Despite imperfect timing, Luchador opens on State Street
Tequila and taco bar opens in former Roast Public House space.
Following a year’s worth of planning to open a restaurant, Charlie Todd didn’t think the grand opening of Luchador Madison would coincide with a growing number of COVID-19 cases in the Madison area and the boarding up of downtown businesses. But those were the circumstances when the new taco and tequila bar opened its doors on Aug. 7 on State Street in the former Roast Public House space.
“We learned a lot on the first day,” says Todd, manager of Luchador. “The first couple hours are always interesting because you probably learn more in the first hour than you will in the first two months.”
Luchador, like other bars in Madison, is limited to 25% capacity for indoor seating, which made for an interesting first day of operation. Masked staff served patrons, who were also required to wear masks when not seated at a table or on the patio. Luchador treated the indoor bar like table seating — visitors were not allowed to move to different seats. As staff navigated the inaugural service, an added priority was cleaning high-touch surfaces frequently.
“Only being able to open up with a patio and 25% capacity inside does not make running a business easy,” says Todd. “I think everyone has faced their own challenges in this pandemic and that’s what’s unique about it.”
For dine-in or delivery, Luchador’s menu offers a variety of Mexican-inspired dishes and more taco options than could possibly fit in a to-go bag. One of Todd’s favorites is the chicken tikka taco, served with cilantro lime rice, crispy chicken, tikka masala sauce and a flour tortilla that mimics naan bread. The eatery offers more traditional fare and its own recipes, like Luchador’s “Bad Ass Elotes” – corn on the cob covered in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos as a finishing touch.
Ariel Reyes, Luchador’s kitchen manager, has been working to develop new menu items and seasonal drinks. Reyes, who lived in Mexico more than 20 years ago, is bringing both traditional and fresh perspectives to the food, Todd says.
Patrons can expect a peach frozen margarita this fall and, possibly, a spiced cranberry margarita this winter. Luchador’s summer watermelon jalapeño margarita is still on the bar’s cocktail menu, and while Todd says he’s more a fan of sipping his tequila, Luchador has plenty of margarita options for those interested in a mixed drink.
“We’re willing to try anything,” Todd says. “Much like the tacos, we think of a flavor profile that speaks to a season and how we can incorporate that into a seasonally rotated drink menu, just to keep things exciting.”
Todd says the plan to open Luchador has been in the works since September 2019, and the coronavirus pandemic has presented a lot of unprecedented challenges for Luchador, as it has for the food and beverage industry as a whole.
“There were certainly delays,” Todd says. “[We were] balancing that moral obligation to the community, our staff [and] our customers to make sure that when we did do it, we did it right. And it has not been without its share of challenges.”
In addition to walk-up takeout orders, customers can order delivery via Eat Street. The spike in COVID-19 cases has not been good for business, says Todd, but he hopes that when people are more comfortable going out again, they’ll be interested in Luchador’s broad menu options.