Home » Restaurants

Mateo Tapas

Posted by DID 16 Aug 2012 15 Comments

Not much needs to be said about Mateo. With Matt Kelly at the helm, the downtown location and the rave reviews that are sure to flow – folks are going to find their way to Mateo’s doorstep without our help.

It’s hard to believe this large, open candlelit room was once the much beloved, musty, dusty Book Exchange. Mateo, only a week old, is bustling. The staff, many of whom you’ll recognize from other joints around town, is friendly and welcoming. We had to wait quite a bit despite the fact that we had a reservation (which seems to be a requirement in these early weeks), but the staff was extremely apologetic and really, you can’t blame folks for wanting to linger in Mateo’s warm glow.

Our waiter recommended ordering three or four plates per a person. The food comes out at a furious pace and soon our table was overflowing with tiny plates. A sampling of a few of the dishes we tried:

Gambas (Shrimp, olive oil, garlic, chili, lemon parsley)

Almejas Pequenas (manila clams, sherry, garlic, boiled peanuts, ham)

Chicharones (chicken fried chicken skin, piquillo chow chow)

Patatas y Morcilla (blood sausage, cream potato)

Quimbombo (crispy okra, sherry vinegar aioli)

Pan a la Parrilla (grilled bread with three dips - romesco, green pea/manchego, olive)

Albondigas (meatballs, chorizo, Sea Island red pea stew)

We also tried the Pan con Tomate, the Queso Frito y Huevo (crispy manchengo, duck egg, romesco sauce), the padron peppers, a cheese plate, the Patatas Bravas and the Tortilla Espanola. Everything was truly excellent, but the stand-outs for me were the clams, the Queso Frito, the chicken skins, the okra and the tomato bread. It was really hard to choose just three per person and I look forward to spending many a night at Mateo’s bar trying to eat our way through the menu.

You can make a reservation on Mateo’s site or by calling 919-530-8700.

Mateo Tapas
109 West Chapel Hill St.
Durham, North Carolina 27701
Tue – Thu:    5:00 pm    -    10:30 pm
Fri – Sat:    5:00 pm    -    12:00 am
Sun:    5:00 pm    -    9:30 pm


  • Quentin` said:

    I would have been interested to know the per-person cost of your meal and your opinion on the value. The food sounds like it’s very good but I’ve seen some complaints about the cost.


    DID replies on August 16th, 2012 at 1:19 pm:

    We spent $60 per couple and that included alcohol (beers, wine, sangria).

    We didn’t stress about watching prices last night but a thrifty diner could make an excellent meal out of a plate of peppers ($4), the okra ($4) and the queso frita ($4). Or just the patatas bravas ($6 for a large, overflowing plate) and the pork ribs ($7).

    We won’t regularly go there and order lots and lots of plates, but we will regularly sit at the bar order a $6 glass of sangria, and the $5 pan con tomato (four slices of thick crusty bread with fresh roasted tomatoes) and the clams ($8).


  • King's Daughters Inn said:

    Couldn’t agree with you more! That bar is going to be the place we send guests, but also where we may perch for a glass of wine or 4!


  • BVal said:

    Can anyone comment on if this a Bakatsias owned business like Matt’s other place, Vin Rogue?


    Rob replies on August 16th, 2012 at 5:39 pm:

    My understanding is that Matt Kelly went about this on his own…


    Emma Kate Sinder replies on August 20th, 2012 at 9:02 am:

    Matt Kelly is definitely the owner….not Bakatsias


  • Tooth said:

    If anyone is interested in looking at some pictures of the food at Mateo that you can actually see, check these out:


  • Numb butt said:

    Love, love, love the food! But, my god, the stools at the high-top tables are horrible. What is it about the restaurants in this town with the picnic tables and uncomfortable bar stools? You can request the low tables with normal seating when you call to make a reservation, but I’m guessing those fill up fast.


    ernesto replies on December 1st, 2012 at 1:58 pm:

    I agree w Numb butt. We sat at the bar which has the same awful stools as the high top tables.


  • trina said:

    I left Mateo because sorry but the service was horrible no way am I paying a ridiculous price and tip to be treated unwanted and went to taberna tapas right down the street, what I got at taberna (which despite the suppossed battle going on between these two places) was great quality and reasonable prices and I felt wanted there unlike at mateos. Im choosing Taberna Tapas.


  • dbird said:

    I’ve been here once and was terribly disappointed. Service confused (repeatedly offered dishes we hadn’t ordered, and solicited to remove plates we did with what I thought had become a joke in the ’80s: ‘still working?’), music loud (that’s just adolescent), food sloppy and repetitive (how many ways can you spin a pig? actually, a lot, but you have to actually do something to make it count as food. That you would buy and eat. More than once).

    From all I hear this is still yards better than the Taberna Tapas place so I won’t be trying that.

    I do think it funny that people on this site are citing Spanish (or other) nationality or travel to establish or underscore the credibility of their assessments about food. What on earth does that matter to anything? I’m one of 55 million ‘Americans’. So, do I get special credit for my opinions about American offerings such as trending grain prices on the CBE, Art Basel sales over a decade, and Sushi Yoshida since Yoshida-San’s departure? This could be interesting.


  • Aly said:

    Went there once, the patatas bravas were coated in paprika, yuk! The gambas were not amazing. I lived in Barcelona for a few years, all I can say is it was not authentic. Upside, the hostess was super cute and sweet y the place is pretty.


  • Dmarie said:

    My friends and I tried out Mateo Tapas last week and it was delicioso. I think it’s probably more fun to go with more people so you can share lots of different tapas. I lived in Spain before too and I can’t remember the proper way any of them were prepared. I just know that when the food I’m paying for is tasty, I am happy. As for service, we had a great server with a cheerful attitude and the food came out quick. The ambiance was great (decor, lighting, etc) and there were lots of people there although you wouldn’t know it from outside. That seems the case in downtown Durham, popular spots are crowded on the inside and yet the streets look abandoned. Here’s a big vote for some improved lighting (white christmas lights draw a lot of attention) in downtown Durham, eg. Larimer Square in Denver… but I digress.


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