¬°Taqueria Mi Mexico!

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.