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May 16, 2008

Mez -- Mmmodern Mexican


So what came first -- queso fundido (aka queso flameado) or raclette?  Beats me, but the new Mez Restaurant in Durham does the Mexican version, pictured above (with a tortilla chip for scale):

Queso Flameado - Melted chihuahua cheese and goat cheese with roasted poblano. Served with fresh flour tortillas and your choice of chorizo sausage or all vegetarian with tomatillo salsa...7.45.

I've had two meals at Mez and enjoyed both.  The crab tampico cakes (Mexican crabcakes, no breadcrumbs)  are yummy, especially for the mango-jicama slaw that comes with. 

So what's the spin at Mez?  Their website says:


MEZ is the newest venture from the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, the owners of 518 West, 411 West, Squid’s, and Spanky’s, all award-winning local restaurants. We  MEZ also offers a beautiful private room that can accommodate 80 to 100 people for business lunches, rehearsal dinners, or any other occasion. MEZ is North Carolina's first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designed restaurant.

As for me: I appreciated the wide variety of items, fresh ingredients, low grease levels, and innovative salsas.  Of the eight or nine dishes I've tried, I've loved the heck out of a couple, liked most, and disliked only one or two, mostly because they were too salty for my tastes (which run on the sensitive side when it comes to salt).  My lunch for two went for $50 (including a healthy tip, because I think I was accidentally rough with our newbie server.  He kept trying to take away my plates which still had some of the mango-jicama slaw and the Yucatan slaw.  I threatened to break his hands.).  Dinner for three was $95 (including one drink per person). 


The building is worth visiting if only to see what a LEED certified building looks and feels like.  The upstairs dining room and patio would be perfect for a large reception.  Just watch your step on the long stairways if you're serving booze.  Straight stairs and a long way down.

And lest you be misled by the above empty-restaurant photo (taken ~2:30), the placed was packed at 1:30 in the afternoon, much as it was ~8 p.m. on a recent weekday night.  Mez has only been open a short while, but people obviously like it.  And people are getting used to the idea of eating in the Research Triangle food zone after work, not just during.  (Compare the pizza place and the Chinese place a block away -- closed after 6.)

Bonus quotes from lunch:

Me:  The one thing about this dining room is that it's pretty noisy.  If you brought a large group of friends here, you'd have a hard time hearing everyone at your table.

Pal L:  Not with my friends.

12:30 AM in Food, Reviews | Permalink


Not that I would ever have the opportunity to go to RTP for dinner (as whenever I see my husband in the evening, he's just come *from* there) but noisy places are good for babies. No one can hear them fussing or vocalizing, it all just blends in with the ambient noise :-)

Posted by: pinky | May 16, 2008 9:32:53 AM

If it's owned by the 518 people then it makes sense why some things are so salty--every thing I've ever eaten at 518 (except for a "pizzette") has been too salty to bear. My experiences with their food have been so consistently unpleasant that if I didn't get dragged in every now and then for someone's birthday at work I would never set foot in the place again. Maybe i should avoid Mez as well.

Posted by: Lisa B | May 16, 2008 12:53:31 PM

Hey, and I just had dinner at 411 West! Avoided salt risk by sticking with the grilled pear salad (very yum). I forgot to ask for the dressing on the side, but it was fine for me the way it came.

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