Malo es bueno: A tasty destination spot for dining

Malo es bueno: A tasty destination spot for dining

When the Des Moines Social Club announced its new firehouse location, Malo was a cornerstone of the new entertainment complex. It’s the latest restaurant from chef George Formaro and Orchestrate Hospitality, which owns Centro, Django, Zombie Burger and others.

Last week the Social Club had its grand open opening, followed days later by the official launch of Malo. It looks like it will be another gem in Orchestrate’s crown.

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The dining area seems smaller than Centro and Django, with a large bar running along the south wall of the restaurant. The bar area is partitioned off from the main dining area, and there is additional seating available on the patio. There are spots of bright color located around the restaurant, including a large painting of a luchador in a suit and large flat squares of color hanging from the ceiling. It’s just enough to keep things from seeming boring and monochrome, but not enough for sensory overload.

Malo’s menu focuses on Latin cuisine, with Mexican, Spanish, Cuban and other items from other countries represented on the menu. It has a large taco menu, with items ranging from $3-$6. The more basic items are chorizo, beef barbacoa and al pastor, but there’s also dos pescados, featuring beer-battered cod, lobster slaw and pico de gallo, grilled skirt steak and chipotle shrimp tacos.

In sandwiches there’s the more traditional Cuban, a barbacoa grilled cheese served on a jalapeno cheddar bread and the Malo burger (bacon, carmalized onion, guacamole, lettuce, tomato and pepper jack on a briche bun). There’s also an entrée menu with items like the Nacho Daddy’s mac & cheese (including salsa blanca, guacamole and fried tortilla strips) and the Tijuana trainwreck (a bit of everything topped with a fried egg).

Malo also does brunch on the weekend. At lunch most items are under $15. Dinner options include grill items running up to $35.

For lunch I went with the tres puercos tamale, two tamales stuffed with carnitas, bacon and chorizo and topped with Chihuahua cheese and salsa rosa and served with rice and beans. It made for a filling lunch, and the three pork products went well with each other and the salsa rosa.

My co-worker went with three tacos, barbacoa, al pastor and dos pescados. Al pastor is served with a pineapple and tomatillo salsa that really brings out the flavor in the pork, and the beer-battered cod and lobster slaw of dos pescados were wonderful together. These are big tacos; you won’t need five or six to fill up.

It’s worth mentioning that the salsa they bring with your chips when greeting the table is amazing. It’s thick, flavorful and I probably could have eaten an entire meal of just that.

The Des Moines Social Club was built to bring new and different entertainment options to Des Moines, and Malo helps make sure the complex is just as entertaining on the dining side. While Malo makes for a great option before seeing a play or band at the Social Club, it also stands on its own as a destination spot for dining.


Find it: 900 Mulberry St.
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday.
Info: or 515-244-5000

About the Author

Joe Lawler covers music and more for Juice Magazine. E-mail him at or follow his updates on Twitter @JoeLawler

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