On a recent trip to Seattle, I had a chance to visit the flagship location of the Matador to check out Zak Melang and Nathan Opper’s fresh Mexican flavors. My mission: to see what’s in store for the Denver outpost, which is poised to open on the corner of 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard in early November.
Since the menus at both the original restaurant and the Highland location are virtually identical, I went to determine if the Matador has the chops to make it in a Denver neighborhood already crowded with Mexican cuisine (Pinche Tacos, Lola, and El Camino sit nearby, as do a multitude of celebrated mom-and-pops). What I discovered in Seattle was a menu filled with fresh and rich Mexican flavors (of particular note were the braised pork sopes on tender, handmade masa cakes). If chefs Steve Linder and Franck Forbeau cook from the same sensibilities, they will have no problem fitting into the Denver dining scene.
Meanwhile, Melang and Opper did their part by finding the ideal spot for the restaurant. As Melang puts it, “We have always sought out iconic corners in great neighborhoods and Highland fits that perfectly.” The duo is transforming the aging Heidi's Brooklyn Deli into a little slice of Old Mexico by adding intricate woodworking, fine metalwork, and even an indoor fire pit (pictured). Though the remodel has significantly pushed back the opening date (the Matador was originally slated to open on Cinco de Mayo), Melang and Opper plan to open the doors on the Day of the Dead, on November 1.
3496 W. 32nd Ave.
—photo courtesy of Adam Larkey