October 11, 2011

October 11, 2011
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The man, the myth, the Mateo; photo from MateoGranados.com.

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Granados’ cuisine is California fresh with Yucatán punch; photo from MateoGranados.com.

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Interior of La Condesa in St. Helena; photo from La Condesa Napa’s Facebook page.

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“Bife Lento” with baby corn, cotija, sun-dried chiles; photo from La Condesa Napa’s Facebook page.

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Rock shrimp ceviche at Cielito Lindo; photo from Cielito Lindo’s Facebook page.

By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.

The Great Regional Mexican Restaurant Boom of 2011 swept north into Healdsburg last month with the opening of ~MATEO’S COCINA LATINA~ downtown. This is chef-owner Mateo Granados’ first brick-and-mortar restaurant, though he has been delighting Sonoma County with his Yucatecan-Californian cuisine with a farmers’ market stand and roving restaurant (Tendejo de Calle) for the last few years. Before that, Granados was executive chef at Dry Creek Kitchen in the Hotel Healdsburg. Now he’s got his own place just down the street, cooking up twists on Yucatecan classics with superb local ingredients.

The restaurant’s décor is rustic and reclaimed, full of materials like salvaged metal light boxes and mesquite chairs. A shady back patio offers communal seating surrounded by vegetable beds, and the long bar inside the restaurant lets patrons dine at the center of the action. The tequila-centric cocktail list was created by superbarman Scott Beattie, and has a tasty selection of seasonal offerings like the “Caliente” Margarita de Verano, spiked with radish, cilantro, and serrano chiles. Methinks that’ll go down easy with the squash blossom raw-milk feta empanadas, and/or the Panucho tortilla pocket stuffed with black bean purée, annato-marinated chicken, and cinnamon-cured red onions. If you’re not into tequila, fear not—thanks to chef Granados’ stint at Williams-Selyem and his light hand in the kitchen with the spicy stuff, wine is also a rockin’ beverage option.

Mateo’s is open every day for dinner, serving lunch Monday-Friday and brunch Saturday and Sunday, but they DO NOT TAKE RESERVATIONS. You can, however, call ahead to put your name on the wait list. 214 Healdsburg Ave. between Mill and Matheson, Healdsburg, 707-433-1520.

Three days after Mateo’s opened, the crew behind Austin’s award-winning ~LA CONDESA~ finally opened their Napa Valley outpost—and the buildout looks awesome. The folks at Eater have been tracking these guys for months, describing their California twist on the Austin original with admirable detail.

So far, the St. Helena spot is open for dinner only, seven nights a week. But their 5pm opening affords plenty of time to work your way through the 200+ tequilas at the bar. Check out their menus online to plot and slobber over before you get there. 1320 Main St. between Adams and Hunt, St. Helena, 707-967-8111.

Last, but actually the first of these three to open, is downtown Napa’s ~CIELITO LINDO~ and its Jalisco-inspired menu, which took over (and transformed) Annaliên’s former space next to Ubuntu on Main Street. Seafood is the specialty here in the form of cured to order ceviches, creamy shrimp empanadas, and a slew of other delicias del mar, but there’s also plenty of interesting carne for non-fish fans: prensadas de chicharrón (masa cakes topped with tiny nuggets of chicharrones), chicken mole enchiladas, pork chop with mashed malanga, and steak with bone marrow. The new lunchtime menu (available daily 11am-3pm) includes more casual items like Jalisco-style tacos of fish, shrimp, sautéed octopus, and braised pork belly. And, their creative agave liquor margaritas are $6 all day, so why not order up a tamarind version to kick things off? 1142 Main St. near Pearl, Napa, 707-252-2300.