Ducking into the Matador in the alphabet district is a great way to tour the Mexican culture through its tequila and mezcal heritage. Touting over 100 tequilas in a variety of vintages, you're likely to become a bit overwhelmed by the depth and complexity. This anxiety is generally relieved after a couple of shots. Staff are keen on giving solid recommendations based on your preferences. There are "flights" of tequila to introduce you to the subtle characteristics of this oft-misunderstood beverage. Be daring and undaunted by the task at hand, and try to sip, not shoot. Salt & lime optional.
The space is anchored by a large fire pit that is cozy in the winter months. Huge windows open during summer to bring the outside, in. The menu is focused and leans toward the California interpretations of Mexican cuisine. The pork dishes are a bit more traditional, while the fish tacos have a NW flair. The carne asada is nicely done, and there are veggie and gluten-free options all over the menu. Happy hour is a big draw with lots of great dishes and featured drinks on the cheap.
While being part of a small chain of restaurants might seem one-dimensional, Matador promotes local sourcing on ingredients and lets each store have its own personality. NW Portland is a great neighborhood for exploring, and a tequila flight at the Matador is an entertaining way to get the party started.