Last Updated on March 16, 2022 by Jeremy
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Many Pittsburgher's were devastated when The Original Hot Dog Shop (also known as The O) closed in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood in early 2020. While many hoped someone would come along and purchase the restaurant to bring it back to life, sadly it was not in the cards.
Instead, the prime restaurant space was renovated, thoroughly cleaned, and opened up as a taco restaurant with a loaded bar with a name and style straight out of Las Vegas- Viva Los Tacos.
Naturally, I had to visit this one shortly after it opened to see what it was like.
Viva Los Tacos is an Approachable Restaurant for College Students
While The O was often considered to be a gritty hangout for college students looking for late-night eats, Viva Los Tacos removed the grit and gave the building a nice shine and now slings tacos late into the night (albeit perhaps not as late as The O was formerly). Throw on moderately attractive price points for both tacos and drinks, and you can see why this will retain the college hangout spot all the same.
I started my meal off with an order of the Queso Elote- a combination cheese dip with Mexican roasted corn (elote). The balance of the corn and the queso in this one made for a nice sweetness, but the additional toppings of cotija, cilantro, and roja were so minimal that I don't think they added much to the dish at all. While the corn itself probably could've been roasted more to be in line with what you'd expect from traditional Mexican elote, it really did have an enjoyable flavor at a price point that is hard to beat.
As Viva Los Tacos has a solid frozen and on the rocks margarita list, again all at attractive price points (especially for Oakland), I ended up going for a habanero margarita with tequila blanco, lime, orange liquor, a habanero simple syrup. Apart from being a solid margarita for the price, and also being bigger than I had originally expected, the heat did not disappoint. Could it have been spicier for habanero? Certainly, but it really balanced with the flavors of the margarita well all the same.
As far as drinking in Oakland is concerned, if I were a student of age I would see consuming many margaritas here easily- with or without tacos.
On the taco front, I struggled with my order here if only because I wanted to try all the tacos. I asked if I could mix-and-match and was told no which felt like a missed opportunity. For visitors to this one, you will also want to know that many tacos are not traditional Mexican, but Mexican fusion in nature including things like fried chicken tenders, Korean-inspired chicken, and other unconventional toppings (although a few options are more in line with traditional Mexican styles).
I ended up going for a more unusual taco of Korean BBQ Chicken with grilled chicken, Korean bbq sauce, coleslaw, pickled onion, shredded carrots, and cilantro. This one felt like it was going for a more traditional US-style barbecue taco as the Korean flavors were somewhat lacking and the toppings were almost the more prominent feature over the chicken. So while it was a decent barbecue chicken taco, I'm not sure I was getting much of the Korean elements all the same.
Ultimately, while I enjoyed my lunch for what I got, my biggest regret from Viva Los Tacos was not so much any particular dish, but rather that you aren't allowed to mix-and-match tacos here. I really wanted to try more but having to commit to just one order with three of the same tacos was a bit of a letdown in an otherwise affordable meal. Oh well, we'll just have to go back and try out more next time!
Viva Los Tacos is located at 3901 Forbes Avenue in Oakland.