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When you think tapas in Durham, most likely the hot Mateo restaurant comes to mind. But what about Taberna Tapas? Located in a convenient spot on Main Street, Taberna Tapas opened up right around the same time as Mateo but got lost in the shuffle. Small storefront, clean but humble interior, Taberna Tapas sports a small bar up front, an L-shaped dining space and a smattering of four and two-tops. I had tried to eat here right after it opened but a lack of a liquor license meant a pass. Nearly two years later I FINALLY make it in before a DPAC show and I’m sort of sorry I hadn’t tried earlier because it’s a solid eatery! Different from Mateo but still worth the effort. Here’s why!
While not as elaborate as Mateo, Taberna Tapas sports a very comfortable and casual feel. The space is focused on the bar up front with wine cubbies overhead. The dining space is a bit tight and wraps around the bar which does give Taberna a more cozy experience. There are a bunch of two tops on the right hand side which to me, makes it feel like a space that you pop into for a quick bite, right in line with my thoughts on tapas. We grab a small table with a bench on one side to avoid a cramped high-boy against the wall.
Taberna’s menu comes on one sheet but it seems pretty deep and offers plenty of options. For starters we get some bacon-wrapped stuffed dates, croquettes, and short rib. The dates are excellent: plump and filled with cheese and an almond. Good portion size with five on the plate. I also got to try out the chicken and bacon croquetas which were nice crisp patties with some creaminess in the middle a good choice. And I’ll try the short rib next time! Didn’t eat too much since I had just gone a bit crazy at lunch with Soo Cafe’s Korean fried chicken. But of course I couldn’t resist a sweet finish and we did a dense flan with almonds which was great for $4. The pitcher of sangria that went with the meal was delicious and full of fruit.
All-in-all I’d have to say I liked Taberna Tapas quite a bit. Simpler and more basic than Mateo, tapas were always meant to be a simple tide you over offering while you sipped on drinks. And I think they do a good job at Taberna for the price. So while the space here is limited, definitely check out Taberna Tapas especially if you’re hitting up a DPAC show. With its more inconspicuous presence I think you’ll find it makes a nice alternative to the extremely popular Mateo! Buen apetito…
325 West Main Street
Durham, NC 27701