Franco Lozano III’s Mexican grandma would never put tomatoes in her guacamole. She views the nightshade as mere filler, watering down the creamy, luscious avocado. So you will find no tomatoes in the guacamole at BuenoMalo, the new Andover Mexican spot Lozano opened in November with college buddy Michael Reidy. The rest of the recipe is a family secret, but the full-flavored perfectly ripe avocado dip, mashed to order, and topped with pepitas and micro cilantro, and served with a side of house-fried locally made tortillas, bests many North Shore contenders.
Lozano’s mother flew in from his native Southern California last fall and spent two weeks cooking alongside him, to make sure he got Abuelita’s recipes right, including her salsa and her empanadas. That says everything about this spot. The food and the décor are totally authentic and full of heart—so much so that walking in the door, which is tucked into a courtyard off Main Street, feels a bit like stepping through a wormhole right into the Golden State. The mish-mash of mid-century modern furnishings feels glamorous yet homey, and one wall boasts a brightly colored Hollywood street scene. Across the small space, a projector fills a wall with a mesmerizing 10-hour loop of aerial views of Los Angeles. The snowy Andover courtyard outside seems miles away—but come springtime, a heated patio will extend the sunshiny vibe.
Fried fish burrito
The name BuenoMalo, which means “good-bad” in Spanish, is partly a nod to the restaurant’s dual identity: During the day, the space is all fast-casual fun, welcoming families and folks on their lunch breaks with overstuffed tacos and burritos. At night, the lights go down, the music cranks up, and a garage door rolls up in the back, revealing a full bar.
The dinner menu is small, to ensure top-notch execution, but with a good selection of shared plates. Start with Abuelita’s guacamole, or maybe an order of “Rush Hour” nachos. The tongue-in-cheek menu description says they are “packed like the 405,” a reference to the notorious bumper-to-bumper traffic on Southern California’s major north/south route. It’s hard to disagree—glutton-chic layers of beans and cheese leave no tortilla chip unadorned. Order a combo, and you get sections topped with beef, chicken, and shrimp, as well as a scoop of that guacamole.
The North Shore seems to be undergoing a wings renaissance right now, with many new styles of finger-licking goodness popping up. BuenoMalo mixes Mexico and New England for their version, serving wings that are flash-fried and glazed in a maple-chipotle sauce, they are nicely crisp with a sweet-spicy vibe. Pair them with the Mexican street corn, with roasted kernels sheared from the cob and then tossed lightly with mayo, cayenne pepper, sour cream, and Cotija cheese and served with a side of tortilla chips.
Entrees are strictly tacos—soft flour tortillas overstuffed to the point where it’s hard to wrap your fingers around them, never mind your mouth. Grab the fish taco with both hands to eat the crispy battered cod with cabbage, pico de gallo, and secret house-made Baja sauce. Other choices including chicken and steak are equally satisfying, and a new vegetarian sweet potato option is gaining a serious following.
Andover native Reidy oversees the front of the house and the bar program, whipping up a fine margarita, as well as fanciful concoctions like “Smoke Mangoes If You Got ’Em”—a blend of Pelaton de la Muerte mezcal, spicy Ancho Reyes chili liquor, mango, and lime—served with a flaming mango peel for your Instagram pleasure. Don’t worry about the name. We’re pretty sure you could just ask for the smoked mango cocktail and tell them Northshore magazine sent you.
For dessert, jump right to the strawberry shortcake. It seems a bit odd as a Mexican restaurant dessert but this version is nothing like a traditional strawberry shortcake. Two slices of dense vanilla cake are layered with a custardy Brazilian-inspired sauce, topped with strawberries and whipped cream. Or get a few scoops of Richardson’s ice cream, topped with house-made chocolate sauce. BuenoMalo is the only place in Andover that carries it. It’s an indulgence that is both good and bad indeed.
Appetizers: Made-To-Order Guacamole $10, Chipotle Maple Chicken Wings $13, “Rush Hour” Nachos $12, Mexican “Street Corn” $7 Entrees: Tacos $15 for two
Dessert: Strawberry Shortcake Cocktail: Smoke Mangoes If You Got ‘Em $13
93 Main St. (interior courtyard)
Owners: Franco Lozano III and Michael Reidy