After my Saint Patrick’s day adventure in Philly, I went back to getting tacos in the Burgh. My initial taco partner in crime, Michelle, has been dying to take me to a place that she really likes in the North Hills. Michelle has been tagged in almost every visit at Patron Mexican Grill (see my favorite dollar taco blog post here!) and she shares a heavy love for tacos too. I was very excited to meet her, Andy (her husband), and their buddy Mike for some tacos after work.
We all made our way to Franklin Inn at 2313 Rochester Road in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. Just a heads up, the restaurant is closed on Sundays and Happy Hour is from 4-6pm during the week. During this time, they have half priced apps and discounted drink specials. Before, during, and after happy hour they always have a complimentary chips and salsa basket for the first round.
I did not get off work until 6pm that day, so I met the taco gang around 6:30 at Franklin Inn. The first thing I noticed was the crowded parking lot. It was bumping for a Thursday night. I am pretty sure I got the last normal parking spot, so thankfully I didn’t have to park like a savage in the grass or gravel. The second thing I noticed when walking to the entrance was the established date on the Franklin Inn sign. The restaurant has been around since 1978, that’s about 40 years of making homemade tacos! I then walked in and it was as busy as I expected. I don’t recall a Pens game or sporting event but the bar to the right was packed! There was about a 45 min wait and Franklin Inn does not take reservations or call ahead seating, but they are on the no wait app. Michelle was on the ball and had us waiting for a table from the app so we only had about a 15 min wait inside. Again, dear reader, I must stress the superior capabilities of the free ‘No Wait’ app.
Since we did not make it in time for the Happy Hour Special and the margaritas at regular cost came in at a somewhat pricey $10 per, I went with a classic corona and lime to pair with the meal. Next I scoped out the menu. Andy’s go to is usually the fajitas, while Michelle is partial towards the enchiladas. There were sooo many mouth watering pictures of the fajitas, enchiladas, and quesadillas; but my sworn duty is to provide you with taco feedback. Taco meals listed on the menu included grilled chicken Jalisco tacos, grilled fish tacos, tacos Americano (3 shredded chicken, shredded beef, or ground beef on a hard shell), and street tacos (chorizo, pork, or shredded beef on corn shells). Each taco comes with a choice of two sides as well. There was also an intriguing “mini-combination” section of the menu, where you could enjoy a combination of entrees such as the tacos Americano amongst others. I was tempted by the combination section, but instead went with the Jalisco grilled chicken tacos with roasted garlic crema, agave slaw, and queso fresco in a grilled white corn tortilla with a fresh lime. As for the two sides, I picked the black bean and corn salsa and rice.
As we were ordering, I noticed that one of the chefs was making his way to each table for a meet and greet. He seemed very engaging and friendly and I was excited to talk tacos with him once he made it to our table. Also, in the back of mind, I was thinking that I hope I made the right meal choice since he would not be at our table until it was too late. I didn’t want to look like some taco newb with the chef rolling up to our table.
Just like I thought, the jovial chef arrived after we had placed our orders. Our fate was sealed. We were at the mercy of the judgment of the fun Franklin Inn chef. Thankfully, we were greeted warmly by chef Nemorio. He asked us if we had any questions on the menu. I wanted to know what taco he would recommend and just my luck, he said the Jalisco taco! Chef Nemorio happens to be the creator of those specific tacos on the menu so he went into great detail on their significance.
At this point of the blog, I recommend you fire up the mariachi music because we are about to get deep into some old timey Mexican lore. Nemorio informed us that there is a town in Mexico called Jalisco where they harvest agave to make tequila. At the Franklin Inn, they used to have a tequila taco that Nemorio didn’t think met their standards and sold poorly as well. Because of this realization, Nemorio decided to take all the positives of the aforementioned tequila taco and added them to some traditional aspects of Jalisco food. For example, the agave combined with the red cabbage to make the Jalisco slaw. I could tell that Nemorio was passionate about his Jalisco taco creation, and he really had me fired up for the taco that I had already ordered!
When the plate arrived at the table, I noticed that the tacos were just as colorful as the picture in the menu and they were just as Nemorio described them. Although there were only two tacos, they were massive in size and fullness with tons of slaw laying on top. With my first few bites, I could really taste the crisp, toasted white corn shell and the slaw. My only (minor) complaint about this taco is that the corn shell was a little too burnt on the edges and there was a heavy abundance of agave slaw. I could really just taste the burnt smokiness and slaw for the first few bites. The top of the taco was like a slaw jungle. As I chopped my machete teeth through the slaw jungle, I then discovered the amazing roasted garlic crema lying deep within the forest clearing.
My absolute favorite bites of the taco were closer to the inside fold of the shell where the crema met the juicy grilled chicken strips. The crema had so much life and power to it. The crema had a magical sweetness to it that worked really well against the lightly smoked skin of the chicken and the spice level overall was just right. To me, the crema was the secret weapon. I’m about to bring in my weirdness here but you could really insert any inner beauty quote to describe the Jalisco taco. For example, “outer beauty pleases the eye, inner beauty captivates the heart.” That is what this taco did for me.
I would also like to highlight the side dishes here as they were different. The side options here included pinto beans, rice, side salad, fajita vegetables, or black bean and corn salad. I went with the rice and Michelle and Andy’s suggestion of the black bean and corn salad. I usually prefer the rice over beans but in this case, it was the opposite. The rice was a little bland for me, but the black bean and corn salad was very refreshing. There was a chilling cold sensation with each bite as if an ice cube was placed on my tongue for a split second.
With a loaded plate to start, I could only finish about half of my meal and saved the rest for leftovers for lunch the next day. I was also saving a little room for dessert. During my visit, a friend of mine messaged me and told me I had to get the peanut butter ice cream pie. She then continued to send 3 gifs of full blown loathing moments, so I knew she was serious about this.
I am so glad we ordered this dessert. We split a piece of pie between the table. The main part of the pie had a frozen cool whip-like consistency with peanut butter flavor on a chocolate Oreo cookie crust. It was literally the best way to finish a meal of tacos.
All in all, I enjoyed the Jalisco tacos. (They were just as good too as leftovers the next day.) The chicken and roasted garlic crema was the best part of the taco for sure. The toasted shell was a little too crisp and burnt, but overall it was a high quality taco. Franklin Inn has so many options I want to try that next time I may delve into something like the enchiladas or chimichanga or a combination platter (to try a bit of everything) before I come back to the Jalisco tacos.
Price: $10-16 per meal.