Last Updated on May 13, 2022 by Jeremy
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In the past, we've raved about the high-end taco restaurant, aptly named tako (Japanese for octopus), in Pittsburgh's Cultural District. This restaurant features artisan tacos, a stellar tequila bar, and an ambiance that perfectly fits its location downtown.
One thing the restaurant is not, however, is approachable. Prime reservation slots are often booked up weeks in advance, and an order of their namesake tako tacos (yes- an octopus taco) clocks well over $20. A decent price for octopus, but an extreme one for tacos all the same.
So when we heard that the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group was opening another tako in Bakery Square, we had a moment of pause. “A high-end restaurant there?!” was our immediate gut reaction. Thankfully, the restaurant, called tako Torta, takes a fast-casual approach to this restaurant's delicious menu with tacos, torta sandwiches, and more!
Tako Gets an Ugprade at Tako Torta
From the moment you walk into tako Torta, you will understand how this one is different from the original restaurant.
It is fast-casual in just about every respect. The ambiance is bright and uplifting (unlike tako's extremely dark dining area) with many uniquely designed spaces. You order at the counter and get texted when your food is ready for pickup in numbered slots. There is a separate bar space for drinks beyond canned beer. Silverware and sauces are laid out in a centrally accessible station.
We could go on.
To put it simply, tako Torta feels like it was designed to be a quick lunch spot for the tech crowd in Bakery Square as much as an approachable destination restaurant for happy hour or a full meal in the evenings.
During my first lunch visit, I was able to try the Mexican Pork Dip (Ahogada) tortas which came with carnitas, cheese, black bean hummus, pickled onion and jalapeno, cilantro, and a side of spicy bone broth for dipping. While perhaps not the biggest sandwich we've ever had, it was an appreciable size and had a solid balance of all the ingredients. The broth on the side made this one feel like a Mexican version of an au jus but with a much more vibrant and (albeit only slightly) spicy kick.
For its price, it definitely felt like a good value proposition for what you get (and even the tacos here run a few dollars cheaper than the more formal restaurant downtown). So while this one can still get up there in price if you add on a side, beverage, and more, you can enjoy this one without breaking the bank as much as you would when dining at the original location.
In fact, the Papas Bravas here may have outshined the sandwich altogether as they came as fried potatoes topped with an oregano butter, spicy tomato sauce, garlic aioli, and scallions. The acidity of the tomato sauce and aioli really worked nicely with the starchy base. That being said, for its size and price tag ($6 on my visit), you can see how the sides will quickly increase the cost of the meal outright- throw on a 12 ounce can of beer and tip and my lunch hit about $35.
Still, the fact that you can get a rather delicious and decently sized sandwich for an approachable price point makes this one a great option for those who want to enjoy the flavors of tako without breaking the bank. But if you want to go big here, well, they make it easy for that to happen as well.
Overall, tako Torta helps solve an issue that the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group has in that almost all of their restaurants are high-end dining establishments unsuitable for walk-in guests (apart from Coop de Ville, of course). So while it originally felt a bit odd that tako was getting a second location in the city, adapting the downtown restaurant menu into a fast-casual establishment simply works. So we're happy to see it if only because it will assuredly increase our frequency of eating through this delicious, delicious menu.
tako Torta is located at 122 Bakery Square Blvd in Bakery Square.