Don’t call it a come back, because that’s not exactly what it is, but it’s impossible not to notice the immense gastronomic improvement at Boulder dining scene staple Mateo.
Months back, during the height of the recession, Mateo seemed to have lost some of the luster that kept it a big player on Pearl Street. Instead of surrendering to the times, however, the owners admirably refocused, simplifying and improving their food while paring down and diversifying their wine list. As a result, the Provencal-style restaurant keeps getting better, delivering on the usual suspects of hearty French bistro fare consistently and inviting diners to make the place a regular stop.
Mateo is about the only place in Boulder that makes me feel like I should be wearing a sparkly top and twisting a champagne glass between manicured fingers. The restaurant embodies cool, right down to the slightly aloof attitude of the staff. The thought that has been put into the aesthetic of Mateo’s dining room, including the marble bar and the compellingly modern shape of the glassware, doesn’t go unnoticed. While that’s often enough to garner a following of a trendy Boulder crowd, as the owner of Mateo and Radda has done, it’s heartening to see that attention to detail now matched in solidly executed and well-crafted simple food.
My reacquaintance with Mateo began at Happy Hour, quite possibly the best early-evening deal in town, and marked my first joyous encounter with the brussels sprouts gratin and tartine of fig, gruyere, and prosciutto. Since then, I’ve spent cold afternoons sitting at the bar with an order of mussels, prepared traditionally in a tomato broth, and found myself eagerly anticipating the return of warm spring days so as to inhabit Mateo’s sunny patio for a lazy afternoon of charcuterie and a glass (uh, bottle) of sparkling wine.
I don’t want to discourage diners from choosing Mateo for dinner, but I have noticed that the restaurant shines brightest during its recently reopened lunch. During my latest experiences at the bistro, the food has been so good that I’ve almost overlooked the fact that the service is occasionally painfully slow. But if the past few months are indication, I’m willing to trust that Mateo can polish up the front of the house to match their vastly bettered kitchen.
1837 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
303 443 7766
Lunch: Monday - Friday 11:30 am - 3:00 pm
Dinner: Monday - Saturday 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Happy Hour: 5:00pm - 6:30pm nightly