It started out as a stable to keep horses overnight. Then it turned into a hardware store. After a few years, it became Mickey’s [a local bar]. Once that closed, it became Rockin Taco, and then The Matador Cantina.

Remember Rockin’ Taco and their Deuling Piano nights? Well, some would prefer to forget. But over two years ago, from its shadows charged out a swanky, more food-driven, more vibrant restaurant/night spot: The Matador Cantina. Built into the 110 -year-old brick building, it was overhauled with elegant handmade booths and banquets; paintings exalting the art of bull fighting; an eclectic mix of mood lighting reminiscent of the current Moorish Revival in Spain; and the iconic wrought iron bull’s head looming masterful over the 55 foot stretch of bar.

Mario Marovic — back in the day, taking care of the family business at Fullerton’s premier dive bar, 2J’s — has become somewhat of a supper club  impresario. He has taken grieving establishments, put them through major refurbishment and made them into the successful social destinations that they are today. Examples of this are Landmark Steakhouse CdM, The District Lounges in Orange and Newport Beach, Malarky’s Irish Pub in Newport Beach and The Matador Cantina in our very own historic downtown Fullerton; all of which he co-owns and manages.

The popular Matador Cantina is self-described as offering “a fusion of traditional and contemporary Mexican-inspired cuisine and has an emphasis on using fresh, high quality ingredients. A diverse drink menu includes signature margaritas and mojitos, bottle and draft beer, and an array of popular and boutique Spanish, Californian, and South American wines.”

With Executive Chef/GM David Dennis as maestro, The Matador has garnered several noteworthy food and cocktail accolades. Its honors include being voted an Open Table Diners’ Choice 2011 winner and one of the best Mexican restaurants in Orange County by My Fox LA. This comes as no surprise as Chef Dave is a foodie’s best friend — ensuring that his menu is constantly fresh and updated to reflect the ever-growing needs of the dining community. Seasonal items find their way weekly into the established rotation as a way of celebrating their peak flavors.

With the increasing number of vegetarians, vegans and just about anyone trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, specialty dishes are made available with meat alternatives (Portobello mushrooms, peppers, roasted shallots, black beans and soyrizo), as well as gluten-free food items. One can substitute veggie meat for any meat on their menu at no additional cost. The Matador’s regular patrons are in on a secret: with advance notice, the indulgent chef will accommodate them with a custom dish entirely off menu.

Another specialty feather in Chef Dave’s toque is his monthly Cocktail Pairing Dinner events. This is where he takes a departure from the usual fare to execute with more bravura and creativity. It’s his way of introducing his guests to the unique dishes and flavors that are typically untried by the more timid or persnickety eater.

Past dinner pairings have included, Latin cocktails, wines, Ilegal MezcalTequila Partida and this month is Flor de Caña rum on August 18th. Next week’s rum pairing menu will include Napa Salad with papaya, pistachios, mint, cilantro & citrus vinaigrette, Conch Chowder, Ceviche Three Ways, Jamaican Lamb and Empanadas with Banana & Raisins. A Flor de Caña representative will be illustrating how best to appreciate the Nicaraguan sugarcane spirit.

Chef Dave is a La Habra native who has travelled to Mexico, Haiti, Bahamas, Belize, Costa Rica, France, Denmark, Germany, all over the USA (including New Orleans, New York, Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland) to expand his culinary repertoire and he is proud to bring it all to you via The Matador Cantina.

“Nothing is weird to me anymore. I am obliged to help people feel comfortable and have whatever they want.”

The Matador Cantina: Killer Specialty Cuisine. Olé!

$/$$
mon-fri : 11am-2am
sat-sun: 9am-2am
111 N. Harbor Blvd.
(714) 871-8226
www.thematador.com

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corky nepomuceno has 54 post(s) on Fullerton Foundry