• Vegan at Matador Cantina in Fullerton, CA

    May 19th, 2011quarrygirlmore restaurants (not LA), orange county

    hey dudes, we’ve got yet another awesome field report for you today. it comes to us all the way from allison ritto in orange county, where she checks out the vegan options at matador cantina in fullerton. i love vegan mexican food, and this place is dangerously close to bootlegger’s brewery…tacos and beer this weekend, anyone?

    In an Orange County city of over 100,000 you’d think vegetarian and vegan restaurants would be in abundance. But the only time a completely vegan restaurant can be found in Fullerton is when the Seabirds Truck rolls into town. My hometown, full of college students, health food stores and not one but two Farmer’s Markets, does not have a single dedicated vegan eatery- yet. There are paltry options at a few places if you have the patience to research, quiz the staff, and cross your fingers. I was completely skeptical when I heard that Matador Cantina, in the heart of Downtown Fullerton’s restaurants and bars, was advertising vegan tacos. Mexican food usually falls into two categories: unsafe but “authentic” (lardy beans, rice made with chicken broth) or safe but quickly tiresome fast food (sorry, Chipotle). When eating at most sit-down Mexican restaurants I am lucky if I get a bean and veggie burrito and chips without cow grease to soak up the tequila and quell my salty tears of disappointment. Many places will shrug and try to sell you tortillas with manteca, sauce made with chicken stock, and veggies cooked on a meat juice-soaked grill and insist that your burrito is vegetarian because there isn’t a big chunk of pork in it. Yes I’m talking about you, Super Mex! It’s not because they hate us vegans, they probably just don’t understand, so I resist the urge to vandalize those poor ignorant businesses. So when a restaurant DOES care, and goes out of their way to call an item vegan in black and white on the menu for the world to see, my heart does a little hippity-hop.

    From Matador's Facebook page: "The Vegan Street Tacos are made with seasoned “soyrizo,” a house-made meat alternative with sautéed Poblano peppers and grilled onions. This offering is also available as a meat substitute for any menu items at no additional cost."

    Knowing I needed a vegan-friendly restaurant with mass appeal for my birthday dinner, I took a motley group of vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores to Matador Cantina. The server was able to explain how they make the menu vegan or vegetarian friendly. She even helped the two people in our party who are meat eaters but allergic to wheat gluten. They will substitute fake meat in almost ANY dish on the entire menu (enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, oh my!). Just be sure to ask about how you want it prepared- some options are not vegan and may have sauce or cheese that are not vegan-friendly. The black bean sauce for enchiladas is a vegan option, but red and green sauces are not. They confirmed that the chips are fried in soybean oil, squeezed from beans and not cow butts.

    I had the Tres Taco Platter ($13) and made sure to ask for it vegan style- substituting the rice and beans for vegan alternatives, hold the cheese. It was a huge platter of Vegan Street Tacos, a choice of veggie meat or roasted portabellos with shallots. I had some of each. The meat is a house-made ground soyrizo sautéed with Poblano peppers and grilled onions with plenty of toasty spices, not too hot but with much more sabor (that’s flavor, gringos) than the store-bought brand, which comes in plastic tube and has a slighty gritty texture. Matador’s soyrizo has a texture that beats any fake chorizo and the fact that they make it from scratch is damn commendable.

    The mushroom tacos are also cooked perfectly with caramelized shallots and loaded with cilantro-heavy pico de gallo. The soft corn tortillas were generously filled and they didn’t cheap out by loading them with lettuce. Crispy corn tortillas are an option but they tend to fall apart as hard shells do. While it’s easy to get burned out on fungus as the go-to animal carcass alternative, it complimented the fake chorizo tacos. You can’t beat having choices. Both had a satisfying bite and are accompanied by rice and beans. The Spanish rice and refried pinto beans are NOT vegan but they will gladly substitute white rice and loose black beans when you tell them you are vegan. Both were a bit bland, but having them to round out the platter is a nice addition. The rice was simply steamed and my beans were a bit cold, but the tacos were such a party in my mouth that I didn’t mind.

    As it was my birthday (like I needed an excuse), I had a fancy adult beverage. Their Jalapeno Martini ($10) was surprisingly mild, and the pepper-infused Hornitos tequila in house-made sweet & sour was not overwhelmingly spicy. In addition to the OC Weekly Award-Winning House Margaritas ($10, or $5 on Mondays) and a full bar, you can try a draft beer from Bootlegger’s, made just a few blocks away at Fullerton’s only craft brewery.

    My meal was not cheap ($23 plus tax and tip!) but the quality and friendly staff made it worth every penny. Head down there on Taco Tuedays when even the Vegan Street Tacos are only $1.25! You can stuff yourself silly, have a $3 drink or Imported Mexican Coke and you’re out the door tipsy and happy for $10. If the Executive Chef, David Dennis, happens to be in the house, let him know you appreciate the extra effort to please us. After all, if they don’t make any money from these options, they may not be around later!

    Matador Cantina
    111 North Harbor Bl
    Fullerton, CA 92832
    (714) 871-8226
    Open Weekdays 11am-2am; Weekends 9am-2am

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10 responses to “Vegan at Matador Cantina in Fullerton, CA” RSS icon

  • Seriously? I learn about this the day before my last day working in Fullerton? I would have eaten all my work lunches there if I had known…the world is a cruel cruel place. Sigh, I guess I’ll have to make this commute at least one more time and also hit up Bootlegger’s.

  • My husband and I go to Matador for Taco Tuesday and it is awesome!

  • jalapeno martini? JALAPENO MARTINI?? i’m going there today.

  • That looks incredible. Do they deliver? To Florida?

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    Looks good, I’m a fan of vegan Mexican dishes for sure.

  • “In an Orange County city of over 100,000 you’d think vegetarian and vegan restaurants would be in abundance.”

    No I wouldn’t, it’s Orange County. It’s all Stepford and shit.

  • Where I live currently in Orange (central OC) there are vegan restaurants, Mother’s and Whole Foods. South OC has 3 Native Foods, Veggie Grill, and more, but for some reason North OC and Fullerton (where I visit a ton) are a wasteland. It’s pathetic. That’s all I meant.

  • uh, actually the most ‘stepford’ish place, Irvine, probably has the MOST vegan options!

    no completely vegan place in fullerton… yeeea i guess that’s about right, but there are plenty of options. plus, there’s a loving hut at the mall, and veggie land vegan health store across the street.

    don’t complain, get off your ass and demand vegan options!

  • O dang, I walk here from my house all the time. The staff owns, the drinks own (but watch out the margaritas aren’t vegan!), taco tuesday owns, chefs own, etc.

  • I personally claim to be THE pickiest eater on earth. I detest meat, I abhor onions and I get sick in most restaurants due to greasy food. The Matador Cantina not only took the time to answer my questions, they served, with a smile, some of the best food I have ever enjoyed. I had two different taco choices, yummmmm! And I thought the rice and beans were tasty.

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