A Trip South To Pierce County, WA!

Mysterious and romantic Matador Tacoma

It’s always nice when you can pair a date night with a fun weekend for your kids, and spend time with family in the process. Last weekend’s date night was a drive for us. But it was worth it. Our kids got a chance to spend the night at their Grandparents, and we were able to go out to eat on the way back home.

The kids look forward to our “date” nights every week, because it always means they get to go somewhere different. The other day, on the way to school, my daughter asked me: “So, where are you going for date night?”

I love that she is so used to us going out now that she just wonders where it will be, not whether we will be going out or not. It’s good to know you give your kids that security!

After almost two hours of sharing the road with Memorial Day weekend travelers stuck in gridlock, we finally arrived at my parents’ house. The kids were more than happy to say goodbye to us. They love the attention and love they get at my parents’. So, we dropped the kids off, and headed to Tacoma-our old stomping grounds.

But…..we had a problem. Our Plan A restaurant in Tacoma flopped. It wasn’t a Passport Unlimited restaurant and somehow, we thought it was.  So, here we were at 9:30pm Saturday night when most of the restaurants on the list were closing in a few minutes. The other problem? We don’t like eating super rich, fatty food late at night. It makes you feel gross and you wake up the next morning feeling like you gained five pounds. No thanks. But…most of the restaurants that were near us seemed to only have super rich, fatty food for Happy Hour. Then, Hubby said the magic words:

“Do you want to go to the Tacoma Matador?”

“Yep,” I said, before he even finished asking. Our choices were slim. It was late. And Matador has always fit the bill perfectly for us. Plus, we had never been to the Tacoma one, and I was curious if it was like the Redmond one.

We were on our way, a few minutes after 10pm. It was late, but we would not let our date night plans be derailed.

We had to laugh when we found a parking spot a couple blocks before the restaurant, right on Pacific Avenue, in Downtown Tacoma.

“Wow. Check this out!” Hubby said, quite proud of himself.

Then, answering himself he said: “Oh yeah. This is Tacoma, not Seattle. We don’t have to pay for parking.”

The spooky Matador signature steer skull

Hubby came around and opened my door. He has done this since we were dating. It really made him stand out to me back in those days. I can definitely open the door myself, but it’s sweet that he cares to be an old-fashioned gentleman.

Here’s the funny thing-our youngest daughter picked out my outfit. She loves to select my highest heels and fanciest clothes. She even styled my hair. So, I had to walk very carefully-as I don’t wear heels that often. I didn’t want to end up face down on the sidewalk.

In the few blocks we walked to the restaurant, we passed by a lot of late night carousers, chain smoking, drinking and spouting off profanity.

“It’s downtown Tacoma at 10:00 at night,” Hubby said, smiling.

As we waltzed into The Matador, that familiar flaming red curtain welcomed us. We looked around at the familiar loud, yet dim and romantic atmosphere. As always, steer skulls with horns were guarding the restaurant from the inside walls surrounding us. All I needed was a ruffled, flowy Spanish style dress to dance in. (But Hubby would be mortified, so I will let that dream go. For now.)

“It looks like we have a twenty to twenty five minute wait,” the hostess who greeted us said.

“Okay,” we said, trying not to show that we were so hungry we were ready to snatch a hefty handful of French Fries off the table next to us.

We moved off to the side. I gazed around.

“Well, this is a good chance to people watch.”

I noticed mostly groups of young (under 30) people, looking like they were having a good time. Amber torch lamps hung over the bar. I loved the way the Spanish/Tex-Mex style décor blended with the rustic brick red wall, serving as the bar’s background. It was dark outside and even darker inside, but the dim lighting gave just enough light to make us feel warm and invited-and closer.

Hubby’s favorite Matador meal

“Okay, we can’t find the people that are up next on the list, so you guys get the next available table.” The hostess announced. About three minutes had gone by. We were very grateful as we followed her to our spot, in the left corner under the massively large framed mirror.

We ordered immediately. Hubby got the BBQ Pork Sandwich at $9.95 (His favorite Matador meal), and I went for something different: The Pork Tacos, $8.99. Normally, we would have ordered a drink to share, but water was fine for that late at night. And we were thinking to try a dessert, if we had room.

As we waited, Hubby and I looked around. I noticed that the whole row of tables by the front window was all couples out on a date. Yeah! Go date night!

“I think we are the oldest people here,” I said to Hubby. He looked around.

“That’s funny, but I think you’re right. People our age have young kids and usually go to bed earlier.”

We’re kinda wimpy about our bedtime that way too. It was a totally different thing for us to be out with the young crowd.

When the waitress brought our meals, Hubby’s was HUGE with fries and coleslaw. His eyes were ready to pop out. He’s a meat and potatoes man and this was just what he wanted to fill his belly with before we headed home.

Mine was three medium sized tacos, overflowing with chunks of bbq flavored pork. Mmmmmm. We prayed and dug in.

“There’s a sweet aftertaste, along with the salsa. What is that?”

I reached over and gave Hubby a bite. He shrugged.

I took another bite. Then, I realized what it was.

My Pork Tacos. Is your mouth watering yet?

“It’s mango!’ I said. The freshness of the mango contrasted with the spiciness of the cilantro. I loved the blend of flavors, and I appreciated that they had lighter menu options like this available. Thank you, Matador for your amazing food.

It seemed like I barely looked down and then Hubby’s plate was clear. He is a very fast eater and he’s always done way ahead of me.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t able to finish the tacos. They were filling. When the waitress came with the dessert menu, we decided we’d have to try that on a future visit to Matador- as we both had no room left for dessert.

Our total came to just over $10 with Passport which is such a bargain we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the receipt. Unbelievable! With the tip, we paid a total of $14.88.

On our way back to the car, we passed the carousers again. This time, they were yelling profanity.

“She said I bleep, bleep needed to come home right now!”  A man said, managing to fit about four swear words into that one sentence.

“Yeah, she said get the bleep bleep home right bleep now!” His friend echoed, sucking on his cigarette.

“As we walked away, I said: “I guess what he was trying to say is that she really wanted him to come home and he’s in a whole lot of trouble with her!” Hubby and I laughed.

When we were almost to the car, a young man and woman came around the corner and yelled “Excuse me! Excuse me!” and started running toward me. I had no idea what that was all about, but my instinct was that it was late and it was a different crowd than we were used to. So, I just kept walking and Hubby said, under his breath: “Don’t talk to them. Just walk faster and get in the car.”

As we got into the car, we looked and saw that they had crossed the street and walked the opposite way.

“Okay. It’s back home, and then to sleep. We’ve had plenty of excitement tonight!” Hubby stuck the key in the ignition and took us back home, safe and sound.

It’s never boring on date night, and we proved that last weekend.

Here’s the rundown:

Atmosphere (romantic appeal): 5. Matador, you always know how to pull off a loud and vibrant environment, together with mysterious and intimate surroundings. That’s why we picked Matador for our KOMO 4 featured date night!

Budget Friendly: 5. I love Passport participating restaurants. And I love it when restaurants give a lot of unique tasty food for a great price are participating Passport restaurants. Matador is one of those.

Food: 5. Not your average menu. Fresh, wake-you-up flavors. They always have a big bowl of chips and salsa to start everything out too. Love it!

Fun and unique: 5. We dressed up. We went to downtown Tacoma, the city where we bought our first house. We had a blast, even though it was late.

Memorable: 5. Sometimes it’s the dates that don’t work out as planned that your remember most. Everything happens for a reason.



Matador Tacoma

721 Pacific Avenue

Tacoma, WA 98402

(253) 627-7100

Posted in Discounts, Making Date Night Happen!, Passport Unlimited, Pierce County, Tacoma Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
  • Noelle

    How much does a membership to Passport Unlimited cost? I can’t find it on their website without registering.

    • $20 Dollar Date Night

      Hi Noelle, you’re right – it is a little tricky to find the membership rates on Passport Unlimited’s website. You can find the pricing options at: https://www.passportunlimited.com/info_indiv_overview.aspx. You have to scroll down in the window on the right side of the page to get to their pricing.

      TIP: ask your friends and family members if they want to go in as a group. That’s what we do every year – and we get get them down to around $60 per card per year. Good luck!

  • Karen Lynne

    The Matador has AMAZING happy hour specials, so be sure to check those out! My hubs and I had to take our son to boy scout camp in Elma, and we were passing through Tacoma at around 11 on a Friday night. Although we were definitely NOT dressed up (and therefore broke one of your rules), we decided to go to one of our favorites: Matador! We were surely the oldest (and most dressed down), but we sat at the bar and enjoyed our happy hour selections. You are right–it’s a great place to people watch.

    • $20 Dollar Date Night

      Karen-Glad you got a chance to check out Matador Tacoma too! We would have never gone there if it hadn’t been for this blog. Saving money and sticking to a budget opens up all kinds of options for places to explore! Thanks for sharing your experience. We LOVE hearing feedback from our readers, especially when you try places we’ve been too!

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Christy Pessemier, Freelance Writer

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