In 2006, Zak Melang and partners Shane and Nathan Opper opened what is now known as a widely popular landmark of Tacoma, The Matador. This restaurant is well known for its inviting mysterious atmosphere, extensive tequila collection, and unique twist on classic Mexican dishes. Now, 15 years later the restaurant celebrates its ongoing success and accomplishments made by the talented staff and leadership team.
15 years ago, Matador Tacoma opened to the community. Founder, Zak Melang chose this location in hopes to grow his company in a new area he had not previously explored. The two-story historic building on Pacific and 8th quickly sparked Zak’s attraction, the layout of the future restaurant was an immediate vision to him. After meeting with landlord Jim D’Aboy, he was sold and was eager to move forward with the project. After 6 months of endless worknights, handcrafted buildout of the bar, tables, and designing the interior, the restaurant was ready to open.
In the early years of the opening, the neighborhood was bare in terms of surrounding businesses. The foot traffic was slower, and the streets were filled with old nightclubs and other businesses that were struggling to stay afloat. This wasn’t something the company was unaware of and was prepared to have a slower start. During this time, The Matador was beginning to be the restaurant of the overflow guests. When surrounding stores lines were too long, guests began to trickle in to grab a cocktail or an appetizer as they waited. Soon, the buzz started to generate among the guests. Word spread about the beautifully crafted tables, candle-lit dinners, and unique décor that all created an attractive ambiance that left guests returning on a regular basis.
Much like the unique décor, the team stood out as well. Each employee went through extensive tequila training as the vision was to have each member be a tequila expert. This restaurant held the largest collection of tequila that Pierce County had ever seen. The guests weren’t just doing a simple tasting, they were a part of an experience and had the opportunity to build a relationship with staff members. The community loved it, being able to taste and be educated all in one restaurant set The Matador apart from other businesses.
This sparked a restaurant whose wait times were once nonexistent to having a wait time of over three hours, and guests would eagerly wait those times. The Matador became a destination spot for 21st birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, wedding receptions, and pretty much anything else you could think of. The Matador was the go-to spot in town, everyone wanted in.
The Matador began to put on Cinco De Mayo events yearly, with amazing DJs, and excellent menu specials, guests were lining up around the block to get in. As the community gave so much support to the restaurant, The Matador gave back and participated in countless philanthropies such as the Liz Rocks Foundation and Breast Cancer Awareness month. To this day, the Matador still does yearly donations to philanthropies like St. Judes Children’s Hospital.
The Matador Tacoma remains a consistently busy restaurant and even withstood the challenges that Covid-19 placed upon the world. Community support was a major factor in keeping the restaurant open. Through all the restrictions and phases that were placed on businesses, The Matador held strong.
When take-out and patio service was the only option, guests jumped at the opportunity to be able to enjoy their favorite menu items. Luckily, the patio had previously been renovated with gas-powered heaters and retractable weather screens to help with the everchanging pacific northwest weather. The company then revamped their takeout menus and offered to-go margaritas in addition to their food items. While this proved tough for the restaurant, and the staff was limited, even with only six tables it was enough to keep the doors open.
In January, the regulations changed to open-air seating. This meant all bay windows were to remain open with limited indoor seating. The restaurant filled up, despite the cold January air people still braved the cold to get the chance to eat at their favorite place. With each phase, Tacoma’s community continued to show more and more support, showing how impactful the restaurant has been to its loyal guests.
When the full reopening took place on June 30th, Matador was busier than ever! Staff was speculating a honeymoon stage as the excitement of bar top seating was available again and were unsure how long this would last. To their surprise and gratitude, The Matador remained consistently busy all thanks to the overwhelming support from a truly amazing community.
Now, we celebrate 15 years of an outstanding restaurant that has stood its ground through the darkest of times. Not only has it brought the community in, but people from all surrounding areas who make the trip in to taste our selection of tequilas and enjoy a tasty dish.