The Mexican restaurant El Matador closes its doors: “I am so sad” | News, Sports, Jobs


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El Matador hostess Resha Holder measures containers of salsa for customers on the last day of operations at the iconic Mexican restaurant in Ogden on Thursday September 15, 2022.

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

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Diners wait to enter El Matador on Thursday, September 15, 2022, the last day the popular Mexican restaurant Ogden is open.

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

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Janika Barfuss, left, and her mother, JoLynn Souter, take a break from their meal at El Matador on Thursday, September 15, 2022, the last day the popular Mexican restaurant Ogden is open.

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

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Pam Byington, left, and Jan Lyons show off the salsa they bought from El Matador on Thursday, September 15, 2022, the last day the popular Mexican restaurant Ogden was open.

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

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Haylee Rogers, left, and her parents, Hyla and Farrell Olsen, take a break from their meal at El Matador on Thursday, September 15, 2022, the last day the popular Mexican restaurant Ogden is open.

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

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OGDEN — Hyla Olsen heard the news — El Matador, downtown Ogden’s iconic Mexican restaurant, was closing — and went on a mission.

“We were supposed to be here on the last day,” she said.

So she was there Thursday, sitting with husband Farrell Olsen and the couple’s daughter Haylee Rogers. They were enjoying their last meal at the restaurant. “There is absolutely nothing that can compare to this,” said Farrell Olsen, a plate of food in front of him.

Rumors began to spread via social media on Wednesday that El Matador, launched in the 1960s, would be closing and the line began to form Thursday morning outside the locality among those who wanted a final solution.

“I arrived at 10.30am and was second in line,” said Jan Lyons, who had lunch with her friend Pam Byington.

A message posted on El Matador’s website on Thursday – its last day in business – confirmed the news. “El Matador Restaurante and Cantina are permanently closed. For over 60 years, we’ve had the pleasure of bringing the finest quality Mexican cuisine to Ogden. We thank you for your support throughout this time and wish all of our customers the best,” it read.

But few other details were provided, and the restorers did not immediately respond to a request from the standard reviewer for more information. Resha Holder, a hostess who distributed El Matador’s famous salsa in quart-to-go containers, said she first heard the news on social media on Wednesday. His manager confirmed the plans.

“They didn’t really give us a reason. They said we would be closing after today,” she said.

An unconfirmed scuttlebut among some of the many people who converged on the restaurant on Thursday was that a deep-pocketed investor would buy out the land where El Matador sits for redevelopment.

“It’s like everything else in Ogden. Everything is demolished,” with apartments and townhouses filling vacant spaces, Lyons said.

Whatever the reason, the popular restaurant was not suffering for business. “Business was booming. It’s not a lack of business. It’s not a lack of customers,” Lyons said.

Chef Tony Hasratian, an Armenian immigrant, opened El Matador in 1963, according to the restaurant’s website. He was operating an Armenian restaurant when a customer suggested he try Mexican cuisine given the lack of Mexican restaurants in Ogden at the time.

Its Tex-Mex menu caught on quickly, according to a 2015 Standard-Examiner article about Hasratian and the restaurant. “Millions of enchiladas, tacos and burritos later, Chef Tony has built a sought-after dining experience that keeps people lined up just to get in day after day and night after night,” reads the article.

Given such popularity, there were plenty of long faces on Thursday. The line of people waiting for food snaked from the main entrance of El Matador to the parking lot.

“I think it’s sad,” said Lyons, a fan since she was a kid. “It’s a piece of our childhood, of our adolescence, of our growth.”

“We don’t know where we’re going to go,” added Byington, her friend.

Shara Hatori and her husband, Austin Hatori, lined up Thursday waiting to get in. They had their first date at El Matador.

“They have the best food and ambiance. It’s just the whole experience, really,” Shara Hatori said. “It makes me really sad. It’s one more gem taken away from us.

The salsa, among other things, was a big draw. Tymbre Flamm was there with her husband, Michael Flamm, buying 15-quart containers of takeout. They will eat some now, freeze the rest for later.

“I’m so sad, honestly,” she said, referring to the many family gatherings at the restaurant over the years. “It brought us all together. We all love it.

Janika Barfuss, there with her mother, JoLynn Souter, said losing the food was sad. More importantly, she is worried about the employees of El Matador who will now have to find work.

At the next table where the Olsens and Rogers were dining, Rogers noted that the family tradition of bringing his father to El Matador to mark his birthday will fall apart. “I’m sad that we can’t take more pictures with my dad on his birthday,” she said.



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