MEZ Brings Contemporary Mexican to RTP

mez The Chapel Hill Restaurant Group has done it again. Their already fantastic collection of moderately priced restaurants is now joined by MEZ, the new contemporary Mexican restaurant in RTP. MEZ is at the intersection of Page Road (the exit at the Sheraton Imperial) and Slater Road, just off of I-40 in a new, LEED-certified stand-alone building. map it

The atmosphere reminds me of a cross between 518 West and Winston’s Grille. Its large, airy central bar with hard walls and hard floors looks like it could easily get as noisy as 518, and lacks the level of decorative warmth felt in the restaurant’s siblings.

The menu layout is extremely similar to that at 518 and 411. There is only one weekly special, but there are roughly 8-10 regular entree dishes, several salads, and some delicious looking appetizers. Given the restaurant group’s reputation, I was reasonably expecting a menu that would rival Atlanta’s Nava. While MEZ doesn’t quite reach the level of Nava, it still has its merits.

Greg Cox does an excellent of outlining the building’s place in the market, so I tried MEZ for the first time last night. I started out with the corn chowder which was fine. The two main flavors were cream and corn. The soup honestly needed more flavor from either its green chili pepper, some other smokey source of flavor (like bacon), or plain ol’ cumin.

I kept things basic and got the outstanding chicken enchiladas. While the chicken flavor was good, the dish really shines with its tortilla flavor and its deep red chili pepper sauce. The sauce had just the right amount of zing to kept me interested without overwhelming my palate. The dish is served with some delicious rice and beans that rival those at Rosa Mexicano.

Without a doubt, I plan on returning to MEZ. As Cox mentioned, Jibarra shoots for a higher price point, but MEZ is somewhere in Sedona’s price range, and is a slightly more complete package. The next time I go I plan on delving into some of MEZ’s seafood and beef dishes, though.

It will be interesting to see how crowds are at MEZ. Spanky’s, 411, and 518 have a decidedly urban tilt to them, so they tend to have large crowds after work and on the weekends. In contrast MEZ takes CHRG’s suburban experience way past the domain of Squid’s. RTP restaurants tend to be crowded on weeknights, and empty on weekends. On the other hand, CHRG has such a great reputation in the area, that Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill residents are likely to join the quickly growing RTP population in clogging up the wait list on weekends. Regardless, I’ll be finding more time to eat there.

  • http://ncsulilwolf.blogspot.com Lisa Jeffries

    The building looked great when I drove by last weekend! I checked out their menu online and am really excited about trying the salsa bar one afternoon :-)

  • jason

    the building is awesome, inside and out. the decor is plain and simple yet very cool. the menu, i wasn’t so excited about. maybe i’m just to plain and simple of a person, but i don’t get excited when i go to a restaurant and they have to hand you a 2-sided page of explainations of the food on the menu. i ended up having the grilled shrimp ceasar salad, it was excellent. no explaination needed.

  • Bobo

    I just had their fish taco’s today! It is in the small plate section, but will definitely fill you up and they are GREAT!!!!

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