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Mateo, downtown Durham

d
durhamois Jul 4, 2012 10:26 PM

I'm eagerly awaiting the opening of Mateo. To my mind, there's no bigger hole in the Durham food scene than Spanish. (Top notch Italian would run a close second.) Just noticed Mateo has a twitter feed, and there's a rudimentary website online:

http://www.mateotapas.com/

No menu posted yet, but I have high hopes for this place. They've tweeted some pics of the evolving interior, and it looks like it's coming along. Some nice lighting in place, along with a very Durhamesque stamped tin ceiling.

The webpage promises an opening of Summer 2012, so hopefully they won't be too far off schedule.

  1. b
    burgeoningfoodie Jul 5, 2012 08:32 AM

    If it will be summer 2012, I'd imagine they are going to be shooting to closer to labor day. Taberna is the only thing right now in central durham serving anything resembling Spanish food. I think Spanish food is lacking throughout the triangle. The thing with Mateos is seeing what the menu will be like as the concept is Spanish tapas with a southern influence which to me just says small plates. To be fair, Chef Kelley did take a week or so long trip with Ashley Christiansen and some others over to Spain and hit up some big players like Arzak and Mugaritz as well as the pintxos and tapas places of Madrid and Barcelona. The thing that people don't get in the states is the tapas is more than just the food. Aside from that yes we are lacking places that do Paella right or cabrito or roasted suckling pig or cocido.

    To note, there are a priveledged few who have been shown the proposed menu and been sworn to secrecy. I am not one of those lucky few.

    1. j
      Jeanne Jul 6, 2012 03:38 PM

      Very interesting! Looks to me like this will be an exciting new place! I'm really looking forward to trying them!

      1. b
        bbqme Jul 6, 2012 07:55 PM

        Whenever my eyes see "small plates" or "tapas" it registers in my brain as "big bill." But I'll try to keep an open mind...

        20 Replies
        1. re: bbqme
          d
          dinersaurus Jul 8, 2012 02:11 PM

          It's unfortunate, but it's often true. We get tapas all wrong here, starting with where they are served. Here tapas is restaurant fare, where in Spain, it's pub-grub. I don't think I spent more than $5 for a tapa in Spain, and the vast majority were just a couple a bucks. I've rarely seen a tapa for less than $8 in the States. I don't understand why the true Spanish formula isn't imported here. Wines by the glass, inexpensive finger food, what's not to like?

          1. re: dinersaurus
            b
            burgeoningfoodie Jul 10, 2012 01:42 PM

            because the materials used in the tapas of spain are fresh and closer to the source and the economy is different there... *shrugs* I don't know.

            1. re: burgeoningfoodie
              LulusMom Jul 10, 2012 04:11 PM

              Or maybe because people are used to eating huge portions in the USA and don't get the whole idea of just having a few bites with a glass of wine? Also shrugging and saying "I don't know." But I agree with you that it is unfortunate.

              1. re: LulusMom
                b
                bbqme Jul 10, 2012 09:47 PM

                But is a few bites offered as a choice anywhere? Not that I know of.

                1. re: bbqme
                  LulusMom Jul 11, 2012 02:24 AM

                  Agreed. But a place that calls itself a tapas place (which I don't think Mateo is planning to do) should.

                  1. re: LulusMom
                    b
                    burgeoningfoodie Jul 11, 2012 10:22 AM

                    Lulusmom,

                    The website says it all.. mateostapas ;-) He is taking the concept of tapas and the concept of southern cuisine and going to try and mix the two in some fashion.

                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                      LulusMom Jul 11, 2012 11:51 AM

                      Huh, you're absolutely right if it says that. I was very much under the impression that they were trying to do a regular Spanish menu.

                  2. re: bbqme
                    b
                    burgeoningfoodie Jul 11, 2012 10:15 AM

                    What is 6 plates offering? I wanted to add that another factor that often doesn't add to the tapas culture here is that tapas were born and brought up in spain. You can literally find hundreds of tapas bars in a given radius. It's like finding places here that serve beer or fast food also the layout of cities in most of the US aren't conducive to walking around to go to a bunch of tapas places. A lot of it is cultural and how the civilization came into being I think.

                  3. re: LulusMom
                    d
                    dinersaurus Jul 11, 2012 11:25 AM

                    I'm sure that you're right, culture has a lot to do with it as we're just not used to it or expect it here. But, any bar that offered up a number of $1 or $2 bites with drinks would get my business. And these bites need not be terribly fancy or expensive to make. Many of the pinxtos that I've encountered weren't very complicated and looked like they would be pretty cheap to create in bulk.

                    Anyway, I wish Chef Kelly the best with the new venture. I love Vin Rouge and am anxious to see his concept. But, being a restaurant, he'll have to pay the bills, so while I bet he'll make some tasty things, it still won't be the tapas experience that those da** Spanards (my envy is coming out here) get to take for granted at their favorite local watering hole.

                2. re: dinersaurus
                  l
                  libeerian Jul 12, 2012 10:36 AM

                  I haven't eaten there yet so I can't tell you how the food is, but Vinos Finos y Picada in North Raleigh seems to have "real" tapas. The menu's not huge but it's a start and the dishes are inexpensive. http://www.vinosfinosypicadas.com/our...

                  1. re: libeerian
                    b
                    burgeoningfoodie Jul 12, 2012 11:42 AM

                    I agree. I have not eaten there but a lot of their offerings and especially the bacon wrapped dates.. I have seen in other places.

                    Dinersaurus - yes spanish tapas and pintxos are always simple and fresh..

                    1. re: libeerian
                      meatn3 Jul 13, 2012 03:48 PM

                      I've went to Vinos Finos y Picada a few times last year. It looks like they have changed the menu a bit. I had a charcuterie plate which was decent. I've had better but this was acceptable. I tried an empanada, but don't see the variety on the current menu - it was just ok. Nice pastry, but the rest lacked flavor. The atmosphere is cozy yet has some sophistication. Some spots are private, some are more social. Nice spot to have a glass, nibble and socialize. If you do want a quiet chat, check their events first. We got caught in the midst of Tango lessons and that changed the dynamics of the spot a bit! Service at that time was pleasant and friendly but lacking knowledge about the menu. That was a few months after they had opened, so I suspect the staff has gained experience.

                      That said, I'd go again.

                      1. re: libeerian
                        meatn3 Jul 13, 2012 04:26 PM

                        I have heard many good things about Tasca Brava in Raleigh. Not just tapas, but I understand that you can just order them if you like.

                        http://www.tascabrava.com/7101.html

                        1. re: meatn3
                          l
                          libeerian Jul 13, 2012 06:07 PM

                          We have, too. Just waiting for the right time to get a sitter and head over there.

                          1. re: meatn3
                            Tehama Feb 24, 2013 06:18 AM

                            OH GOOD GOD. This is my first really critical review, I think. Bad. Bad. Bad. Experience.

                            We went to Tasca Brava last night. My first - and last - time.

                            Just to start, the entire experience took forever --- we were there from 8:15 - 11:15. If you asked for bread - even have to ask 3 times - you are SOL. The only thing you can get is water they want to push on you. "Still" does not equal tap water, which equals another charge on your bill.

                            As far as wine goes, we were told my selection was a "killer" but I had to hunt the guy down to get a second glass and he never came back to the table to refill anyone's wine glasses.

                            So, you should imagine that a place that uses copious amounts of salt in EVERYTHING, you would imagine the purpose is to get your to drink more. But, in reality, they just want to cover up the flavors and make you so damn thirsty.

                            The waiter/owner never answered honestly to a direct question unless you are ready to hear a 10 minute dissertation about how something is being made, but miserably fails.

                            As far as the food goes, one appetizer of 4 shrimp arrived in sauce and on crostada, but -- for some freaking reason still had the shell on it, as well as all of the little shrimp feet. So that means having to peel it and getting the sauce all over your fingers, etc. The melted cheese in bread appetizer was so salty that it was basically inedible.

                            The empanadas were the appetizer special. But not so special after all. They were the size of a half-dollar and deep fried in some vastly inferior pastry. The beef - of which I ordered one chicken and one beef, but got 2 beefs - was so spicy it was inedible, and on top of it, I had specifically asked this for my entree, but was brought out early with the other appetizers. Later, it is my opinion, the same empanadas were put back in the deep fryer to reheat. That is what it tasted like,anyway, for the 2 bites I had before setting them aside. At 10:30 at night having ordered not a long time after we got there at 8:15.

                            We were a table of 6. My BF ordered the pork tenderloin with rice and goat cheese sauce. The pork DEFINITELY WAS NOT MADE THE DAY OF SERVICE. I tasted as well and it tasted like it was 2 days ago. To make us wait almost 2 hours for the entree and to get an entree that was so obviously pre-made and dry is the most pathetic experience I have ever had. It was utterly dry and tough and -- well, I don't know what else to say about how miserable it was.

                            The replacement grouper, though in taste better, there was every indication of it having been pre-made as well. So, if everything is pre-made, why did this night from hell take 3 hours? Take me out of my misery and give me the bill. BUT WAIT - THERE IS MORE....

                            Basically, I am putting up with no service, hours of waiting, lousy food, but I am not putting up with the request of an itemized bill.

                            So, for our table of 6, the over-charging was $378, including a 20% gratuity from a persona that took forever and insulted us and left us thirsty and starving and never brought us the semblance of a snack of bread while we were waiting interminably. This bill must have included a 150% sitting tax.

                            Although everyone had an entree except for me, the idea of basically charging me $60 for 2 glasses of wine and 4 shrimp with shells on it is the epitome of horrible customer service and trying to figure out ways to run customers out of his restaurant. (My BF's point of view from a fellow past-restauranteur of the waiter/owner is "I cannot trust anybody and I want to push and BS all my customers and forget about getting a precise answer about your food or bill. I am the fox, you are the chicken. Come in and get devoured. See you next time."

                            I love to go out to eat and enjoy almost any type of cuisine. I think this is the first critical review I have posted. I can be extremely forgiving, especially when the restaurant makes amends in some way with their customer service. That was not at all the case here. Not even a little bit.

                            The reason why we did this review is either to improve the restaurant or to warn you about it. Now you know what you get. Feel free to say I am wrong.

                            1. re: Tehama
                              meatn3 Feb 24, 2013 08:55 AM

                              What a horrid evening.

                              I still have never gotten around to trying them. The wait, over billing and attitude you experienced does not make me inclined to move them to the top of my "to try" list.

                              1. re: Tehama
                                b
                                burgeoningfoodie Feb 28, 2013 06:01 AM

                                Ummm why is this in a post about Mateo's? I think I would have tried Tasca Brava back about 5-6 years ago when they had a huge menu and weren't on Glenwood South.

                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                  meatn3 Feb 28, 2013 10:07 AM

                                  Ummm, if you read several posts back you will see that there had been some discussion about other tapas options in the Triangle. Tasca Brava was mentioned.

                                  Did you try it prior to the move to Glenwood South? How has the menu changed? What made it better at the old location?

                                  BTW, I heard a whisper that Ashley Christensen is looking at a few Glenwood South locations...any word?

                                  1. re: meatn3
                                    b
                                    burgeoningfoodie Feb 28, 2013 11:20 AM

                                    Oh didn't realize that. I knew there was a tapas discussion thread but thought it was separate. My apologies. I hadn't tried either time, but I thought I recall the menu being longer and a bit more authentic. I have no need to try it now since Mateo and given the review.

                                2. re: Tehama
                                  d
                                  dinersaurus Mar 4, 2013 02:00 PM

                                  Tehama, sorry you had such a bad experience. Tasca Brava is certainly a wild card. It can be pretty good at times (my first experience there was great), others less so. The deal breaker for many seems to be the owner/maitre d/waiter/busboy/prima donna. His presence can be a bit... stiffing at times. It can make for a weird experience, which is why I'm in no hurry to return.

                                  On another note, after a few repeat trips now to Mateo, I love it.

                        2. b
                          burgeoningfoodie Jul 13, 2012 07:01 AM

                          From my twitter friends in the know...

                          "And not to be outdone, Durham has had some updates to several ventures in the pipeline. The first is from the team over at Vin Rouge which will be opening Mateo Tapas, at the end of this month, first of August. Check out their website here. "

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                            j
                            JessFlorida Aug 7, 2012 09:04 AM

                            I really, really, really hope they have some anchovy/boquerones pinxtos! Every tapas bar we went to in Spain had some kind of yummy, but simple, boquerones dish. I have tried to find marinated boquerones here in the U.S. without any luck, and ordering them online is very expensive!

                            The facebook pictures of the ham legs hanging from the ceiling got me very excited for their opening!

                          2. LulusMom Aug 7, 2012 09:22 AM

                            I feel like I heard August 8 was the opening (not sure if this is correct). Anyone going?

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: LulusMom
                              l
                              libeerian Aug 7, 2012 09:31 AM

                              I'm interested in it for sure, but I'm apt to let the excitement die and try to figure out kid friendliness. (She's almost three so we only take her out for lunch and EARLY dinners, and never to places where we feel like we'd disturb people.)

                              1. re: LulusMom
                                LulusMom Aug 8, 2012 05:53 AM

                                Does anyone know if it is, in fact, August 8th (today)? If so maybe already booked to the teeth, but I might take Lulu for an early dinner.

                                1. re: LulusMom
                                  c
                                  cervisiam Aug 8, 2012 06:41 AM

                                  you can make a reservation on opentable.com for tonight, so it looks like it. i'm headed there tomorrow night, let us know how it is!

                                  1. re: cervisiam
                                    LulusMom Aug 8, 2012 06:53 AM

                                    If we go, we'll definitely report. Can't wait to hear what you think. How exciting.

                                    1. re: LulusMom
                                      ToothTooth Aug 8, 2012 07:50 AM

                                      Local food freak Joe Kwon posted a bunch of food pictures to his twitter account last evening. Seems that these photos are from yesterday's invitation only event, the second one that Mateo has hosted this week. Everything looks delicious. Just scroll backwards starting with this photo:

                                      http://twitter.com/#!/joekwon80/media...

                                    2. re: cervisiam
                                      b
                                      burgeoningfoodie Aug 8, 2012 11:40 AM

                                      Cervisiam,

                                      Do you already have plans with others or would you like to join my group at 615?

                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                        c
                                        cervisiam Aug 8, 2012 12:23 PM

                                        oh! thank you for the offer - i'm taking a friend whose due date is this weekend, so it's her last hurrah. we have to go after our kids' bedtimes, so we may run into you all :)

                                        1. re: cervisiam
                                          b
                                          burgeoningfoodie Aug 10, 2012 07:39 AM

                                          I saw you there, but didn't want to interrupt. In fact, we were practically back to back as I was sitting at one of the middle row highboy tables with two others.

                                    3. re: LulusMom
                                      b
                                      burgeoningfoodie Aug 8, 2012 11:11 AM

                                      Yes they are open tonight. I'm going with a group tomorrow if I can put it on the books.

                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                        LulusMom Aug 8, 2012 01:52 PM

                                        We may be ships passing in the night, if I decide it is worth the drive on my own. LulusDad is out of town and the babysitter comes at 5 (and I promise her I'll be home by 7:30). Lulu turned her nose up at this for tonight, for whatever reason. Anyone know if they have a bar I can cuddle up to for dinner if I go on my own?

                                        1. re: LulusMom
                                          c
                                          cervisiam Aug 9, 2012 07:00 AM

                                          when i passed there two weeks ago and peered in the window, I think I remember seeing a bar in there. You may want to call this afternoon just to double check :)

                                          1. re: LulusMom
                                            c
                                            cervisiam Aug 9, 2012 07:01 AM

                                            also, andrea weigl posted the menus:
                                            http://blogs.newsobserver.com/sites/drupalblogs.newsobserver.com/files/docs/MateoMenu_071312b.pdf
                                            http://blogs.newsobserver.com/sites/d...

                                            1. re: LulusMom
                                              b
                                              burgeoningfoodie Aug 9, 2012 07:11 AM

                                              Lulus Mom - Did you go? If not would you like to come tonight at 6:15?

                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                                LulusMom Aug 9, 2012 10:39 AM

                                                I didn't end up going last night - Lulu was in the mood for middle eastern food, and so we took the easy route and went to Tallula's. I'm still considering going tonight, but unfortunately I'd likely be halfway through my dinner by 6;15 if I do. Babysitter expects me home by 7:30 which would mean leaving by 7:10 latest. But if i see you, I'll drop by to say hello to you and the lovely Mrs. BF. Thank you very much for the kind offer. I can't wait to hear what people think.

                                                1. re: LulusMom
                                                  b
                                                  burgeoningfoodie Aug 9, 2012 11:50 AM

                                                  Mrs. BF won't be there. Going with others.

                                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                                    LulusMom Aug 9, 2012 04:32 PM

                                                    I ended up at Kitchen's bar. Can't wait to hear about mateo.

                                      2. b
                                        burgeoningfoodie Aug 10, 2012 08:25 AM

                                        So here are my initial thoughts on Mateo's. It is thankfully different as far as what it offers and the flavors it offers. The menu follows their Spanish Heart Southern Soul motif okay. That being said we definitely had favorites out of the menu items we tried.

                                        The Nest - This was given to us on the house for whatever reason and was listed as a special. It is their take on a spanish dish called huevos rotos (sp?) or broken eggs. In the spanish dish you have fries, a busted poached egg and sometimes ground up chorizo. In this version it was labeled as potato skins but they seemed more like bbq potato chips. It was still good, but I think using french fries will make it more substantial and easier to eat from the small cazuela dishes.

                                        Chicharones - As labeled these were chicken fried chicken skins. These were new to me and tasted like fried chicken. I'm not sure how these are done in other parts of the country, but I think based on what I've heard about gribenes. They should be crunchier and the breading shouldn't overtake the chicken. The chow chow was nice and tasty.

                                        Tortilla Espanola - One of the bigger disappointments to me. Having been to Spain within the last year, this is a traditional tapa but the version that came out was so meager it could have mistaken for a piece of laffing cow cheese. The table agreed that this should have been a heftier portion but the taste was nearly correct. I would have liked more onion in mine, but not to be confused this is not a quiche and so you should know that tortilla espanola should be mostly potato, onion, olive oil .. with the egg only acting as a binder which it was here.
                                        Mateo's setting is much like spain itself.. a little bit rustic, a little bit simple and a little bit of what it surrounds (in this case Durham). I didn't find the noise overly distracting or causing hearing issues. One of the workers said they do stay open (at least the bar part) relatively late. To note, this not a restaurant that has a bar. It is more half and half. That is it is just as much a bar as it is a restaurant. Maybe I'm not explaining that well.

                                        Ensalada De Mariscos - cold salad of shell fish in a small cazuela dish. It was tasty and the table liked this.

                                        3 Cheeses (Cabrales, tertilla, elodie goat) - I have had Cabrales and the goat cheese before. Cabrales is a strong Spanish Bleu with a very peppery bite which I liked. The elodie was sweet and not chalky like some goat cheeses can be and the tertilla was mild and what I would deem as a good middle cheese or something for someone who doesn't like strong flavors. These were accompanied by green figs, fig jam and a green tomato jam. All of which were nice and I wish there were more of these. The one big downside to this dish was the lack of toasted bread to adequately eat all the cheeses. Think like 4 slices of toasted baguette between 3 people.

                                        Remolacha Asada - This was a nice and colorful beet salad with goat cheese and I think blood oranges and avocado slices.

                                        Albondigas - These seemed to be a popular dish as I saw quite a few being ordered. 4 or so meatballs in a cazuela with field peas in a stew with a few slices of chorizo.

                                        Patatas y Morcilla - Morcilla is a blood sausage with a very mild flavor. This was a winner. The sausage was a little crisper on the outside than I remember in spain. It is served with what tastes like cheesy creamed potatoes and green apples (diced). They all play well against each other. I think if you've never had a blood sausage. This is a good intro since it isn't at all irony tasting.

                                        Pan con tomate - this is a typical dish seen more in the Basque and Catalan regions of Spain. It is to Spanish food what Garlic bread is to Italian food. This version is quite good. The only issue I had was that the tomato overtook everything else. Traditionally you want to taste the tomato for sure, but also the great olive oil and garlic that have been rubbed into the bread. The fact that it is tomato season right now makes the tomatoes that much stronger and tastier.

                                        That being said we took a look at the desserts. For the most part, Spain is not known for desserts relative to other food items like cheese and meats and olive oil. So to say that the desserts are an afterthought comes with the previous disclaimer. On the menu they had Crema Catalan - think cold creme brulee with a touch of cinnamon, Dueto - Whipped creme frais on top of dulce de leche on top of chocolate mousse, a fig bread pudding, a gateau basque (they were out) and churro and chocolate.

                                        I had seen the churro earlier in the evening and was unimpressed. For the price you get one short, fat churro (known as a porra in spain) and a small cup of the chocolate. In Spain if you order churros and chocolate you get something like this

                                        http://www.gomadrid.com/rest/San-Gine...

                                        I had the bread pudding which I really enjoyed and compared to the other desserts seemed like something different especially since figs are currently in season.

                                        My overall impression is that this restaurant (given that it was only 2nd night) has the feet going in the right direction. The service wasn't lacking at all. They have a pretty good wine list and a whole page devoted to sherries. Some at the table tried a cheerwine sangria and it was deemed not good. Some other complaints are that the high boy tables chairs are not padded so if you sit there bring a cushion for your tailbone. The cazuelas make some items hard to eat and keep things very small. I realize this is a tapas bar but some of the items should come with more items per order. The deviled eggs for example though they sound tasty.. its a deviled egg. I don't know anyone that would pay $4 for 1 deviled egg, but that is just me.

                                        15 Replies
                                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                          c
                                          cervisiam Aug 10, 2012 08:59 AM

                                          some additions to BF's post:

                                          quimbombo (fried okra) - okra quartered lengthwise and deep fried. it was a good portion for the price, about two fistful servings

                                          espárragos blancos (white asparagus) - i know, i know, asparagus is really not in season :) three steamed stalks, with crispy breaded egg on top.

                                          you are right about the churros - we got two short (about 3 inches each) churros with the espresso-cup-sized chocolate. our waitress did say it was a 'small portion', and we were stuffed by then, but i wouldn't have minded a bigger portion.

                                          paella was labeled on the menu as not available. i did not inquire when it would be. it was very lively in there, and i wish that the low chairs had cushions on them as well :)

                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                            b
                                            burgeoningfoodie Aug 10, 2012 09:23 AM

                                            I want to add that a lot of components are seasonal. For starting out, it is promising sign. I do hope that when the weather gets colder that they will try their hand at Cocido or some soups like Ajo Blanco (though that is chilled). For those that do not know what Cocido (madrileño) is.. I'd liken it to the French cassoulet as far as it being that homey, filling stew like dish. Traditionally it is served in three stages. See link. I also hope they will add salmorejo but we shall see as time goes on.

                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocido_m...

                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                              c
                                              cervisiam Aug 10, 2012 09:38 AM

                                              ajo blanco might be a more fitting summer dish :) i would love if they did a riff on the fried eggplant that curate (asheville) has - slices drizzled with honey, and garnished with rosemary. we told our kid it was a banana :)

                                              1. re: cervisiam
                                                r
                                                rockycat Aug 10, 2012 12:15 PM

                                                LOL. There are only 2 ways my kid will eat eggplant and Curate's is one of them. Even I love it (yes, I don't like eggplant, either). That stuff is amazing.

                                            2. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                              LulusMom Aug 10, 2012 10:04 AM

                                              Thanks to both of you for the great reports. We're headed to DC this weekend and will be going to Jaleo (a great tapas place) so maybe give it a week or two after that before we try Mateos. I think $4 for one deviled egg (are we talking the whole eggs or half an egg?) seems a bit steep.

                                              1. re: LulusMom
                                                b
                                                burgeoningfoodie Aug 10, 2012 11:39 AM

                                                It is your typical one half and egg wrapped in chorizo but still. Lulus Mom I'd have to say you may want to check out Zaytinya as well. Mezze (the Greek/Lebanese tapa). It is also run by Jose Andres but the food and atmosphere is better IMHO and less chance of pork.

                                                http://www.zaytinya.com/

                                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                                  LulusMom Aug 10, 2012 01:47 PM

                                                  Yes, I've eaten at Zaytinya many times, but while I agree that the atmosphere is nicer (or at least posher) and the food good there, I'm more of a fan of Jaleo. There are so many choices that it is really pretty easy to eat lots of little things without pork there (unlike in most Spanish restaurants) and I like the bustling feel of the place. The following night, when Lulu will be with her Grandma, we'll get an adults night out at Central. If you haven't eaten there while in DC, I highly recommend it.

                                                  So the deviled egg is covered in chorizo, huh? Guess we just saved me $4!

                                                  1. re: LulusMom
                                                    b
                                                    burgeoningfoodie Aug 13, 2012 01:33 PM

                                                    No the it isn't covered so much as wrapped ;-) Yes I've eaten at Central. Had the gougeres and beef cheeks.

                                              2. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                                d
                                                durhamois Aug 11, 2012 09:40 AM

                                                Ate at Mateo last night, and will add my two cents:

                                                There were several service hickups, but that's to be expected with a new place. Everyone was polite, friendly, and apologetic about the problems. I thought it was a little bizarre when our waitress asked if this was our first time here. She also didn't ask if we would like the menu explained. I think the servers ought to have a 15 second prepared spiel that explains what pintxos are, how many dishes one should plan on ordering, and that dishes will come out as they are ready, rather than in courses. They shouldn't assume that everyone knows how to order in a tapas bar, when they're the first tapas bar in Durham.

                                                On the whole, the food we ordered was very successful. Here's the breakdown:

                                                -Bunuelo: olxtail donut. Absolutely delicious. One of my favorites.

                                                -A bib lettuce, fig and orange salad that was good, but nothing exceptional.

                                                -Patatas Bravas: fried potatoes, aioli, spicy tomato sauce. Very good.

                                                -Pollo a la Braza: I never order chicken in restaurants, but my dining companion did, and it was actually very tasty. Moist, flavorful chicken on a skewer, a salsa verde (tasted like chimichurri), garnished with pine nuts.

                                                -Calamares fritos: it's fried calamari, hard to screw up. Their aioli could be better.

                                                -Bistec a la Parilla: seared beef on a crustini, caramelized onions, aioli, and blue cheese. This was fantastic. It was as tasty as anything I could have dreamed of at this place. But my problem with that dish is that it was $15 for a tapa that I got MAYBE 4 forkfuls out of. I am fine with the portion size, but it should be priced around 7 dollars, not 15. It was the circumference of a round (not oblong) slice of baguette , and barely over an inch tall. Half the height was the bread. There is absolutely no need to have it priced that high.

                                                We ordered two deserts, the bread pudding and the chocolate mousse with dulce de leche. The mousse was okay, but the dulce de leche did not have much of a caramel flavor. The bread pudding, I'm sorry to say, was inedible. The deserts are clearly an afterthought, and are designed to be flown out of the kitchen without a pastry chef present. When I go back, I'll just be ordering sherry for desert.

                                                I absolutely loved the space. It's true that the seating is not terribly comfortable, but I was able to get past that. It's noisy and bustling, but we didn't have to shout to hear each other.

                                                I'm a sucker for great bathrooms in a restaurant. The men's room was kinda fun, with funky old exposed pipes, and humorous wallpaper.

                                                I forgot to go up the staircase to see what's upstairs. I'm assuming it's dining rooms for private parties?

                                                Overall, I'm really happy to have Mateo as part of the Durham restaurant scene. I'm sure I'll be back again and again. But I think their pricing is exorbitantly high on some, but not all, items. $4 for a deviled egg is insulting, unless it's topped with a little caviar. If they work out their pricing, I think it will become a Durham favorite.

                                                1. re: durhamois
                                                  c
                                                  cervisiam Aug 11, 2012 02:51 PM

                                                  maybe it depended on the server - ours explained the different sections, told us about the day's specials, and also gave some of her favorites.

                                                  i also wanted to add that i wish that the aioli had been more garlicky. maybe i'm not in the norm, but i want to be pungently aromatic when i'm done eating!

                                                  1. re: cervisiam
                                                    d
                                                    durhamois Aug 11, 2012 06:45 PM

                                                    I was particular disturbed by the pimento aioli that came with the calamari. It had the look and taste of Thousand Island dressing. They can do better.

                                                    1. re: durhamois
                                                      LulusMom Aug 12, 2012 02:27 AM

                                                      That sounds pretty lame.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom
                                                        w
                                                        winedine Aug 12, 2012 07:39 AM

                                                        We recently ate at twice - it was that good - at Curate in Asheville. Afraid I have been spoiled for life! Was hoping Mateo would be a good option here - but $4 for 1 deviled egg, and over $4 ea for the Bistec a la Parilla? I love tapas but many of the dishes outlined here seem too small to share and too expensive to get multiple dishes of for a group to share. Will certainly give it a try though.

                                                        1. re: winedine
                                                          b
                                                          burgeoningfoodie Aug 13, 2012 01:40 PM

                                                          Yeah the pricing to me seemed a bit off when I initially saw the menu. I mean the price is the same as jaleo but I think jaleo gives you a bit more to share. Lulus Mom can maybe give an update when she comes back. Another issue, at least with the high tables, is lack of space for ordering more than 3 dishes at a time depending on the serving vessel.

                                                          My dining companions also thought that people may be a little intimidated if the menu wasn't explained. For Instance, how many people are going to know that PX means Pedro Ximenez (Jimenes) and what that is (a type of grape native to Spain). I hope they will iron out their price to portion ratio and other small items within a months time.

                                                          As mentioned the desserts were an afterthought and I think in Spain many desserts are not a focus of the culinary culture as a whole though, like I said, if you do order churros you're going to get a good amount... not one or two.

                                                  2. re: durhamois
                                                    b
                                                    bbqme Oct 29, 2012 08:13 PM

                                                    Looks like the pricing fears I expressed above have borne themselves out. By the way, deviled eggs at the Granery in Fearrington Village is $1 per order, an order being two halves! At Geer St. Garden an order of 6 halves is $4. C'mon Mateo!

                                                2. p
                                                  PeterB Aug 17, 2012 11:31 AM

                                                  First dinner last night at Mateo. We arrived at 6:15 and were greeted and seated cheerfully. The interior is beautiful with a long, high banquette facing the equally long bar. You could see the kitchen in back with hams hanging in front. The wine list is overwhelming (in a good way) with sherries, white, and red Spanish wines. We were in beer mode, so we ordered Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, an excellent Saison. On to the food. The menu is divided into pinxtos (side dishes), cold tapas, and warm tapas. Paellas were not available tonight. We ordered pan con tomate, grilled bread with a tomato jam. Delicious. Then we ordered tortilla Espanola, albondigas, samfina, and fideua. The tortilla, a potato and egg frittata, was decent but lacked onions, in my opinion. The aioli was good, though. Albondigas were savory meatballs in a chorizo and field pea tomato stew. Lovely. The samfina, a daily special, had eggplant, peppers, and onions topped with a fried egg. Delicious. When we asked for bread to soak up the delicious sauce they brought us a small plate of it. Fideua was kind of a pasta paella, with chorizo, clams, calamari, mussels, and peas. Again, delicious. We had just enough room to share desserts so we shared a fig bread pudding that had white chocolate chips, walnuts, and creme fraiche. So tasty. All in all, the food was delicious, the service was great, the atmosphere hip and urban, a great experience. I'd love to come back to try the hams, the cheeses, more tapas, and explore that incredible wine list. A great addition to the downtown Durham scene. Nicely done, Mateo!

                                                  1. t
                                                    thessalian Oct 29, 2012 07:41 AM

                                                    Mateo Tapas review for this past Saturday--

                                                    Party of five, two had been there before, mixed non-foodies and wannabe foodies like me.

                                                    We went at 6:45 on Saturday (reservations), were seated promptly. The noise wasn't quite as bad as I expected, but we were near the door, not the bar. The lighting really is dim, and the specials board is also hard to read because of someone's faint cursive handwriting in chalk. The place was packed, with a line the entire time we dined.

                                                    Standout dishes for me:

                                                    Queso Frito (manchego fried in omelet shape with a duck egg inside, ready to burst). Everyone loved it. I came very close to ordering a second round.

                                                    Gambas (their basic shrimp dish in olive oil, lemon, etc): These were basic but good, and we sopped up the liquid with bread.

                                                    Calamares - I suppose it could be argued that this is a hard one to screw up, but it was a good-sized portion and nice finger food to snack on while we awaited other dishes.

                                                    Patatas Bravas - I'm not usually a person who lusts after potatoes in any form, but between the fries at Vin Rouge, and now these, I could be turned. It seems to me that an order of these fried potatoes (with the dark smoky tomato sauce and garlicky aioli) paired with the queso frito/duck egg might be the ultimate hangover breakfast.

                                                    We also had several of the specials, including a chicken croquette, basic but good enough that we ended up with two rounds; some stuffed peppers with lamb sausage which were the spiciest thing we ate all night, but still very popular; and a bone marrow dish. I've never had bone marrow before and wasn't sure what to think--I liked it well enough but no idea if it was 'good'.

                                                    We also had several bread dishes (pan con tomate with fixins, pan a la parilla, and chevrellette (my favorite)), and they brought us more bread for the sauces we had accumulated pretty regularly. They seem to only have two kinds of bread, though, and I'm not a huge fan of the small crostini type rounds.

                                                    I noticed they seemed to have addressed some of the portion concerns--the devilled egg is now (2) quantity, and the churros were enough to share, although pretty bland.

                                                    Service was about as has been described before--sort of off and on. Dishes arrived in reasonable time, and drinks were refilled promptly. Main waiter was distracted-seeming; we didn't get one order (were also not charged for it), and the bill splitting looked like it was done pretty much at random, although we warned up front about the bills and tried to be clear who was ordering what.

                                                    I'd definitely go back, although probably on a weeknight.

                                                    1. meatn3 Oct 29, 2012 08:19 PM

                                                      Food & Wine gave a nice mention under "the best new places to drink wine":
                                                      http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows...

                                                      1. Agrippa Dec 19, 2012 10:58 AM

                                                        Ate here this week.
                                                        Food was excellent.
                                                        Had achovies, shrimp, jamon iberico, and patatas bravas.
                                                        The jamon could have been a little better considering the price and since it was iberico bellota , or acorn fed pork.
                                                        Had the same jamon in Spain, Mateo's wasnt even close.
                                                        Overall a great place, and it is the closest thing I have seen to a tapa bar in Spain based on food and ambiance.
                                                        They also won me over by having Estrella Galicia on tap.

                                                        1. t
                                                          Tom from Raleigh Feb 27, 2013 07:26 AM

                                                          My wife and I ate at Mateo again this past Saturday. We had some outstanding dishes, namely, Queso Frito served on a bed of kale, the octopus carpachio, squid ink fidua, chorizo crusted deviled eggs and an oxheart ruben sandwich. The queso frito and the octopus were among the best things I've eaten locally. Just amazing!

                                                          One notable miss from the specials board was a roasted bone marrow dish. Perhaps I misheard the server, but I couldn't detect any bone marrow in this dish. It was a piece of bone cross cut with a scoop of roasted and pulled short rib on top. It was OK, but a bit of a let down, since I was looking forward to meat butter.

                                                          Service was OK, but not the best. Still, the food was well executed and interesting, so we'll go back eagerly.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Tom from Raleigh
                                                            v
                                                            veganhater Mar 4, 2013 10:42 AM

                                                            Had my second meal there last night and it was outstanding. Too many dishes to go over, so I'll just recommend the whole menu. The bone marrow was on special again last night and we ordered two. Maybe you just got burned on yours, but both of ours had a nice run of marrow down the middle. Our version was cut lengthwise and topped with pulled short ribs and radish. Somewhat like a canoe in its set-up.

                                                            1. re: veganhater
                                                              b
                                                              burgeoningfoodie Mar 4, 2013 12:11 PM

                                                              I think it is par for even the best tapas bars in Spain to have a few dishes they do exceedingly well compared to others and that is outside of the typical tapas that you get at any bar. Mateo's seems to offer a similar if not with a little more Southern flare (both in food and presentation) to what you would get in Spain. That being said.. again my only complaint is that the seating is uncomfortable. I'd rather stand at the highboys if allowed to.

                                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                                                t
                                                                thessalian Mar 5, 2013 08:16 AM

                                                                Agree on the awful Mateo seating and too-dim lighting at times. (Have to say, it made me love the ultra-comfortable seating at G2B that much more when I went there for the first time--and the lack of massive ambient noise.)

                                                                Glad to hear the quality is still up there, though, will return soon.

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