matador721 Pacific Ave, Tacoma

Tex-Mex techno cool. That’s what the Matador is. Deep amber lighting, trendy techno beats, and the aroma of spices and fire greet you as you cross the threshold. Guests, numerous and closely packed, lean in to one another to intimately relate tales as they sip drinks and sway to the beat.

The Matador owners started out with a vision of showcasing high-quality tequilas. Currently they have 130 varieties, with a well-trained bar staff that can steer you to a flavor that will satisfy your palate. We were treated to a classy sipping tequila by Fortaleza that was smooth like bourbon and had a taste that was both spicy and sweet with a hint of berry. That was at the end of our meal as we lingered to enjoy the atmosphere.

Next we sampled margaritas—handcrafted cucumber jalapeño margaritas to be exact—with a chipotle salt rim. The salt is blended in-house; in fact many options here are house-made from scratch. The chefs focus on using traditional Mexican flavors and crafting foods rather than just cooking them. There’s a new fresh sheet every month and both traditional and daring options available.

Our appetizer of choice was Chipotle Mushrooms with house-made habanero sauce. They’re served in a cast iron pan and seem unassuming, but don’t be fooled. The smoky chipotle flavors are followed by HEAT—wonderful bodywarming heat, perfect for spice lovers. Hint for those with more timid tastes: Order the guacamole with your chips and salsa. It’s not spicy and cools the heat well.

Carnitas was my dinner choice; my companions had Seared Steak Enchiladas. The pork is roasted for six hours in a spice mix until it’s soft and unbelievably tender, and served with a lime and cilantro sour cream and tortillas. The enchiladas were served with a creamy verde sauce that was so clear you could distinguish the different peppers.

The finale was a dessert of churros with raspberry jalapeño jam and chocolate chipotle sauce. You will perceive the sweet taste, and as you are savoring, the spices liven your mouth and settle pleasantly in the back of your throat. I think I found a new chocolate to love.

You never know what’s going to be on the fresh menu since the chef chooses ingredients that are at their best each season. As summer approaches, the peppers gain more depth to their flavor and the chef ensures you will be wowed. The big showcase in the summer, however, is the patio, which is now open on good days. It’s a perfect place to take in tequila, fabulous food and a sunset in style.