Chef doubting be gone, for ingredients work together to produce a whimsical win.
My chipper bar table neighbor smittenly slurped on a cup of tortilla soup, while things weren’t so sassy over here. Feelings of carcass being hidden beneath this charming cup of soup glory were somehow present. Though no accusations of carnivore injustice exist, AVH became yada, thus ate nada.
Also found in the “Mean Soup & Greens” section of the menu is Julio Caesar Chavez salad with Bluebonnet Farms baby romaine lettuce, cotija, pickled carrots, and croutons tossed in a chipotle Caesar dressing.
What’s awesome about this dish is the option to add fish or shrimp, used on the tacos, for a measly $3. Snoozer salads beware, mix matching menu items are a game changer, especially when snapper’s playing.
Um, yeah. Not sure there is reason to flip a flop or pip a skip on this one. Just plain ole’ salsa stuff. Sorry chef.
Oh how the slap an egg on it option brings forth inflated elation. Though the bartender didn’t seem egg slapping sold on the crab empanada, living on the edge was the only option.
Included in the extra section of the menu is a rollercoaster of complete meat ingredient delight. Voice a choice of black beans with dried chorizo, negro modelo, and jalapeno, or the almost always crowd pleasing, gulp… Mexican Coca-Cola & roasted lime braised pork belly.
Included in the small bites section, the empanadas with crab meat is not only mouth watering delish, but also possesses meticulous presentation power. Smashed plantain, poblanos, black beans, and cotija cheese FREAK OUT while morphing alongside fresh chunks of crabmeat.
Gulf snapper with lime juice, chile Serrano, cucumber, cilantro, jicama, onions, and aji Amarillo make up this freshly fabulous ceviche. Let us not forget the always exciting house-made tortilla chips.
El Gran Malo proves to be a pork belly wagon jumper indeed, offering Mexican Coca-Cola & lime braised pork belly tacos with peanuts, local Bibb lettuce, and pickled red onion. To consume the belly of a pork product previously perusing mud puddles, as well as sow stations across Texas, um, is apparently appetizing.
Moving right along…
Two tacos are suitable for AVH, with the first being a seared Gulf snapper taco with shaved cabbage, Serrano, micro-cilantro, and pomegranate salsa. Prior planning will save all frugal taco tasters a total of… $1. El Gran Malo wheels & deals with the muy excelente order one for $4 or three for $11.
Another is the herb marinated camarones taco with shaved cabbage, pickled carrot, jicama, and pineapple glaze. Chicken people rejoice, for there just so happens to be marinated carnitas with charred scallions, cilantro, red onion, and pineapple glaze.
Mustering up fluff about chef Greg Lowry isn’t a chore. El Gran Malo’s menu making win speaks volumes galore. Lowry’s next endeavor is the soon to be opened Triniti, where he’ll be cheffing with Ryan Hildebrand.
Want. Need. Please. Heart.
With every new restaurant, the need for groove time is a given. Just a few mini fixes & El Gran Malo has potential to be an infused tequila slash taco haven for all Houstonians to stalk.
FIVE: High 5!
FOUR: Please & Thank You
TWO: Double Wow
ONE: Wow + Ouch = Wouch