The first time we ate at Mendoza Express was on an impulse, as we were driving by headed elsewhere and stopped immediately when we saw something odd: a spray painted dumpster lid in the parking lot advertising “Mexican food.” This seemed legitimate.
I don't remember much about that visit other than we ordered a few tacos to go. We've been meaning to make it back there for a while, and recently had the chance when we stayed at the Hampton Inn close by.
With Mexican fare right at our finger tips, we naturally had to go.
Great Potential and a Rare Miss
Mendoza Express is a hole in the wall place with only a handful of tables. Pictures of customers completing the burrito challenge (which no longer exists) line the wall. It was extremely hot outside on our recent visit, and also extremely hot inside, making the dining experience pretty uncomfortable.
The menu here is fairly typical Tex-Mex style food – tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, and combination platters dominate the menu.
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Chips and salsa came out to start, and we decided to add on some guacamole. The chips were unfortunately not very fresh. The guacamole was very chunky with tomatoes and onions, and didn't seem to have much avocado in it. It was also very under-seasoned.
For entrees we chose the tacos al pastor which included pork, pineapple, onion, and cilantro. Tacos al pastor were one of our favorite taco styles that we had in Mexico, and we always have to try them when we see them on a menu here.
Unfortunately, the tacos al pastor here needed some help. Most of the ingredients just seemed a little lukewarm and not fresh, and the meat wasn't tender or flavorful like you would expect for tacos al pastor.
We also tried the combination platter #5 which came with a chile relleno, chicken enchilada, and a beef taco. The beef taco was a very generic rendition of a beef taco with somewhat dry an unseasoned meat and a rather stale hard taco shell.
The chicken enchilada fared a bit better but was still fairly basic with just shredded meat inside and a near flavorless sauce on top. The chile relleno was the only thing on the plate that we could've had more of. It was stuffed with cheese, deep fried with a light and crispy coating, and covered in a tomato sauce- giving it a great combination of flavors.
But the best thing on the combination plate was probably the beans as they were served warm and were rich and well-seasoned. Unfortunately, when the side is your favorite thing on the plate, something is clearly off.
Overall, a lot of people seem to like Mendoza Express judging by how packed they were on our visit and by what others have told us. We're not sure if we came on an off night or if we didn't order the best dishes, but we simply didn't enjoy the food. Even when accounting for the slight Tex Mex angle, this one simply is not for us.
Mendoza Express is located at 812 Mansfield Avenue at the border of East Carnegie and Green Tree.
For more delicious tacos in Pittsburgh, click the previous link to check out a selection of our favorites!