On a surprisingly warm Taco Tuesday night in the Burgh, I made my way to Cafe Nikos dressed in a Pens t-shirt and a little black sweater. I had Nikos on my PGH taco list for quite sometime after having read their 2 tacos for $3 weekly special listed on the banner outside the bar months ago. I recruited a fellow Mount Washington resident and friend, Jason, for a taco filled night at Nikos located at 212 Shiloh St up in the Mount.
Since I have been to Nikos before to play darts and pool, I did remember that they are cash only and a smoking bar so leave the coat in the car but bring on those dolla bills for tacos!
It was a little busy, but Jason and I managed to get the last two seats at the bar. Once seated, Jason gave me the details of the special since he has been around the Nikos block for tacos before. The fillings for the taco are ground beef with the choice of a hard corn shell or soft flour shell. Toppings to pick from include lettuce, tomato, cheese, and onion. Cups of sour cream and salsa are also included in the special.
Jason and I each ordered 2 tacos (one soft shell and hard shell) with everything on it. While waiting for the tacos, I sipped on a $3 corona and continued to watch a close Pens game.
After a brief time, our tacos came out from the back. The first things I noticed were the size of the tacos and the shape and color of the hard shell taco. The tacos were massive! Even the hard shell taco seemed bigger than the average shell size. The hard shell had a unique shape as the sides of the shell veered out and opened up wider at the top, leaving room for more fillings. The shape of the shell reminded me of birds’ wings, preparing to fly the tacos fillings into my mouth. The color of the shell was darker, due to the fact the shells were deep fried. The deep fried shell explained the interesting shape and greasy texture to the outside of the shell.
With all this talk about the hard shell, I tried the crunchy taco first. Because of the wide shape of the shell, the shell immediately cracked and broke apart when I picked it up. I was still able to eat most of it with just my hands but a fork was definitely necessary. The ground beef was savory and seasoned well and far from dry. The lettuce and tomatoes seemed very fresh which added to the overall classic American style taco. I really liked the salsa and sour cream, too. I used both entire cups of salsa and sour cream between the two tacos as there was a lot of surface area to cover.
Speaking of huge tacos, as Jason and I were eating our first tacos, I could overhear a man sitting at the end of the bar talking about the tacos to a friend. I heard statements like “soft shell is where it’s at”, “produce is fresh”, and my personal favorite “giant effing tacos”.
Our bar buddy seemed all about the soft taco so I was excited to try that one next. The soft taco was definitely hefty and you got more bang for your buck with the soft shell. When I was first ordering the tacos, I couldn’t decide if I wanted the onions added to the tacos or not. I didn’t notice them as much on the hard shell taco but I did on the soft shell. Next time I go, I would probably just get the onions on the hard shell taco because it was almost too onion-y for me with them on the soft shell taco.
All in all, I was surprised by how much I liked the tacos here. The beef and toppings were spot on and everyone at the bar also seemed to be enjoying the tacos despite watching the Penguins lose that night. I think Nikos is a winner for a Taco Tuesday local night out.
Jason also told me that the wings here are good and that he wants to try the burger and pierogie nights as well. I will definitely try more specials here at Nikos.
Price: 2 tacos for $3 on Tuesdays