From Traditional to Unique, Taco Choices AboundNov 30, 2020 03:03PM ● By Max Mc Crory
The Franklin Inn
Pittsburgh is a taco lover’s paradise. From Downtown to Franklin Park, it’s easy to find a taco that suits your tastes. Whether you prefer flour or corn, hard or soft, chicken or carnitas, there are numerous options available to sate your appetite.
If you like something out of the ordinary, then Täko, located in the heart of the Cultural District, is for you. Täko’s menu is filled with unique tacos, including the tako, one of their more uncommon selections. It’s filled with grilled octopus, harissa aioli, fried chickpeas, and charred jalapeño pico. It’ s a total flavor bomb when you first bite into it and definitely not something you see on a menu every day.
Another highlight of Täko’s menu is the Korean. Filled with tender steak, a tangy peanut sauce, and topped with cabbage slaw and fermented cucumbers, this taco is so good that you may want a second or third. Their menu also has some popular classics, like pollo asado and carnitas, if you’re in a less adventurous mood. They also have a few tacos that can be made vegan upon request.
“We feel the tortilla shell is the perfect vessel for an endless range of flavors and textures. Our goal is to make very consistent, approachable, delicious food that everyone can appreciate and enjoy while using quality products and technique,” said Executive Chef Ryan Hart.
Right now, Täko has commandeered part of Sixth Avenue to create a patio with ample space to enjoy a socially distanced meal with friends.
If you’re looking for a more traditional taco, look no further than the Franklin Inn. This family owned restaurant, located in Franklin Park, was first bought by Sue and Hank Cibula in 1978 and is now owned by their son and his wife, John and Wendy Cibula. They’ve been serving up Mexican food since 1980, so they’ve got the art of taco making down. Their classic Tacos Americanos were originally crafted by Sue Cibula, as were a few of their other classic dishes, and have been tweaked over the years, according to co-owner, Wendy Cibula. She notes that the Tacos Americanos have been especially in demand over the last year.
“Since the pandemic, our most popular taco, by the numbers, has been Tacos Americanos,” she said. “Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of family taco nights or the fact that people can pretty much choose to make these tacos their own way.”
These classic tacos come in either a hard or soft shell with a choice of protein, topped with tomatoes, lettuce, and jack cheese. Most of the tacos on the Franklin Inn’s menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request.
Their next most popular selections are the street tacos and Jalisco tacos, which were created by Chef Nemorio Ramieriz and general manager Chris Ribarchak, respectively. The specials made each week by both of these men usually sell out extremely quickly. One special that was so popular that it’s stuck around since March is San Marcos Fish Tacos, made with grilled flour tortillas, hand-breaded cod, agave slaw, and house-made roasted red pepper crema. Cibula said they’re considering adding the dish to the menu for good.
“John and I trust in Chris and Nemorio’s culinary judgment, so they pretty much have free reign to create,” said Cibula. “Our guests trust them, too. There are some who won't even look at our menu; they’ll just say, ‘I’ll have whatever the special is.’”
Right now, you can enjoy one of these weekly specials in their dining room by reservation or through take-out, which can be enjoyed under their tent or at home.
Another taco joint, Baby Loves Tacos, with locations in both Bloomfield and Millvale, has a myriad of different tacos. Choices range from ground beef to buffalo cauliflower, and meat lovers and vegetarians alike have a lot of options. The restaurant’s spicy chorizo tacos are filled with pico de gallo, jack cheese, and cilantro. One of their unique vegetarian options is sweet potato tacos, in which they roast succulent sweet potatoes and then top them with Bulgarian feta cheese, pickled red slaw, and scallions. Both tacos are served with sour cream, hot sauce, and lime on the side.
Baby Loves Tacos does more than serve delectable tacos to the community. They have a program where anyone can purchase a Pay It Forward Hot Meal for $10, and they will donate it to organizations in the community who need it, such as local women’s shelters and youth outreach programs.
El Burro, located in both the Northside and Regent Square, is another classic taco spot with traditional and inventive tacos. The restaurant has a fairly extensive menu, so options are practically endless.
El Burro gives diners a choice of hard or soft shell and protein, then they top soft tacos with onion, cilantro, and salsa, and hard tacos with lettuce and cheese. They make sure to give the vegetarians and vegans options as well, with items like the vegan chorizo taco. One of their special items is shrimp tacos, which are prepared fajita-style and served with grilled peppers, onions, arbol salsa, and cilantro.
Something that you don’t usually see on menus is the rolled taco, which are rolled with a choice of chicken, beef, or potato, then deep-fried a golden brown and topped with cheese. They’re perfectly crunchy, and the pico de gallo and avocado salsa contrast nicely with the fresh flavors.
No matter what type of taco you crave, chances are, you can find it in Pittsburgh.