Rita tasting at Bar Matador

3 Jun


This sign for a “Margarita Bar” caught my eye as I biked down E. 6th street a couple weeks ago. Seeing as how we live on E. 6th and have an entire section of our blog dedicated to ‘Ritas, it was only a matter of time before we tried out Bar Matador. We almost made it there Friday night, but after sharing a bottle of rosé we got at our weekly East End Wines tasting that we paired with soba noodles and veggies, we ended up hanging in as Caitlin baked me the lemon squares from our triathlon bet.

Grabbing a couple ‘ritas before a midnight All My Friends concert wasn’t in the cards once we had fresh baked goods to eat and a Scooby to cuddle. Saturday night lined up better for the rita tasting. We enjoyed a 5 p.m. showing of “Frances Ha,” and found out that the unmarked restaurant down the street on E. 6th that intrigued me so* was in fact Qui, but it wasn’t quite open yet, so we settled for our old favorite spot, Rio’s Brazilian Cafe. After letting our stomach’s settle, we hopped on our bikes, headed west and found our favorite new hole in the wall.

*”Intrigued” is hardly a strong enough word. Zack has been borderline obsessed with this nameless white building, going on questioning tangents that I have no answers for every time we pass. “What kind of food is it? What’s the name of it?! IS IT EVEN OPEN???” Glad we answered some of those for him.pinerita

I was pretty sure I knew where this place was. I told Caitlin I was 95% sure as we rode there, but my 95% is closer to a normal person’s 25%*. It was right where I remembered it, just next to Shangri-La, where Pete’s Bar** used to be. The bartender*** seemed unsure of us at first and I felt equally unsure of the bar. I asked the bartender if they had frozen margaritas. They did not. Caitlin asked me what I wanted. I said “to get on our bikes and go somewhere else.” She talked me into staying and I actually looked at the menu and found a number of ‘ritas to try, even if they weren’t frozen. I started off with the day’s special, “The Matador,” with pineapple and crushed mint and mango salt. For a plastic cup, they really dolled it up.

*Despite the fact that I had no clue where the bar is and Zack was supposedly the one in the know, he had me lead on the bike ride. That’s how bad of a directional sense we’re talking about, people. I only had Caitlin lead because us biking places goes better if she’s in front and sets the pace.

**When we asked the bartender why it wasn’t called Pete’s Bar anymore, he deadpanned, “Pete’s dead.” I’m still not sure if it was a joke or he was being serious, but my reaction at the time was as confused as I still feel: “Uh-ooooooOOOOOooaah!” I’m not good under pressure. It was so hilarious. Caitlin reacted like he said they replaced the carpeting and wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not.

***I swear to Pete (hehe) that I know the bartender, Adrian, from somewhere else. He looked way too familiar. He sort of  looked like Cappie from Greek but a sort of down-on-his-luck Cappie. I’ll figure it out.


Even though it was a kinda dingy, very tiny bar, after we settled into our not-the-most-comfortable bar stools we chatted a bit with Adrian, the bartender. He was detached but friendly enough, the perfect sort of fun-loving bartender who could lay down the law if need be. We also ended up next to a couple originally from Chicago who’d been in Austin 7 years, and struck up a conversation based on the Elton John deep cut the girl had put on the jukebox. She had excellent taste in Michael Jackson songs and the four of us casually talked music and occupations for the remainder of the evening. The drinks were smooth, the stools became more comfortable as the night went on, and Adrian clearly started to enjoy us there, to the point where it felt like this could become a regular haunt for us.


Taste: 8.5/10 – Both the Matador and the prickly pear were quite tasty. I’d go for the special or something unique if I were you. A few Yelp reviews lament Bar Matador for not having the best tequila selection, but mine was appropriately strong and mixed well and even though I always prefer frozen, these two on the rocks ‘ritas really hit the spot. We planned on just having one drink and heading home. We definitely wanted a second.

Value: 7.5/10 – It was $7-8 per drink, which isn’t bad for a fairly large plastic cup, but a medium sized on the rocks ‘rita doesn’t last long.

Presentation – 7.5/10 Loved the pineapple and lime garnish and the mango/kosher salt rims, but how can you give higher than a 7.5 for a plastic cup? I don’t think you can. 

Overall – 8/10: I’d certainly come back here. It was an interesting mix of characters, the jukebox was great and it’s an interesting in between hole in the wall in our hood. 

Taste: 8.5/10 – I enjoyed the straight Pete’s marg as well as the strawberry ‘rita a lot. They were super smooth, and even though the salt got everywhere, there was enough to keep enjoying through the whole drink.  I agree that they had a good balance of strength and flavor — strong enough so I didn’t feel like I was just drinking syrup, but weak enough so I very soberly rode my bike home.

Value: 8/10 – I’m going higher than Zack here, mostly because when Adrian mixed a little extra of my strawberry ‘rita he didn’t throw away/save for himself the extra, but rather put it like a ‘rita shot in an extra cup for me. Gotta appreciate that.

Presentation: 8/10 – I agree that a plastic cup is hard to pretty up, but they really do work well with what they’ve got. Our new friends that we made even got a Matador ‘rita with an extra mint garnish in it, making it look extra festive. I don’t think you can judge down on the plastic cups since that’s just what they have available to them. They work it.

Overall: 8/10 – Totally solid ‘ritas on the rocks, all kinds of characters ripe for people-watching (or even chatting up), awesome music options and just a couple blocks from home. This, to me, is the perfect pre-game spot whenever our friends want to meet us at the Brixton, because it’s practically next door but has ‘ritas!


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