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Unoriginal Kitsch

“I think people in Durham divide,” said Stephanie Murn, Trinity ’97 and a Durham Public Schools employee. “You’re either a Rodeo person or you’re a Torero’s person, and I am definitely a Torero’s person.” It’s not the 25-percent student discount that attracts people like Murn. It’s the one-of-a-kind décor that has them coming back for seconds.

The artwork that surrounds a patron enjoying a meal seems to have no set geographical origin. On one wall, there are Aztec-like renderings of bare-chested warriors rescuing bare-chested women in various harrowing situations. Directly across the restaurant, there are murals of Spanish bullfighting scenes. “It is kind of like old-world Spain,” reminisced Cate Smith, who, along with Kim Turk, enjoys the “North Carolina-meets-Mexican” vibe of the eatery so much that they snapped their wedding pictures in a Torero’s booth.

 The eclectic mix of Latin themes would naturally bring out anyone’s inner interior designer, so perhaps you can explain why a stuffed squirrel and deer head are mounted on a wall. Tuck couldn’t: “I don’t know what the deer head is doing here,” but the Duke Medical Center employee does not mind the seemingly haphazard combination of items in the restaurant. “It’s not sterile, like work.”

What makes Torero’s original, therefore, is its stunning lack of originality. The restaurant literally appears as if someone was given the task of placing every stereotype about Hispanic culture into one building and succeeded with flying colors. Then that someone splashed those colors all over the wall.

And that’s the appeal. Its greatness is its whimsical quality; completely not based in reality, but everything you hope an evening stroll down a village road in a far-off Spanish-speaking land after a siesta would be. For people who dream of those far-off lands, Torero’s is the next best thing. In fact, it may be better. Foreign voyages can disappoint.

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