Going Meatless at Matador Tapas

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In the lowest depths of Greenville Avenue, Matador Tapas has risen like a phoenix from the ashes that were once the pretty lame Eight Lounge. It began its life as a matador-themed punk rock club (seriously), but that apparently was a bit too niche. So they reworked the concept and re-opened in November as a tapas bar and restaurant.

So what the hell do guys in weird ornate suits chasing poor cows have to do with Meatless Monday? Believe it or not, they also have a delicious selection of vegetarian tapas, making it an ideal meatless destination if you're looking to throw back some drinks with your carnivorous pals.

The décor really isn't that impressive, and feels pretty spare; red walls, naturally, a horseshoe-shaped bar built from glass blocks with a stainless steel top, and several high-backed booths with pretty cool chalkboard menu tabletops. But the guys that run the place are friendly and personable, and will most likely tag-team the service to ensure that your wineglass stays full.

Onto the food: Whatever you do, don't sleep on the artichokes in Manchego sauce. If there's more than two of you eating, you might want to get two orders; lemony, tender artichoke hearts swim in a bowl of rich, salty, cheesy sauce, with a few slices of cheap baguette to sop up the sauce. I considered sucking up the remainder of the sauce with my straw but decided I'd probably like to return to Matador in the future, and refrained. Watching my boyfriend chow down on panko-crusted chicken wings and a grilled lamb chop, I felt no pangs of meat envy, though I almost had to stab him with my fork when he got a little too zealous on my artichokes.

The fire-roasted spring onions with Romesco (a traditional Catalonian sauce made from almonds and red peppers) are tasty as well, the sauce reminiscent of a less spicy, deliciously smoky buffalo sauce. The vividly green onions are infused with a nice charred flavor from the grill, but they're cumbersome to eat--the outer skins are removed after grilling, so you're left with slippery, limp strings that are impossible to cut with a fork. I assume they're meant to be eaten with your hands, but it's like eating noodles with your fingers. Awkward. Skip the papas bravas, mediocre roasted potatoes with a one-dimensional sweet tomato sauce that would've been better served warm instead of cold. The Spanish hummus is a better option, blended with red peppers for some zip and crunchy rye toast points.

There were also several more veggie options I didn't try -- stuffed piquillo peppers, tortilla espanol (an egg and potato frittata-type dish), creamy mushroom soup, a few salads and a cheese plate. FYI, all food is half-price on Tuesdays, so if you're flexible with your meatless day, Matador is definitely a viable option on a budget. There's a decent wine selection, including several varieties of cava, as cheap as $5 a glass, plus house sangria and cocktails. My only complaint was the music--I don't know, something about Soundgarden and Alice in Chains just doesn't mesh well with Spanish food in my mind. Having to listen to 90s grunge rock is small price to pay, though, for a satisfying meatless meal at a place where vegheads and meat-eaters both will feel right at home.

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