It’s easy to eat up the hip scene at Malo. Silver Lake’s swanky new Latin eatery makes small-dish tacos for small-hipped rockers.
What do ground beef-and-pickle tacos have in common with razor-thin young women in skinny jeans with nostril-length bangs? Both can be found in the penumbral glow of muted-red candlelight at Malo, Silver Lake’s natty neighborhood taquería.
Opened 2 1/2 years ago by four savvy businessmen, including Mitchell Frank, owner of nightclubs Spaceland and the Echo, and Courtney Holt of Interscope Records, Malo has emerged as a player in the bloody see-and-be-seen battle that has raged along Sunset Boulevard since flappers donned cloche hats.
Styles have changed, but the recipe for victory has remained constant: one part initial buzz (cool owners with street cred); two parts tasty cuisine featuring far-out ingredients and clever names (pork carnitas marinated in O.J. and Coca-Cola, Shrimp Diablo with garlic habanero and creme); and a pinch of the young, self-satisfied and beautiful (Does that slinky black top really have a tiger’s face airbrushed on it?).
Malo, named in an intentionally ironic way (it means “bad” in Spanish), is divided by a red curtain. On weekend nights the bar becomes a revolving door to the restaurant, with patrons grabbing refreshments (two Dos Equis and two shots of Herradura Silver: $26) before the svelte hostess summons them.
On a recent Saturday night in the packed bar there could be counted: one gray beanie, three pairs Buddy Holly glasses, eight perfectly tousled hairdos and five unabashedly text-messaging fiends. A guy with a scraggly blond beard wearing a double-buckle leather bracelet sidled up to a reporter and her notebook.
“Are you writing the great American novel?” he asked, laughing heartily at his own joke before taking a cellphone call. Next to him a girl with an expensive white handbag waxed philosophical: “Mike does not have the skills that we would have if we were,” pregnant pause laden with meaning, “dirt poor.”
Behind the pounded-copper bar Cheryl Brubaker poured margaritas with limp-wristed expertise in perfect time with “Mama’s Boy” by the Ramones. According to Brubaker, the signature sweet-and-sour mix is handmade fresh daily. Brubaker, genial and down-to-earth, points to a facet of Malo that it is hard to discern on a Saturday night.
“This is a neighborhood bar. We get a lot of regulars who keep coming back,” she says before launching into the finer points of Corzo, one of the 130 tequilas stacked on shelves behind her.
If those tequilas weren’t so striking, if the ground beef-and-pickle tacos didn’t have a piquant vinegar aftertaste, if the flan wasn’t so rich and firm, it might be easy to dismiss Malo.
But those tacos …