From the moment I arrived in Pittsburgh, I’ve had people warn me that there is no good Mexican food to be found. So when my housemates decided to go to a taco restaurant called Yo Rita on the South Side(1120 East Carson Street), I was a bit apprehensive. Were we tempting fate or gastrointestinal distress by ignoring the advice of native ‘burghers?
My fears were for naught, because Yo Rita isn’t Mexican food, but it definitely is good. Rather than the typical cilantro/onion/meat combo, Yo Rita’s tacos contain comfort food, sometimes edging into the realm of gourmet comfort food. Depending on how adventurous you are feeling, you can stuff your tortilla with chipotle chicken, black-eyed peas, or calamari with red chile-garlic aioli.
The restaurant itself is small, darkly lit, and minimally decorated. In general, I appreciated the mellow atmosphere but when it came time to eat, I found myself wishing for more light on the food. As for the service, one housemate observed that the two main rules seemed to be “No substitutions, no smiles.” But we couldn’t deny that they were efficient; we got chips and some delicious salsa before we even had a table.
Our first dish (after plowing through three baskets of free chips) was the inventive lobster nachos($6) as an appetizer.* Though the five of us had to split six chips, the lobster nachos were agreed to be a winner. A rich cheese sauce complimented the sweetness of the lobster, but most importantly, the dish was garnished by “lime bubbles.” Lime bubbles are exactly what they sound like: a frothy foam that added both a crazy texture and a much-appreciated tartness to the dish.
And then it was on to the tacos. As I mentioned, they were pure comfort food, with nearly every combination containing cheese, cream and/or a rich sauce. They were also delicious. The potato taco ($4) was starch-lover heaven, while the seared tuna ($8) had little balls of granny smith apples that classed up the taco like a cummerbund classes up a typical outfit.
Some tastes weren’t quite as bold as I was hoping. Both the tuna and the braised chicken had a chipotle bbq sauce that was disappointingly restrained. And some of the most interesting elements in the tacos, like the seared crimini mushrooms in the potato, appeared sporadically, rather than in every bite like I wanted. If the tacos had consistently popped like them lobster nachos, I would have peed my pants out of excitement.
But I shouldn’t neglect the bang-for-the-buck value of Yo Rita’s. I paid four dollars for my amazing potato taco, which is less I generally end up paying at nasty-ass fast food places. You could certainly talk yourself into eating two or three tacos, but one will probably fill you up fine. $4 to $8 for belly-pleasing, borderline-gourmet food? Yes, please.
Yo Rita undoubtedly makes much of that money back on drinks, which are not cheap. Stick with water like I did, (or smuggle in a flask) and have yourself a tasty, creative, non-Mexican taco or two for under ten bucks.
* There were some Peruvian appetizers as well, ceviche and Peruvian potato salad. I didn’t try them, though I suspect, judging by the taste of their pisco sours and the nature of the restaurant in general, that authenticity is not their first priority.