A Day of Tacos Surrounded by Art…
In the midst of working my week rotation of night shifts, I still managed to get tacos twice. Monday I had my weekly $1 tacos at Patron Mexican Grill (ordered tacos to go as well for my 3am dinner-shout out to Monica for separating the filling and the shells for me so they didn’t get soggy later on…believe me, that was appreciated!!) and Friday I had tacos at Mad Mex to celebrate the end of the night shift week.
After sleeping all morning on Friday and after a few games of racquetball in the afternoon, I was ready for tacos (although, when am I not?). The Mad Mex in Monroeville is probably the closest taco establishment near me at 4100 William Penn Highway in the Miracle Mile Plaza. It also appears to be the place to be for happy hour on a Friday evening. It was packed with the after work crowd. Mad Mex also has 7 other locations around Pittsburgh including Cranberry, Lakeside (In Peters next to Canonsburg Lake), North Hills, Oakland, Robinson, Shadyside, and South Hills (in Scott, on Greentree road). I can only imagine that all the other locations are just as packed for the Happy Hora scene.
The Happy Hora runs from 4:30-6:30pm Mon-Fri and includes half off drafts, half off wings, and margarita specials. Nate and I arrived during Happy Hora and we were able to get a high top table next to the packed bar with people standing and hovering next to the bar. I liked our high top because I had a good view of the large and impressive mural extending along the back wall. I could also see the indoor patio which had lights hanging from the ceiling and more wall art, making the restaurant warm and inviting. You always have something interesting that draws your eye.
Despite the crowds, our waiter was very attentive and visited our table frequently. After placing our half off beer order (two stouts), we looked at the taco menu. In the past, I always chose either the Mad Mex burrito or enchilada because it’s a great value (~$10) for how much food you get on the plate. The tacos are a little bit more expensive and there are less leftovers, but the ingredients in the tacos make up for it. The taco options at Mad Mex include shrimp (as their second mystery taco in the series of various temporary new taco styles), fried fish, and mahi mahi, tofu, chicken with seasonal veggies, carnitas, barbacoa, rustic vegetable, taco beef, steak, and wing tacos (boneless wing tacos served with waffle fries and celery instead of rice and beans).
I ordered the chicken and seasonal veggie tacos and Nate ordered the shrimp tacos. Both of our meals came out in record time for how busy the restaurant was. Each dish probably weighed 20 pounds because of how much food was mounted on the large plates. The portion of rice and beans was huge so I ate the tacos and saved the rice and beans to go.
The tacos I ordered were unique. Strips of grilled chicken were covered in a cilantro cream and were topped with cilantro and cotija cheese. For having cilantro and cilantro cream as toppings, the tacos were not overpowered by the herb. Embedded under the chicken laid Brussels sprouts, tiny cubes of sweet potatoes, and cauliflower. The chicken was seasoned and grilled well and tasted delicious by itself. I would have liked the veggies marinated or seasoned as well as they were a little plain, but the vegetables were grilled well with a bit of crunch, not soft or mushy in texture which was perfect for having on a taco. I did like the earthy vegetables chosen on the taco as it was fitting for the winter season. I definitely felt like I got my serving of vegetables in for the day.
I was REALLY rooting for Nate to get the barbacoa tacos for a classic taco swap, but he chose the mystery taco option since it was a limited edition. (Note from Nate: Sorry! Love me some seafood, and if it’s limited time I have to try it!) The cornmeal crusted shrimp was topped with mango tomatillo salsa, cilantro cream, and fresh jalapeno. I had a bite of the shrimp. I was still not a fan but the coating reminded me of TGI Friday’s Jack Daniel’s chicken strip coating.
The rice was a little dry and hard in texture. The black beans were thick and pasty. I liked the black beans over the rice here, but they both heated up well when I used the rice and beans as a side dish to lemon pepper chicken I made on the weekend.
After our Happy Hora and tacos, Nate and I took advantage of the last Good Friday (free admission) to the Andy Warhol Museum thanks to FreeBurgh’s weekly email and spent the rest of the evening admiring some art.
Price: $11.50-$15 for three tacos served with rice and beans