Last week in the midst of a very busy time getting ready for two back-to-back out of state weekend trips to New York and Ohio, I needed some quick and healthy dinners to get me through the chaos. When I think of fast service tacos my mind defaults to Las Palmas, Edgar’s Best Tacos, Doce Taqueria, Bea Taco Town, and El Burro. However, time and location are important factors to consider too (especially around rush hour). Since I was planning on visiting Nate that night in the South Hills, we had the perfect opportunity to get some quick tacos at a new place we had just learned about-Taco Diablo.
Taco Diablo is located at 300C Beverly Road in Mount Lebanon. I first heard of Taco Diablo through Nate (the social media guru) who updates me on most of the new taco spots, particualrly in the South Hills. He told me that the owner of Cafe io and io deli let a new taco spot open in a very small storefront that Cafe io owns. Now I have never ate at the cafe or deli but I did try their delicious smoked pulled pork before at Hitchhiker Brewing who used Cafe io’s pulled pork in their tacos.
Nate and I decided to walk to Taco Diablo from his apartment in Dormont. We usually prefer walking over driving if the weather is pleasant and the distance is less than a mile. I do more walking for a taco than eating a walking taco that’s for sure.
We walked passed the busy and lively Cafe io and went next door to Taco Diablo where only a father and son were eating their tacos over the large counter to the side. On the opposite side of the counter, there were 3 wood planks (about the size of townhouse porch step) jutting out from the wall to stand and eat. There was no seating so we definitely planned on eating outside on a bench just like we did for Las Palmas in Brookline. The interior design was spartan but nice. There are also devil details around, which makes sense since (for those who may not know) Diablo translates to devil.
With some college indie music sounding radio playing in the background, we reviewed the menu. The simplicity of the menu made for a smooth ordering process. Taco options here included 3 set tacos on the menu, a build your own taco and a daily taco special written on the chalkboard beside the register. All the tacos are served on a double layer corn tortilla. The set tacos included red chile chicken, carnitas, and carne asada. The BYO taco option is the same price as the pre-set tacos on the menu but allows you to customize your cheese, salsa, and fillings on your taco. On the day we visited the taco special was called Margarita Shots, consisting of chorizo, chipotle salsa, cheddar cheese, sour cream and pickled onions. With the price of 1 taco for $3 or 4 tacos for $10, we decided to order four tacos (different fillings per taco) and a side of chips and queso to share.
After our tacos were prepared and boxed up only a few feet from where we stood, we took some plastic forks and a bunch of napkins outside to the nearest bench.
I snacked on the chips and queso first. The cheese was hot, thick, white in color and looked like there were chunks of roasted red and green pepper mixed into the cheesy sauce. The cheese was so grand that I could just dream about being in a tub full of that cheese with a bottomless bowl of chips to dip on the side. A bathtub full of this cheese would probably be the bare minimum to make me satisfied. The queso was so addicting.
The first taco I tried was the carnitas. The shredded braised pork was completely covered in salsa verde, queso fresco, sour cream, and jalapenos. This taco was definitely loaded up so having a double corn shell was helpful since one shell could not hold the entire fillings. My first bite was very creamy and saucy. The salsa verde reminded me of the salsa verde from Las Chicas’ taco truck which also has that tart, herby freshness to it. I let Nate try a bite of my carnitas taco and he thought the pork itself was very good, but overall a little plain. Maybe some more aggressive toppings and some hot sauce could help. Nate might have liked it more if he created the taco as a build your own taco and switched the salsa verde to the Diablo salsa which is very, very spicy according to the menu. The braised shredded pork also sounds good with pickled onions to give it a little crunch. Personally, I liked it the way it came.
The other taco I ordered was the carne asada taco. This carne asada is unique, where they use fresh ground steak dressed with sharp cheddar, pico de gallo, sour cream, and lettuce. When I think carne asade, I think of strips of steak, usually served with onions, cilantro and a quality salsa. I did not expect ground steak. It tasted like a sirloin burger, especially with the cheddar cheese and lettuce. Although the ground steak tasted great on its own, it sort of threw me off on the corn shell with all the fillings chosen. I would prefer my carne asada as the steak strips or chunks with the onion and cilantro.
Nate ordered the red chile chicken taco and the chorizo taco on special. The shredded chicken was topped with queso fresco, red salsa, sour cream, and pickled onion. The pickled taste was not potent and the chicken was far from dry. The only thing it could use would be more queso fresco. I actually really liked this taco and when I come back to Taco Diablo, I probably would order the chicken or carnitas again and/or try the special taco of the day. Nate enjoyed both tacos, but liked the super messy chorizo taco slightly more. (note from Nate – I LOVED the chorizo. Chorizo usually isn’t a first choice for me, but this may have opened my eyes to a new taco world). The chorizo meat reminded me of the vegetarian chorizo flavor I experienced at Sun Dawg Cafe but the taco here had a bit more weight to it.
Overall, Nate and I enjoyed our first experience at Taco Diablo. Even though the menu is limited, it’s great to have the option of ordering chips and queso, rice and/or beans, or even a quinoa salad on the side with the tacos. Better yet, a beer too! It is exciting to now have Taco Diablo and Las Palmas within walking distance from Nate’s place, but now that adds another decision at the end of the day. Do I walk just short of a mile to Las Palmas or Taco Diablo?
FYI: Closed Sundays and Mondays (your Mondays should be booked anyways due to dollar taco night at Patron Mexican Grill, duh.)
Price: $10 for 4 tacos, $5 for chips and queso, $2 for 2 waters. They also offer various Jarritos and a small selection of beer.
Tell me in the comments below: How far will you walk for tacos?