Having been to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico where tacos are nothing more than fresh, handmade corn tortillas topped with meat, I've since been a bit skeptical of the rise of the gourmet taco in the US.
Sometimes I think gourmet taco places try to do too much with this simple, humble street food. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we recently dined at Smoke in Lawrenceville where we had perfectly executed, inventive tacos. The flavors were not so out there that they didn't seem to belong in a taco, but rather evoked traditional Mexican flavors with a unique twist.
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It All Started With the Waitress
We had a feeling things were going to be good when we first sat down and our waitress approached. She was the same waitress we had seen at Gaucho Parrilla just a day earlier. She told us that she likes to work at all the best restaurants in the city so she can eat amazing food all the time. Score one for us!
Go For the Cheeses (…and some tacos too)
We decided we had to order the queso fundido as an appetizer, because, really, who can resist some chips and dip at a taco joint? The cheese dip itself was solid but what really got us were the chips.
It's weird for the chips at a Mexican place to be anything super amazing, but these were. I'm still not entirely sure why there were so addicting. Maybe it was a combination of the delicious fresh flour tortillas and the frying technique. They were so airy, light, and flaky, but at the same time had an amazing richness to them that normal corn tortillas simply don't have.
For the main course we got a bunch of different tacos to share at the table as well as a side of their famous mac and cheese. The mac and cheese lived up to the hype with a good combination of different cheeses and a subtle sweetness from the roasted garlic and shallots. Mexican it is not, but we're not going to judge.
Some of our favorite tacos were the ribs, chicken apple, and the veggie. The veggie taco was spicy, sweet, and smoky with a chili de arbol salsa, roasted corn and poblanos, crispy potato nuggets, and black beans. It's pretty much everything you could ever want in a vegetarian taco. The rib taco was also a good balance between smoky, sweet, and tangy with pickles, onions, and a porter barbeque sauce.
Considering you can watch the meat being prepped and smoked in the center of the restaurant, you can truly tell how much attention is put into getting it right.
Overall, we were very happy with our meal at Smoke. The fresh flour tortillas and perfectly tender meats were embellished with traditional Mexican flavors with a just enough of a twist to keep our taste buds intrigued.
Smoke Taqueria is located at 4115 Butler Street in Lawrenceville and is cash only.
Looking for more tacos in the Burgh? Be sure to check out tako downtown, Las Palmas, Baby Loves Tacos in Bloomfield, Condado Tacos downtown, and La Palapa in South Side! Or, for more reviews of Pittsburgh restaurants, click the previous link to be taken to our directory of every review on Discover the Burgh!