Pittsburgh has a lot of great restaurants, indeed some of the best in the country. However, one of the most under-represented types of restaurants, as far as I know, is the Mexican and Latin American eatery in the city. The closest one can usually get, without paying a pretty penny, is Chipotle (which we also know is delicious but definitely not traditional Mexican food). However, if you have the cash to burn and are interested in a twist on the classic Mexican fare, täkō in downtown Pittsburgh is the place to go (and yes the “t” is not capitalized!) My long-time friend and lover-of-food Camila joined me for a Sunday rendezvous to this tiny but flavor-packed establishment.
Atmosphere: täkō has the atmosphere and look of a “hole in the wall” from the outside. However, the inside has a young, hipster feel, with really cool murals, neon red lights, and neat little knick knacks and props to enhance the experience (like the “newspaper” menu).
Service: Because we sat at the bar, the minutiae of the service we received were slightly different, which resulted in some miscommunication at times. For example, someone took our drink orders while a different staff member took our food orders. We were really confused if our orders were actually taken after waiting for a considerable time period for everything. Other than that, everyone was attentive and pleasant, so I suppose there isn’t too much more we could have asked for!
Quality: Everything we had was prepared with a level of superb expertise and incredible freshness. The tacos we had (Chorizo, Octopus, and Mushroom) were so delicate looking but were packed with flavors that combined in really interesting ways (the spicy chorizo and the chewy fried egg or the crunchy octopus and the sour lemons and cool lettuce). My only complaint would be that the tortillas were much too small for their contents, which subsequently spilled out several times!
The chips and salsa we also ordered was warm and fresh, with a selection of three different salsas depending on how much heat you want. Finally, I absolutely loved the drink I ordered, the Gunpowder Barrel cocktail, which wasn’t strong at all and had hints of cinnamon and mixes of two different types of rum.
Price: Definitely pricey for a normal meal, but then again, you’re paying for a better experience than Taco Bell.
Translation: This is still one of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh, as denoted by many different sources (including Zagat: https://www.zagat.com/b/8-hottest-restaurants-in-pittsburgh) and I am a fervent supporter of such a culinary haven in the city.
Camila’s Take: The overall ambience was the best part. You can tell they take their food and drinks seriously but create a fun atmosphere. The waitress was also fantastic and you know that bad service can really kill the mood. Communication for seating and getting drinks was a little confusing. Without the confusion of when to sit and if they had taken in my order, there would have been a smoother “entrance to the entrance”. This is the place when you are tired of going to your local favorite place and you want to surprise your taste buds. Definitely a place you want to take someone you want to impress! This is a place all foodies try to check off their list.
As for my meal, I ordered the mushroom taco. I was very impressed because the presentation was delicate but what I found out as I took a bite of my taco was that the mushroom was meaty. It wasn’t the typical vegetarian meal (I eat mostly vegetarian). It was good but I wish I had ordered a meat plate. The taco had different textures: a balance between the light greens and the mushroom with a slightly richer sauce.
Camila is Junior Global Management major at the University of Pittsburgh. She is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania but just returned from studying abroad in Paris, France and is hungry to explore all the food that Pittsburgh has to offer!
täkō is a bohemian and “south of the border” inspired Mexican restaurant in the heart of the Cultural District of downtown Pittsburgh. They have an insane collection of drinks, tacos, and other authentic but twisted Mexican dishes, so head over to their website to see the full menu and make reservations: http://takopgh.com/