Matador!

November 15th, 2009

Well, the long-rumored Mexican replacement for Wayne’s The Freehouse has a name: Matador, and it’s actually a Spanish-Mexican hybrid.

The owners are the team behind Crazy Cactus/La Taverna in Phoenixville. They plan to do a “Spanish-Mexican” menu, specialize in wines from Spain and Chile and feature 40 to 50 kinds of Tequila.

Commenter thedogatemyhomework adds: “The focus sounds more Spanish than Mexican. The chef describes the Spanish cuisine as having a French-Italian influence, with a kind of Mediterranean touch. (editor note: huh?) Owners say they’re aiming for upscale casual but family-friendly and a special occasion restaurant, at the same time. (editor note: huh?) Covering every possible base with the type of food and atmosphere, I guess.”

There have been many production delays, so don’t expect to see Matador’s doors open before October 2010.

UPDATE (11/02/10): Matador has a website: http://matadorrestaurante.com/

35 Responses to “Matador!”

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  1. main line eats says:

    The Matador folks need to call Jose Garces regarding the timing of serving tapas. These guys at Matador are amateurs. Place is gorgeous. Waiters are not happy. Food is average, and served so fast that you question if the dish was meant for another table. Polish up these things, and you’ll have a beautiful place.

  2. The Chef says:

    Great server till too busy,Great drinks OK, Food some good, some Please,Timing good to start and then!!!!got main courses 10 mn apart no flavor or seasoning Piglet great but portion for $22,may be as a Tapas with sauteed scallions as a veg ??,dessert flan good the churros I use to eat in spain NOT to Order.Ex Chef from Amada needs to go back to cooking school.We were going to give it a 8/10 at mid meal but now No es Buena Comida

  3. Sophie says:

    Since Matador opened, I’ve had mixed experiences over the 6-8 times I’ve been there. My first visit was great, but the second wasn’t so good. I chalked it up to them still needing to work out a few wrinkles as a new restaurant. I went back a few times after that having acceptable experiences. I was there twice in the last 2 weeks and disappointed both times. There’s minimal customer service from the bartenders. It’s like customers are bothering them when asking for food or wine recommendations. The red wine was served warm and we were told it gets warm as the night goes on b/c it’s on a shelf under a light (Why don’t they move it???). Eveyone was disappointed with the slow bar service (and it wasn’t that busy), lack of personable bartenders, and the margaritas were sour. Matador is in a great spot and the inside vibe is a great option for drinks/apps, but this place needs to step up their customer service!

  4. T&J says:

    We’ve been to Matador a couple of times now and really enjoy it. The decor and music makes us feel like we are on vacation. Our server, Ed, knows the menu like no one I’ve ever seen. We’ve had several tapas dishes. Most were good to great with just a couple of misses. Some true standouts were Pulpo a Fiera (octopus, potatoes, hot paprika), Ancho Chile Relleno (smoked chicken, dried fruits, red mole, salsa verde, nogada), Tortilla Española (egg potato-onion tortilla, saffron aioli) Champinones en Verde
    (wild mushrooms, truffle oil) & Brochetas Toro (skewered marinated sirloin). Reasonably priced and we always leave there very satisfied.

  5. Kasey says:

    Stay away! This place is a total rip off. Recent lunch for two, no liquor, was $80 plus tip. The food was terrible, the service even worse. Despite requesting our service be staggered, the food basically arrived at once, salads last, the plates hanging off the table. Had to ask for water glasses to be refilled, service utensils, and for empty plates to be removed. Very difficult to get our server’s attention who never even asked if we were enjoying our meal. Probably, has heard too many negatives to even ask at this point. Most interested in socializing with regulars at the bar. Food was below mediocre. The salads were uninspired. Meat tapas were overly salted. Garlic shrimp was soggy, no doubtedly frozen and microwaved to a rubbery texture. Chicken was not fresh cooked, tasted reheated. Afterward, suffered from dyspepsia. Would never recommend this place, in fact, would suggest you stay away. There are many other good Mexican restaurants in the area, more reasonably priced and serving creative and authentic dishes. If you want great Spanish food, head north to the Newark, NJ area, absolutely worth the trip.

  6. Jim says:

    As a person of Spanish origins who has studied in Spain and Mexico.
    I was insulted by the Food at this establishment.

    My family went to eat lunch here and it was the first time I ever brought back every single dish.
    The enchiladas I ordered were rock hard. I was unable to cut them. It was as if they had microwaved them several times. The fish plate we had ordered had a strange taste and it’s scales were not cleaned off.
    My sister and brother ordered steak dishes which were fatty and inedible.

    When the manager came out he stated that the enchiladas were made today, which is impossible. The fish he stated was not made in the typical Mexican way but the Spanish way. I am sorry but Red Snapper a La Veracruzana is a traditional Mexican dish named after a Mexican City. He clearly did not even know the difference between Spanish and Mexican Cuisine. In regards to the steak, the manager stated that the steak was ordered from the number 2 supplier in the area
    However even if I was just given a bad piece the meat, the rest of the food looked like it had been sitting around all day.

    The only enjoyable part of my experience was the delicious margarita I had and pleasant waitress.

    For these reasons I will never go back nor suggest anyone to go there for the food.

  7. Marissa says:

    I had dinner at Matador the other week with my husband and we both really enjoyed it. The service was good and we loved the decor. Everything felt authentic. The upstairs bar was very cool! We wanted to enjoy a variety of dishes so we decided on a few tapas such as the lamb chops (my favorite), calamari, flautas and a few others plus we had the tableside guacamole. Everything was great. When I go out to eat in Wayne, I expect to pay more for a meal and I felt that the prices at Matador were priced fairly. The margaritas were amazing and our server let us know that they are made with freshly squeezed juices. Overall we really had a great night and enjoyed our meal. I would go back and recommend it to others.

  8. Matthew says:

    My girlfriend and I decided to try the Matador tonight, after walking by it several times over the last few months while they were preparing to open. Overall, the food was decent and fairly priced. We had four small plates:
    – chicken quesadillas: These were ok, nothing special though.
    – calamari in parsley garlic oil: This was very well cooked, and very flavorful
    – beef skewers: These were delicious. The large order was four skewers, probably around 8oz of meat. Very well seasoned and cooked perfectly.
    – guacamole and chips: We were looking forward to this the most, as it’s prepared table-side. We were a little disappointed that it came out a good 15 minutes after we finished the other three dishes, but not a big deal, we weren’t in a rush. The server was great while preparing it; she talked us through all the ingredients as she added them (which we liked because we’re avid cooks, and love guacamole). Only downside was she added WAY too much sea salt.. it was almost inedible due to the salt in the guacamole plus the salt on the chips. That killed the dish, which otherwise would have been wonderful.

    Now for the big negative, at least in my opinion. As a new restaurant, the manager (maybe owner, not sure) was walking around making sure everyone was satisfied, mingling with guests, etc.. everyone except for us, that is. He made several visits to the older, wealthier looking couple across from us, and even comp’ed them some ‘flaming coffee’. My girlfriend and I, who are right around 30 years old, did not even get a nod from him. This tells me one thing – he only cares about people he thinks will spend a lot of money there. Well, we happen to live a block away, and eat at the many restaurants on north Wayne 2-4 times a week. Unfortunately, we will NOT be eating here again. Maybe it’s petty, but I don’t appreciate being ignored, like my money isn’t the same as someone else’s. A simple “hi, thanks for coming” would have sufficed, but on our way out we walked right by him, and he even seemed to purposely turn away. Great job, buddy. Let’s see if your restaurant is still there a year from now. I’ll be at Teresa’s having a beer and wings.

    • Steve says:

      I’ve recently been to Matador as well and considering the busy nature of the restaurant business (especially one like Matador during dinner time), I’m not surprised that the manager was not able to stop at your table. Think of this as a positive instead that the Manager was even able to come out and visit the few tables that he did. How many restaurants these days do we see that kind of gesture from upper management? I look forward to visiting Matador again.

    • chris says:

      Ha, I said the same thing about the manager in my post below. I don’t know why, but that kind of thing really irks me – especially when it’s apparent that someone is going out of their way to greet everyone in the restaurant except for you. That guy totally blew it, I mean really, how hard is it to stop by and say thanks for coming?

  9. Jim says:

    I went to Matador with a group of 13 last weekend and it was fantastic! The food was excellent. We mainly ordered tapas dishes, but a few ordered the entrees as well. I am not real big on Spanish-Mexican food, but everything I tasted was really,really good. They also had a server make fresh quacamole right at the table – really nice touch, tasted great! Also, make sure you order the flaming coffee. It was good food & a unique dining experience. I’d highly recommmend the Matador! Jim

  10. Kristin says:

    Went to Matador on December 30, was hugely dissappointed. There was 6 of us and as there were no seats at the bar, we stood at a nearby rail. The bartender finally took our drink order for wine after about 5 minutes. When I noticed him 10 mins later making some mixed drink for a patron seated at the bar I asked him where our drinks were and he said he forgot. He then asked what we wanted and I gave him our request for wine a second time. He then told us that they were out of everything we ordered, Pinot Grigio, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc…after standing there wasting all of that time only to be told they ran out of white wine at 9pm on a Thursday night, we left and haven’t been back.

  11. chris says:

    Went Matador tonight…the place is pretty weak. Decor is tacky, though the upstairs bar looked OK. Food was nothing to write home about, and costly for what you get. Also, was a little mad that the general manager seemed to thank everyone else for coming except for me and my fiance.

  12. thedogatemyhomework says:

    I was pretty skeptical about Matador (see review from more than a year ago!) with all the delays but we tried it this week .. and I recommend it con gusto. As walk ins, with no reservations on a week night, we were seated downstairs and told that the 2nd floor was for reserved tables (the more happening place to be??). The place was full of people by 9pm. So, word is getting out, despite the lack of a website and a 411 screw up of the phone number.
    There are appetizers and salads to start and lots and lots of tapas items, sectioned into meat, chicken, seafood and vegetables. They suggest sharing, with prices about 6 bucks up to 14 per plate. The wait staff was believable when it recommended and described dishes; helpful because it’s a big menu. It seems more Spanish than Mexican, to be sure. In addition to the smaller plates to share, the menu also has quite a few main course size dishes to choose from .. although sharing a number of tapas plates was just right for dinner for us. We thought everything was quite good, except perhaps for the house salad which was not much more than gourmet lettuces out of bag with an orange/citrus dressing. The grilled chicken with cheese quesadillas, grilled beef and chorizo sausage quesadillas were delicious. Loved the mushrooms, too. (We didn’t order any seafood so I can’t comment on that).
    The service was nicely paced, friendly and the manager came by to thank us for coming. All in all, the atmosphere, staff and food were muy simpatico.

  13. Jen says:

    My husband and I ate at Matador last night and it was great! The food was really good, nice preparation, high quality. The menu has a variety of tapas dishes and a few entrees as well. We got a bunch of tapas and everything was very good. Interesting mix of Spanish and Mexican dishes, classic dishes like chicken mole, peppers stuffed with cheese etc, also some traditional Spanish like suckling pig and pulpo, and then some other interesting things. The wine list has a good selection, we had a great Portuguese wine. And try the flaming tableside coffee, that was a fun thing on a cold night!

  14. Eric Norris says:

    Matador has finally opened tonight with a “soft open”. My initial reaction is that they are trying way too hard and the staff doesn’t have enough experience. In terms of the actual space, it is very contrived. The upstairs bar has been removed and the rest of the space looks like it was ordered out of a magazine. I wonder what took over a year and half to complete? My hope is that everything gets better and quickly because that space can’t hold a solid restaurant.

    • chris says:

      did you eat anything??

      • pamela says:

        The restaurant is open, with only the wine list left to be completed. My husband and I ate at Matador on 12/27 and really enjoyed it. The staff is a little slow and new, but I think with experience they will get better. They were very apologetic for the slow service, and really appreciated our patience.
        The menu is great, with a large variety of veggie, chicken, meat and seafood tapas, soups, salads and several entrees. I am in love with the Matador Margarita, although the 2 different bartenders made 2 different strength drinks (I of course preferred the stronger one!) The upstairs bar is still there, perhaps they had the doors in front of it closed when a previous person commented here. It’s in the rear of the dining area. The dining area has a lot of U-shaped booths, which I loved because it promotes a more intimate dining setting.
        I look forward to returning, both with my husband or for a mom’s night out with friends.

  15. waynetrain says:

    The construction of the Matdor was just shut down by Radnor Township. There is a STOP WORK ORDER posted on the building.
    That place is cursed.

    • thedogatemyhomework says:

      I was told that the brick building across the street which has been for lease is going unfilled as a restaurant site because there is no natural gas line on that side of the street. No chef would chose to cook with on an electric stove and propane’s cost is prohibitive. That would certainly explain why all of the restaurants are on the other side on North Wayne Avenue. The paper posters showing pictures of food that are plastered on the windows of that brick place may be the closest it gets to being associated with eating. Couldn’t happen to a nicer landlord: who does he think he is putting up that black fence that gives pedestrians about 6 inches to walk on the sidewalk.

  16. thedogatemyhomework says:

    There’s now a “coming soon Matador” sign on the old Freehouse sign.

  17. DH says:

    Does anyone have an update on Matador? I see a banner on the building.

  18. interested diner says:

    what are the ‘owners’ of the freehouse suing over?

  19. thedogatemyhomework says:

    I’m tired of the number of “dash” and “slash” restaurants around here that try to please everybody:
    Spanish-Mexican/Mediterranean/French/Italian influences, in a
    child-friendly/special occasion/upscale-casual setting.

    • mld says:

      I certainly don’t have a problem with the fusion of two disparate concepts, but you are right in that many places are trying to do too much. Whenever I look at a menu that has no focus, I automatically assume everything must be average, because no kitchen can do everything well at the same time.

      Take this new restaurant in WC – Side Bar, for example: http://sidebarandrestaurant.com/?page_id=33. The menu is all over the place!

  20. Mark says:

    let’s hope not. Verdad is terrible.

  21. thedogatemyhomework says:

    The people behind Matador own La Taverna in Phoenixville.
    They plan to do a “Spanish-Mexican” menu, specialize in wines from Spain and Chile and feature 40 to 50 kinds of Tequila. The focus sounds more Spanish than Mexican. The chef describes the Spanish cuisine as having a French-Italian influence, with a kind of Mediterranean touch. Owners say they’re aiming for upscale casual but family friendly and a special occasion restaurant, at the same time. Covering every possible base with the type of food and atmosphere, I guess. Matador is supposed to open after the first of the year, however, the Freehouse owners are suing over the validity of the lease. Freehouse folks say because of that, the liquor license may be in question. One thing I do know, if Matador does open, it won’t be the good old basic (almost dumpy) Mexican so many of us want to see on the Main Line.

    • mld says:

      so basically it is Verdad, in Wayne

    • NF says:

      Almost dumpy Mexican I’ve been looking for in the entire Northeast, for that matter. Good Mexican food is just hard to find this far north.

      Definitely sounds like it’s trying to be too much though. Do one or two things and do them well, don’t try to be something as disparate as “family friendly, special occasion, upscale casual”. It’s no long upscale casual and special occasion when you’ve got the the ten screaming kids in the corner with balloons tied to their chairs that the parents refuse to keep quiet (*cough*Christophers*cough*).

    • Colin says:

      For good mexican try La Tolteca. Several area locations, but we like the one on West Chester Pike in West Chester. Gets approval from my San Diegan wife, she knows Mexican. BYOB.

      • liz says:

        Anyone looking for upscale tapas and wine will drive the 26 minutes to either Amada or Tinto. If you’re looking for real Mexican grub can go to any of the taquerias new the Italian Market, spend $6, and feel like they just came home from dinner in Mexico City. You want outstanding food, go downtown. If you don’t feel like it then settle for the neighborhood joints.

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