440 West 2nd Street
Austin, TX 78701
Update from Laura: Here is an update on Mariah's blog. Malaga has moved into a much larger space in the uber trendy 2nd street district. While the food and the wine has not changed, the atmosphere sure has. The acoustics are terrible and the noise just reverberates so that you have to yell to hear your dining/drinking partners. Also, the day we arrived, the service was slow. Perhaps that was just a bad day, or maybe they increased the amount of tables without increasing the amount of servers. Who knows but the small space on 4th street was so charming. It felt like you were slipping away into a small alcove for a few snacks but now the space feels as generic as a chain Tex Mex restaurant. This has sunk the rating for me from about about an 8.5 to a 6.5. I'm hoping that Peche, the tapas and absinthe bar that took over the 4th street space is able to do something unique and great with it. I'm looking forward to checking it out. And now back to your regularly scheduled blog....
Update from Mariah: I agree with Laura's assessment. The new location, while larger, is soul-less. It looks like a mid range Tex-Mex chain restaurant now instead of a nice Spanish wine bar. the food is the same and the wine is the same, but its lost its charm. Skip it and go to 219 W instead. I'm dropping my rating to a 7.
So my latest boyfriend and I broke up a couple of weeks ago. I was bummed, but my friends have been really awesome trying to cheer me up. Becky came over the night it happened and we stayed up till 2am eating spaghetti and watching Gossip Girl, one of my favorite frivolous shows. Laura, always the good friend, decided to cheer me up with a little drinking, dinner, and retail therapy. We headed toward the warehouse district to get wine before dinner but when we got there, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and combine wine and dinner. We opted for Malaga over Saba Blue Water because I was feeling hot and Spanish-y, not cold and fishy (but the menu at Saba looks awesome and I vowed to try it after the new year).
The inside is cozy: dimly lit, slightly romantic, hardwood floors, large industrial windows - everything a warehouse establishment should be. We were seated, but alllllll the way in the back, behind a screen, next to some old ladies. It made me wonder if maybe we weren't cool enough looking to be granted a fine seat in the front of the restaurant (which was almost empty). But oh well, we came for a cheap happy hour, and they certainly delivered. The happy hour from 5-7 is a petty good deal. For $7 you get a nice big class of wine or a specialty mixed drink and a plate of tapas. The selection of both is small, but what do you think your going to get for $7.
We both opted for red wine over a mixed drink. We were in a Spanish bar! You have to have red wine. Its like going to London and not having fish and chips. Laura went with a 2004 Los Cardos Malbec (Argentina), and I went with a 2004 Borsao Granacha (Spain). On top of the break up, I've had a cold, so I wasn't able to try Laura's wine. I didn't want to infect her with my germies. My wine was nice and dry, with a smooth finish, well blended flavors, and overall was a very nice wine for a $3 glass. I wanted some meat (there might be something Freudian there) so I opted for the Pincho Moruno, a pork dish, and Laura went with the roasted potatoes and aioli. We also decided to get an extra order of goat cheese medallions drizzled in honey.
The tapas arrived quickly and came in a nice stacked serving tray. It looked like a layered cake with a savory potato and pork filling. The pork was exactly what I was looking for. Small bits of pork cooked in a pungent spice mixture. The pork bites were so small at first I thought they might be hash browns, but a quick nibble revealed their meaty flavor. They were very salty, though. I was really looking for something salty, but if your not into that much salt, I would stay away from them.
The goat cheese medallions were very interesting and pretty damn good. Laura called them goat candy, and they really were a nice sweet-savory blend. They were round, breaded, herb infused nuggets of creamy delicious goat cheese. They were served on crusty (almost stale tasting) sliced of bread with a nice red onion relish. I'd never thought of drizzling honey over goat cheese, but the flavors went nicely together.
Laura's potatoes, however, were the favorite part of the meal (aside from the fine company). When I was in high school choir, every Christmas we would put on one of those Madrigal Dinners. We would put up foam walls in the cafeteria made to look like stone, with Elmer's glue "stained glass windows", and greenery, and a huge stage with a table, and lots of medieval costumes. There were jesters, and a fake joust, and of course, lots of medieval Christmas carols. The whole show centered around a huge feast of cheese soup, game hens, figgy pudding, and roasted potatoes. The cheese soup is to this day one of my favorite comfort foods, and I still remember what those wonderful roasted potatoes tasted like. The roasted potatoes at Malaga tasted exactly like them. They were tender, slightly oily, but covered in a wonderful herb blend and roasted to perfection. When dipped in the aioli they were truly a treat to my memory. I forgot the heart-ache, the stuffy nose, the stress of finals, and for one brief moment relived one of my favorite childhood Christmas moments.
Bottom Line: Good wine and salty food, great happy hour pricesMariah - 8.5 (9.5 during happy hour)