After a strong three-year run, El Gran Malo on Ella Boulevard is closing its doors this Sunday. El Gran Malo—which translates "The Big Bad" in Spanish—opened as Houston's first "gastrocantina." Though some were intially dubious of what a gastrocantina concept would involve, El Gran Malo quickly showed us all why it worked, offering an amazing tequila selection, creative infusions, clever cocktails, and solid Tex-Mex pub grub in a funky, divey atmosphere complete with massive Mexican-themed mural by local artist Kevin Hernandez.
El Gran Malo was a hit. Its owners—brothers Steve and Shaun Sharma, and partner Lea McKinney—also kept busy running popular dive The Dirt Bar across the street from the House of Blues, where musicians frequently stop off after shows, the grimier the better. The Sharmas and McKinney decided to double-down on downtown last year when they opened a second location of El Gran Malo, this one called El Big Bad. With two stories of restaurant space to fill in a competive market, everyone could sense the El Gran Malo team turning all of their attention to El Big Bad.
Meanwhile, Roost owner Kevin Naderi purchased the building which houses El Gran Malo. With El Gran Malo now closing, Naderi is preparing to open a new restaurant in the space. Naderi also purchased a plot of land next door to the Ella space with the intent of creating additional parking for the restaurant—something El Gran Malo struggled with, as neighbors in the residential area frequently complained of customers parking in front of their homes.
El Gran Malo will kick off its last service this Sunday starting at 11 a.m.—following a day-long celebration of National Margarita Day on Saturday—but this doesn't mean El Gran Malo is gone for good. "We are currently searching for a new home," hints its Facebook page, "so remember, 'this is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, this is just perhaps the end of the beginning.'"