One idea for a restaurant concept that was always intriguing to us was street food from around the world, and when we found out Streets on Carson in South Side was opening to be a provider of just that, we got incredibly excited and knew we had to visit.
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But as this was an idea we also had in our heads as something Pittsburgh sorely needs, we also knew that we would be among its harshest critics.
The Menu Reads Like Our Passports
The very first impression we had of the menu at Streets on Carson was that it looked like it was lifted straight out of our passports (with a bit of Pittsburgh fare thrown in). The menu consists of mostly small plates like French crepes, Italian arancini, Canadian poutine, and Chinese spring rolls, with some larger sandwich plates mixed in like a good ol' American burger and a roasted pork sandwich from Philadelphia. Out of all of the countries represented on the menu, we have only missed one- Brazil.
As it turns out, this makes ordering very challenging because there were many of our personal favorites on the menu including balik ekmek (a fish sandwich from Istanbul) and huaraches (a Mexican flat bread). We decided to split the difference and order a few menu items we have had, while also trying some new things just to break up our expectations.
We decided on the huarache, pan con chicharron, and confit chicken wings. The huarache was a flatbread topped with barbacoa, salsa verde, queso fresco, and little bits of fried potatoes. We remember huaraches from Mexico being huge and piled high with toppings, so it was different to see this huarache presented as a dainty little tapa-style plate. The barbacoa was pretty good and the cilantro and salsa verde added some brightness, but the dough being a wheat flour dough threw us off- huaraches are normally made from masa harina, a flour made from corn, which gives a completely different flavor.
We tried the confit chicken wings for a taste of familiar; these were served with roasted garlic and jalapeno puree but the predominant flavor was tartness from some lemon juice. The skin was a bit soggy and could have benefited from a little more crispness.
The best dish we had was the Peruvian pan con chicharron, a fried pork belly sandwich topped with sweet potato, onion, cilantro, and chilies. We remember having chicharron sandwiches in Lima, and this one was pretty good but could have used a few improvements. The chicharron was tasty and super crispy (but a little too salty for me), and the sweet potato was a sweet, creamy contrast. One funny thing I remember about the places we got these sandwiches in Lima was that they always had a dozen or more different kinds of sauces you could get in those little ketchup cups to dip your fries or sandwich in (like aji, different flavored mayos, mustards, and even olive-based sauces). A sauce or two on the sandwich here would have helped tie the whole thing together.
A Few Misses, But Looking Forward at What's to Come
Overall, Streets on Carson is probably not the best place for us to review if only because we are overly critical of this restaurant concept. Like I said at the beginning of this article we have spent a lot of time fantasizing on what we'd do if we opened a restaurant like this, and it would be hard for others to live up to what we envision. Also, having had many of these foods in their countries of origin, we were constantly comparing them to what we remembered. If you're not a globetrotter, you won't have this problem.
Are there things we'd do differently? Sure. But with the world at their fingertips when it comes to deciding what to put on the menu, there is truly no limit to what this restaurant can achieve. Knowing all the delicious street food that is out there, we are certainly looking forward to what may come in the future.
Streets on Carson is located at 1120 E Carson Street in South Side.
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