Mateo’s owner to open seafood restaurant in former Fishmonger’s space

Chef Matt Kelly will open seafood restaurant in former Fishmonger’s place.
Chef Matt Kelly will open seafood restaurant in former Fishmonger’s place. Staff Photo by Juli Leonard

Chef Matt Kelly, who is building a restaurant empire in downtown Durham, has signed a lease for the former Fishmonger’s restaurant.

Kelly, owns Mateo, Mothers & Sons and Lucky’s Deli, hopes to open the new seafood restaurant by Christmas.

Kelly said the restaurant will serve sustainable seafood with an emphasis on North Carolina products and dishes. Diners can expect to see North Carolina oysters (“They are really good,” Kelly said.) as well as Calabash-style seafood using cornmeal from Creedmoor-based Brinkley Farms or Geechie Boy Mill on Edisto Island, off the coast of South Carolina. Other dishes that Kelly expects to be on the menu will be crab dip, smoked fish dip and crab roe butter served with toast.

Kelly has hired chef Travis Robinson, who grew up in South Florida, to be his second-in-charge in the kitchen. Robinson recently worked at the now-closed G2B restaurant in Durham. About hiring Robinson for this project, Kelly said, “I thought that his food was very good. It was important for me to find someone rooted in the Southeast.”

Fishmonger’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, which served seafood in downtown Durham’s Brightleaf District for more than 30 years, closed in November. The N.C. Department of Revenue shut down the business because the owner owed about $165,000 in taxes. Owner Gary Bass had opened the business at 806 W. Main St. in 1983 as a seafood market, and it evolved into a restaurant.

Kelly has been busy this year opening restaurants. He is still a partner in Vin Rouge off Ninth Street and owns Mateo, a Spanish tapas restaurant. He opened Mothers & Sons, an Italian restaurant that he co-owns with chef Josh DeCarolis, this spring. A few weeks later, Kelly opened Lucky’s Deli with chef Drew Brown, former co-owner of Piedmont restaurant and staff chef at Firsthand Foods. Mateo and the two new restaurants are all on 100 block of West Chapel Hill Street.

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Twitter: @andreaweigl