Denver has not always been considered a particularly diverse dining city, but there have been notable exceptions. Vietnamese and Ethiopian restaurants gained popularity in the 1980s and ’90s, long before the specialties of those countries became trendy nationwide. And at 4609 East Colfax Avenue, Mataam Fez introduced Denver to Moroccan food in 1976, providing an immersive experience where guests could sit on the floor surrounded by sumptuous pillows and rugs while enjoying couscous, b'stella and lamb kebabs while belly dancers shimmied through the dining room.
But Mataam Fez will soon end its 42-year run on a gritty stretch of Colfax now known more for pot shops and tattoo parlors than destination restaurants serving international cuisine. Owner Abdelah M. (he prefers not to use his last name) says that the building has been sold and that the new owners have other plans and did not offer a lease extension to the restaurant.
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Because of that, Mataam Fez will close on Sunday, January 21 — but not for good. A search has already begun for a new location. The owner would like to stay in the neighborhood but says rents are high; since customers come from all over the metro area, however, location is not critical. "We'll leave our options open so we can reopen quickly," he adds.
The good news for fans of Mataam Fez is that the decor will go wherever the restaurant does, so the new location will have the same Casablanca ambience as the original.
Over the years, Mataam Fez has flirted with expansion, at one time operating restaurants in Vail, Boulder and Colorado Springs (all before the current owner took over in 2010). Now there's just the Colfax eatery, with the days counting down before that one gives way to something new. If you have fond memories of sitting cross-legged while hypnotic music intertwines with the aroma of exotic spices, or if you've never experienced the somewhat faded glory of the place, go soon. With luck, it won't be the end of a story, but the beginning of a beautiful friendship.