At Mas Malo, the best seat in the house hides behind a 400-pound steel door. In the back of the two-story beaux arts dining room, down a narrow, still undecorated hallway lies the Tequila Vault, a literal and metaphorical storehouse for the amber liquor that has become Mas Malo's signature. "It's almost like a chef's table even though it's not in the kitchen," says bar manager Fred Warner.
Sure, people come for the ground-beef-and-pickle tacos, the vegan menudo, the "Boyle Heights picnic." But the Tequila Vault, which only opened a couple weeks ago, is where connoisseurs hold private dinners and specialty tastings.
Dating back to 1921, the vault of what was once the Brock & Company jewelry store -- complete with its original vault door -- has been revamped into a charming nook. Brick walls, oversized decorative light bulbs, glass-encased shelves displaying colorful bottles. The room is maybe 8' x 6' and can seat 10 people for a full dinner or 14 for a tasting. With nearly 240 tequilas and over 30 mescals, they have plenty to choose from. That includes $60-a-shot Partida Elegante Extra Anejo, aged for five years in whiskey barrels of American oak until it tastes almost like Scotch.
Warner recommends Fortaleza Reposado, which sells for a comparatively modest $16 a shot. "It's a great sipping tequila with nice butterscotch notes," Warner says, "and it has a great history. Guillermo Sauza is a 5th generation tequila maker."
[Pictures of Mas Malo's Tequila Vault after the jump.]