Get these key elements right - tasty food, attentive host, inviting ambiance, engaging music and a lively crowd, and a party goes from good to great. I think the same mix applies to restaurants and Comal is definitely "getting it right".

The space alone is enough to make you swoon. Open, airy, modern without that cold, cavernous thing going on. Quite the opposite actually with the stunning woodwork and lighting, open-air patio with gas fire pit and beer garden, cozy communal tables and bustling bar. And then there's the state-of-the-art sound system that deftly combines the "conversational ambiance with the buzzy ambiance."

I love the small-plates concept for sharing and sampling the many flavors of a Oaxacan-inspired menu, plus it leaves room for some of the best guacamole I've ever tasted. A little coercion revealed the secret ingredient - muddled garlic and lots of it! And then there's the delicious items from the wood grill like spareribs and Fulton Valley chicken, and the crisp and juicy salads that inspired this yummy appetizer.

Last but not least is the vast array of offerings from the bar. Specialty cocktails, house-made Sangrita, over 70 brands of Mezcal and Tequila, and a huge selection of beer and wine on tap pretty much guarantees you'll be getting your imbibe on.

But here's the best part. It's centrally located in the Berkeley arts and theater district, close to this great place and this one and that means there's another uptown crawl in the making - never a bad thing in my opinion.