Boyle Heights Picnic is a messy night out, with a quarter chicken smothered in savory mole poblano served alongside a mound of chunky Mexican potato salad that is as light as hand-whipped mashed potatoes and just as addictive. If you're sharing with a date, try this dish along with the Ensenada bacon-wrapped shrimp, which do not come too many to a plate and taste of earthy garlic and spicy chipotle.
Be careful with your expectations if you order the lobster Diablo. Let the name guide you. This dish is a devil if you've got lobster dipped in butter on the brain. Rock lobster tails are sautéed with garlic, red chiles, lime and white wine, but the sauce is not for dipping, instead it's liberally poured on top of the lobster meat overwhelming its delicate, buttery flavor. Which is fine if you're expecting it and if you like heat, because the sauce is particularly piquant.
Another good way to go is to share a variety of tacos. The eggplant-and-potato hard tacos and the grilled soft fish tacos satisfy, as do the braised chicken and grilled carne asada, which also comes as a hearty main course.
If you're a tequila drinker, don't miss out on a tasting in the private tequila vault. This shrine to agave is at the back of the restaurant and is stocked with nearly 250 types of tequila and about 30 mescals. The vault tenders know their stuff when it comes to the liquor and can guide you from Milagro Single Barrel Select to Doña Carlota. They also have the history and flavor profiles of each bottle down pat.
After dinner, swing downstairs to the cantina, which has been developing a rollicking scene of its own. Who knows, you just might meet a group of party people who will take you to a rock show at the Echo. It's 11 p.m. and your night is just beginning. How very Más Malo.
Más Malo: 515 W. 7th St., Los Angeles (between Olive Street and Grand Avenue), (213) 985-4332. masmalo.restaurant.com.
PRICES: Soups, salads and tortas, $7 to $14; tacos, $6 to $12; entrees, $4.50 to $5.99; entrees, $14 to $60.
DETAILS: Open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday; and for brunch and dinner 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday. All major cards. Valet and street parking.
S. Irene Virbila is on vacation