Tacos are once again on the docket for Milwaukee’s burgeoning downtown entertainment district thanks to a new concept that will open later this year at 1110 N. Old World Third Street.
The space, which once housed Gus’ Mexican Cantina, and most recently Lucille’s Piano bar, will come full circle when it reopens as Matador Taco & Tequila bar, a hybrid concept which will function as a full service restaurant during daytime hours and a nightlife venue in the evenings.
Sean Pliss, former co-owner of Oak Lounge in the Third Ward, landed a deal on the space this past October and has been hard at work over the past month solidifying the Matador concept.
"For a while now, I’ve really taken an interest in being part of the forward thinking community that’s taking shape in the area around the new arena," notes Pliss. "I think this is the part of downtown that has really evolved. It’s lively. It’s a place where people feel comfortable and there’s plenty to do. And we’re hoping Matador will help to fill a void in terms of food, drink and entertainment."
The concept, Pliss says, capitalizes on a sports theme indirectly through its name -- Matador -- a term which both references the ongoing rivalry between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls and the bullfighting tradition brought to Mexico from Spain.
The new restaurant will feature a rustic modern interior featuring a combination of reclaimed wood features and creative lighting elements along with an entertainment pod which will accommodate DJ’s and dancing. U-shaped booths along the windows will feature drop-down 65" television screens offering up convenient views of sports coverage, including Badger, Packer and NCAA games. There will also be flexible seating areas that cater to larger groups, including birthday, bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Although the menu is still being developed, Pliss says the idea will be to offer simple, authentic tacos "of the caliber you might get when you go up to a taco truck."
A full bar will offer beer wine and cocktails along with an extensive selection of tequila and tequila-based drinks, including a full menu of house margaritas. Tastings and flights will also be a feature
"The goal for the restaurant was really to create a place where diners have the ability to get in and out quickly and have dinner with their families for a reasonable price," says Pliss. "But, it will also be about an experience. When you come in, it’s not just about eating or drinking. There are also other aspects. For instance, we’ll have tableside guacamole service."
After dinner, the restaurant and bar will shift to a focus on fun, local music offered up by both DJ’s and live bands.
"We’d like it to be hip and fun, but things people can sing along to. We’re keeping an open mind right now, but the goal is to fill a void here and offer up something that can cross all age demographics."
Pliss says the goal is for Matador to be open by the end of this year.
"We want to do things right, so we’re not going to rush to get it done, but ideally we’d like to be open by mid-December," he says.
Once open, Pliss says the restaurant will begin with happy hour and dinner to start, adding lunch service sometime next spring. You can track Matador's progress at matadormke.com or on both Facebook and Instagram.
Keep your eyes on OnMilwaukee for additional details as they develop.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.