In the middle of a hot summer week, I met my coworker, Cynthia, for lunch at a new taco spot in Warrendale called Calavera Tap + Taco. Coming to Calavera mid-week allowed us to easily pick seating anywhere at the restaurant. This included the indoor dining area next to the kitchen and wall decorations, a full bar and lounge adjacent to the 30 plus tequilas and mezcals, or the outdoor patio right by the fire pit. Because of the Pittsburgh humidity, we chose to sit in the indoor dining section.
After Cynthia and I were seated, I looked over the taco menu. Calavera focuses on Baja and Californian cuisine with fire-grilled, spit-roasted, and slow-braised meats. With the west coast focus, I was excited to see what tacos Calavera had to offer.
All of their tacos are served on soft flour tortillas and come in sets of two with a choice of a side. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to mix tacos, so I would have to see if Cynthia would be down for a classic taco swap. I was disappointed when I found this out because I was hoping to try multiple tacos like I can at El Lugar. At El Lugar, there is an option to purchase their fancy tacos as combination platters with mixed tacos and a side.
Taco filling options here include wood-grilled skirt steak, adobo-rubbed pork shoulder (only on dinner menu, not lunch), fried fresh Atlantic cod, wood-grilled fresh shrimp, wood-grilled adobo-marinated free-range chicken, shredded Jamison Farms lamb, and wood-grilled vegetable. Three dollar (each) Happy hour tacos are also available Mon-Fri 4:30-6:30 PM and include shredded chicken tinga tacos and shredded ground beef tacos.
I went with the lamb barbacoa tacos and Cynthia ordered the Baja fish tacos. Neither one of us were willing to do a classic taco swap with the tacos we chose so we went all in with our tacos choices.
The first thing I noticed about my tacos were that they were loaded with lamb. The meat was topped with salsa roja, Spanish onion, cilantro, and greens. With each bite , I could only taste the lamb and salsa. The proportions of this taco were off. I would of liked a little less meat and a little more greens and other toppings. The lamb and sauce were also too juicy and overall left the flour shell too soggy. The juices soaked up the already super soft shell and made a saucy pool on the plate. A taco shell holder could have came in handy here. The salsa roja was very tomato-y and did not go well with the lamb. As for the taco rating, I would give this taco a 2/5. The lamb was good as it was braised with the guajillo chile giving it a little spice kick, but the taco all together did not mesh well.
Cynthia also gave her Atlantic cod taco a 2/5 on the scale. She would have preferred her fish grilled, not fried; and cod isn’t her favorite. She also did not like the sauce leaking everywhere and would of liked less cabbage slaw. She would not get this taco again.
As for the side dish, we both were not a fan of the cilantro- lime rice. It was dry and boring. I bet the crispy Yukon gold potatoes or smashed black beans would be better options.
All in all, I was not impressed with my first visit at Calavera. I can’t speak for the other tacos here yet that I did not try, but I was not thrilled about my first taco. Maybe the other tacos here will be worth taco’ing about in a future post.
Price: 2 tacos and a side ranging from $11-13.