May 02, 2005

¡Taqueria Mi Mexico!

by peterb

In what is, I hope, another sign of Pittsburgh developing a thriving and growing Latin-American community, a new, authentic taqueria has opened in Squirrel Hill, on Murray Avenue near Hobart: Taqueria Mi Mexico. Today was the first day they were open the general public, so a group of us descended on it for lunch.

The summary: I will be eating lunch there every day for the rest of my life.

OK, I exaggerate. Taqueria Mi Mexico is nothing more than a decent taqueria with low prices and a wide selection of decently yummy tacos, tortas, and huevos. If we were in California, it probably wouldn't even be deserving of notice. It would be a decent taqueria swimming in a sea of decent taquerias. But this is Pittsburgh, where we have only ever had one decent Mexican place. Now we have two. That's a big deal.

And in my cosmology, cheap and unassuming eateries loom large.

I probably inherit this from my dad. I remember going out to lunch with him, looking for the Great American Hamburger. You never find that hamburger at nice restaurants. It moves around, frequenting bus terminals, train stations, greasy spoon diners, and the like. It's almost a truism that you can only ever find it at any given place once. Like a daffodil, the Great American Hamburger is ephemeral.

Taqueria Mi Mexico is not the equivalent of the Great American Hamburger, but it's pretty close. The tacos themselves are simple: soft corn tortillas, a little meat, some onion, and whatever salsa you choose to add. They've got a wide variety of interesting meats. In addition to what you'd expect (boiled pork, chorizo, etc.), there are also some more interesting choices: lengua (tongue), tripas (beef tripe), longaniza (a different sausage), cabeza (beef's head), and barbacoa (goat). They also have daily specials: today they had head cheese, and also cervellas.

So what separates them from Taco Loco on the South Side? Well, a few things. For one thing, they don't present themselves as a full Mexican restaurant. They're a taqueria. If you want rice and beans, go somewhere else. For another thing, the tacos are only $1.50 each. At that price, thanks to the famed Kielbasa-sandwich-at-Chiodo's principle, I'm willing to forgive a lot of mistakes.

But, fortunately, there aren't a lot of mistakes to forgive. On their first day of business, we got delicious tacos and interesting sodas in a nice, unpretentious atmosphere.

Let's get specific. Today, I tried the chorizo, the lengua, the barbacoa, and the tripas. The chorizo was spicy without being painful, and flavorful. It was probably the all-around favorite at our table. The lengua, which I was looking forward to, wasn't as good as what I've had at Taco Loco. In part, I think this is because it was a little too coarsely chopped, but it might have been cooked wrongly, also: it was a bit tough, which tongue shouldn't be. The barbacoa was enjoyable, but the real standout for me was the tripas. I'm not a huge fan of tripe, generally. It falls into that category of "foods I force myself to eat," except when it's in pho, where it somehow transcends itself. The tripe here was a revelation. Mostly, it tasted like the grill. That's not a bad thing. The consistency was like that of pan-fried calamari. Next time, I'm getting two of those.

They serve breakfast, but unfortunately for me open at 11 am. If I could swing by this place at 8 am and score some huevos con longaniza, I would be a very, very happy man (and also, let's be frank, probably dead of heart disease in short order).

Taqueria Mi Mexico. Know it. Love it. Go there soon. Tell them gracias for me.

Posted by peterb at May 2, 2005 08:30 PM | Bookmark This
Taqueria Mi Mexico
Excerpt: A new restaurant opened in Squirrel Hill on Murray Ave. today: Taqueria Mi Mexico. New restaurants are usually exciting, but this one is particularly exciting, since until its arrival there were no Mexican restaurants in Squirrel Hill. Six of us...
Weblog: I'm Dirtae
Tracked: May 2, 2005 10:39 PM

Since this is just around the corner from me, I went and took a look for dinner this evening. I agree with most everything peterb said. I tried: the al pastor (broiled pork), barbacoa (steamed goat), the chorizo sausage, and the carne asada (broiled steak). I personally think the chorizo was a bit tame, but it was tasty nonetheless.

(I'll note here that no daily specials were mentioned to me at dinner time: perhaps they had sold out? Although that strikes me as rather amazing.)

The al pastor is what caught my attention the most, since the flavors seemed to go together the best. The carne asada also worked quite well. The barabacoa was also pretty understated: I think a spicier goat preparation would be better.

My first order was the goat, pork, and two chorizo. After I finished that, I decided things were so tasty I needed more, so I ordered another al pastor and the carne asada. On reflection, this is more food than I needed--making a pretty hearty dinner for a little under $10. I suspect the $6 mark on food is about what to aim for for a good filling meal here, which is a great deal.

I'll have to go back in the future to try some of the tortas and huevos. And, given what peterb said above, also perhaps the tripas.

At the request of a vegetarian friend, I asked whether the frijoles are made with lard (since the avocado and the frijoles tortas are the only vaguely veggie items on the menu.) They're currently using canned frijoles (which do have lard), since they've been told they cannot make their own frijoles until they have a steamer in the restaurant. They apparently do plan to do this. The operation (a small family venture, which seems to be getting help from folks from their Church) is small enough that I have no doubt they'd be happy to make avocado or (once they're lard-free) frijoles tacos on request.

Finally, I *do* think that the option of a simple side of rice and frijoles would make a very good option around dinner-time, even though it would make the taqueria less pure. I'd be very happy to order a few tacos and some rice and beans for dinner, but filling up on tacos alone doesn't seem quite right to me. (But won't stop me.)

Thanks to peterb and psu for scoping this place out and mentioning it around!

Posted by John Prevost at May 2, 2005 09:21 PM

What is the address? Is there a phone number or website? Thanks.

Posted by Jay at May 5, 2005 10:03 AM

Taqueria Mi Mexico
2109 Murray Ave.
Squirrel Hill

Posted by peterb at May 5, 2005 11:27 AM

Is Taco Loco the place near the Bead Mine? Last time I was down there, it was closed!

This place sounds neat, thank you for the review!

Posted by Martha at July 22, 2005 04:52 PM

Taco Loco was near the Bead Mine, but has since moved to the other side of Carson, near 27th.

Posted by psu at July 22, 2005 07:16 PM

We went there and were treated horribly. We were seated and two sets of patrons orders were taken and they had their food served before we were even approached for an order. We tried to wave the staff down and were pointedly ignored. Since we live in the neighborhood, we'll be telling everyone we know not to patronize this establishment, we'll be at Sushi House and the Mediterranean Grill instead!

Posted by Sizwe Nkambule at July 28, 2005 03:59 PM

We live in Johnstown, Pa., but are formerly from the Southwest. We're dying for some good barbacoa and chorizo. Do you offer a mail order overnight service- we'd pay all the costs. Please let us know. Vance Stacy.

Posted by Vance Stacy at August 20, 2005 01:31 PM

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