Pittsburgh online news site The Incline really got my attention lately with their Ultimate Pittsburgh Food Truck Bracket, pitting food trucks from around the area in a NCAA style, reader voted competition. Obviously, the bracket dedicated entirely to tacos is what REALLY got my attention. The Final Four in the bracket came down to Southside BBQ, Las Chicas, Hott Dawgz and Sugar and Spice Ice Cream Truck. To make the final four voting more interesting, The Incline also held a small food truck round up with each remaining contestant. Tickets were $5 and included two tickets to cast a vote and samplings of local wine, beer and spirits. Now the only food truck competitor that I had tried before was Sugar and Spice at their permanent location in the South Hills, but this was a long time ago. As you may guess, the main truck I came to see, vote for and will be focusing on in this post is Las Chicas, because I have never tried their tacos yet and what better time to try them when the truck is only a few blocks from my work!
I found out about the competition through Nate, who lives and breathes social media (it is sorta part of his job). Once in awhile I can beat him to news of a new taco joint or event, but usually he is the first to share. Unfortunately with work he could not make it to the event, but luckily for me I was scheduled daylight hours last Wednesday and I only work a few blocks from where the event was held. I gathered with my friends Sean and Amber, who also work in the Northside for happy hour at James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy. I have never been to this place before but heard great things about the atmosphere and beer. I had a fantastic North Side peach wheat beer which was cool and refreshing after my sweaty mile long walk over from West Robinson Street. I didn’t have a chance to check out the downstairs area where a band was getting ready to perform that night, but I will definitely be back there on a Tuesday for their taco Tuesday special and I believe open mic night as well.
We left around 5:15pm for Nova Place and of course as soon as we left the bar it started to pour! The rain wasn’t going to stop us and we all huddled under one umbrella and walked over the Nova Place with wet feet and frizzy hair. I believe the rain kept a lot of people away as the Allegheny Center area looked like a ghost town. This meant two things for us: we must vote wisely as there were not a lot of people there to cast votes and also that we could get a lot of the beer, wine and vodka samples with no wait.
After I sampled a IPA from Spoonwood Brewery, Sean, Amber and I made our way over to the Las Chicas taco truck for dinner. We were pleasantly greeted by the owners of Las Chicas, who are a mother and daughter duo from L.A who started the taco truck in 2014. It makes sense that the name of the truck is Las Chicas, as that means the chicks or the girls in Spanish. I read that their menu is influenced by the husband of the mother, who makes sure everything is consistent with the family recipes to make it taste like home. I also heard that almost everything on the menu except the cheese sauce and tortillas is homemade so I could not be more excited to try their tacos.
The taco menu included chicken, flank steak or veggie tacos served on double layer warm corn tortillas served with salsa (choice of chunky, mild, or heat), onions and cilantro. There was another option for loaded tacos which included lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and guacamole for an additional price. We all wanted to have some room for other food truck goodies so we stuck with the standard toppings. We each ordered one of the chicken and steak tacos. It was nice that the two tacos did not have to have the same meat so there was no need or concern to do a #classictacoswap.
I tried the marinated chicken taco first. The chicken was cut in chunks covered in the chopped onions and cilantro with the green sauce just filling in all the gaps. My first bite had so much flavor bursting with cilantro, lime and a great tang that just worked perfectly with marinated chicken. Definitely one of my favorite taco salsas of all time. After my first bite, the corn shell collapsed because the shell was so soft and it was loaded to the max. I couldn’t think about how dirty my hands were because I had to scoop up the rest with the broken taco and devoured it like a mad woman.
Just when I didn’t think it could get any better, I tried the flank steak taco with the same mild tomatillo salsa and ingredients. The steak was so tender and whatever the steak was marinated in was still scooped inside the shell with the meat to add to the juiciness. Like the chicken taco, the whole thing fell apart after the first bite. So if you can find a utensil, I would highly recommend grabbing one before the tortilla crumbles leaving your hands covered with the bits of shell, marinade and cilantro sticking to everything. Definitely the juiciest tacos in the Burgh, especially since the tomatillo salsa, chicken and steak are all marinated over 15 hours.
Sean and Amber loved their tacos too and they both like the steak one just a hair more than the chicken. Sean said that Las Chicas has replaced one of his favorite taco spot nearby, El Burro. And I would have to agree with him there. Sean and I will also have to try the tacos at James Street Gastropub soon to compare them to other Northside taco spots as well.
When I made my frequent stops to the wine, beer, and spirits table, I did talk to some of the employees from Pittsburgh Winery who just ordered the loaded tacos from Las Chicas. After giving them some time to eat their tacos, I asked them their thoughts. They liked them a lot but actually prefer Edgar’s Best Tacos as their favorite in the Burgh.
For me, Las Chicas wins my heart today for their marinated chicken, steak, and salsa. So you can only imagine where one of my two votes ended up.
At Hott Dawgz I tried the Courtney Way- bacon-wrapped hot dog with mac and cheese and bbq sauce on a pretzel bun
Sugar and Spice had awesome chocolate peanut butter ice cream that I ALSO managed to get all over my hands!
And if that wasn’t enough to fit in one afternoon in the Northside, Nate ended up with free Pirates tickets (thanks to his favorite Dormont/Wing spot Jamison’s), so after the event was over at 7 I met up with him outside the stadium and went to the Pirates game!
Price: $6.95 for two tacos, $9.36 for two loaded tacos