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RestaurantsSanta Cruz
June 27-July 4, 2007

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meatloaf and fries

Photograph by Ronit Taggart
Lunchtime Dilemma: Do you order white or red wine with meatloaf and fries?

Good Medicine

An investigative report into the health benefits of tequila

By Selene Latigo

Dave has some firm thoughts on the topic of tequila, the main one having to do with its ability to fend off illness if consumed in large enough quantities with equal amounts of water. I'm sure that the efficacy of his theory has to do more with his strong belief in it than any proven germ-killing properties. However, sometimes the act of taking shots of tequila as an immune booster in place of wheatgrass and the like is just fun. Feeling a scratchy throat coming on, we headed over to Malone's Grand Grill in Scotts Valley for a tequila tasting.

We pulled up at 6pm into the last open parking space and encountered what can only be described as a massive party quickly veering into drunken fervor despite the youth of the hour. A live band took over one side of the large outdoor deck and crowed tables were scattered about the rest of the space. The fact that it had rained on and off all day, with a cold, gray evening sky overhead, didn't deter anyone. For a $20 fee, Dave received a plastic shot glass, strung onto a nylon chord in case he needed both hands for another task, an official bracelet and a ticket to receive some free tacos upon submission to our server. Since it was so hectic and chilly outside, we ducked into the quiet dining room indoors, by far not where the party atmosphere was, but an easily accessible home base for the night in spite of the nondescript office environment.

Dave was off immediately to visit the lengthy spread of at least a dozen different brands of tequila, all being poured by very good-looking, mostly female representatives eager to share their well-informed opinions about their wares. In true product-placement fashion, this event was littered with flashing toys, sparkling beads and glow-in-the-dark bracelets, all emblazoned with one brand name or another, turning each reveler into a blinking, drinking advertisement.

Dave would return to the restaurant with little sips for me to try as I looked over the menu. We really liked the smoothness of Centenario's Reposado and Anejo, both more complex and less artificially sweet than some others. The phallic Asombroso 5-year-old Anejo was deep with butterscotch, while our regular favorite, Don Julio, still shined.

Moving on to some sustenance, I started with a cup of the roasted green chile soup ($4.75) and Dave wolfed down his appetizer-size carnitas tacos. They had tender strips of meat and were topped with crunchy green cabbage, cilantro and salsa. My soup was thick and oversalted, but I detected a nice background of grilled chile flavor. Not being able to shake the feeling that I was spooning nacho cheese into my mouth--this due to the extreme, somewhat fake savoriness--I slid the bowl over to Dave, who found no fault in it.

Because of the fiesta theme of the evening, I opted to order off the special "Comidas!" menu and selected the snapper tacos ($6.95). Two large blue corn tortillas held heaping, tender chunks of fish that had been poached in a flavorful broth, maintaining a moist texture in contrast to the cabbage, fiery fresh salsa and soft queso fresco.

Instead of choosing a burger or steak, items that Malone's is known for, Dave surprised me by ordering a Cobb salad ($12.75), one of the several entree-size salads featured on the regular menu. The iceberg lettuce mix, usually our least desirable greens choice, actually contributed to the integrity of this salad, standing up to the rest of the hearty ingredients without wilting down to nothing. There were piles of crisp bacon, crumbles of blue cheese, hard-boiled egg and decently ripe tomato. Tender strips of lightly grilled chicken were splayed on top, along with one single firm slice of avocado. His choice of balsamic vinaigrette added a tart, sweet balance.

Our server, a hidden gem here in this unexpected location, was an excellent addition to our experience and easily accommodated our dessert request to be sent over to the bar where we watched the Warriors game. The "Big Cheese Brûlée" ($5.95) was less brûléed than expected and quite chilled, yet rich and dense as its classic N.Y. claim should be.

Dave woke up feeling healthy and sore throat free, revived by his night of tequila tasting and an overall enjoyable weekday surprise at Malone's.

Malone's Grand Grill

Address: 4402 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley

Phone: 831.438.2244

Hours: Dinner 5pm-9pm Mon-Sat; call for lunch hours

Price: $5-$25

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