For this most recent Taco Tuesday, Nate and I ventured to Madero Cantina located at 4462 William Penn Highway in Murrysville, PA. It was the Tuesday we were supposed to get hit with such a bad storm, yet it turned out to be quite an enjoyable night!
With my work location changing next month, I wanted make this a priority on my list of restaurants. I found out about Madero Cantino from a coworker of mine, Pam and her husband Jason. They are also the couple that introduced me to Sun Dawg Cafe, which I will also be posting about soon. It will be a two-part blog about two different visits! Pam and Jason have made great taco recommendations and I am excited to talk now about Madero Cantina.
Just want to throw out this mind blowing fact, that Madero Cantina is the second restaurant of David Montanez who started Las Velas located in Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh. The menu here is very similar to that of Las Velas, which if you remember is where I went to back in August during a lunch break when I was learning how to blog thanks to Pittsburgh PodCamp!
Nate and I arrived to Madero Cantino around 6:30pm. Unfortunately, we missed the half-off house margarita special that runs from 4-6pm, but we did avoid rush hour traffic to the eastern suburbs on William Penn Highway so that was a decent trade off.
Nate and I were pleasantly surprised when we walked into Madero Cantina. It did not have colorful booths and tables, upbeat Spanish music or vibrant gold colored walls like many other Mexican restaurants I have visited, but it did have a warm, rustic look with untreated wood panel walls (looking like pieces of new pallet), subtle paintings, simple wooden tables and chairs and wooden fence topped with faux grass dividing the seating areas. The restaurant was small, but had the perfect amount of tables with a bar in the back corner. It was so quiet too! Every customer seemed to be smiling and just enjoying each other’s company withou
t rowdiness, but that’s not to say it felt stuffy. There was also a smell reminiscent of home cooking lingering around from what I initially thought was the kitchen until I realized the table next to us had fajitas. A few tables actually ordered fajitas, so that might be something to try next time. Every minute from when we walked in to when we sat down was pleasant. It really made for an outstanding first impression.
I also found out that the word madero means timber or lumber in Spanish, and cantina translates to tavern or bar in Spanish. This makes sense now on why there was a wood theme throughout the restaurant. I really admire a restaurant that sticks to a theme, or puts forth effort into making it something unique.
I feel like I should almost be done blogging about this place and I haven’t even talked about the tacos yet! I just loved the atmosphere. Instant happiness. Now, to the menu.
I liked how the menu was not too extensive or overwhelming, just a few pages. We first ordered chips with queso and Nate ordered a mango margarita. The taco section is divided into stand alone taco (that were more standard) and specialties. All tacos are served with two sides of your choice. The ‘standard’ tacos option included three tacos (chicken, steak, ground beef, chorizo or veggies), your choice of style (Mexican or Tex Mex) and salsa (taquera-mild, pastor-sweet/medium, aguacate-hot, habarracha-hottest). The specialty tacos included fish, shrimp, mahi-mahi, tacos al pastor, tacos de cochinita (a vinegar marinated shredded pork), filet mango, and tacos de arrachera (hanger steak). Nate went with the tacos de cochinita and I went with the filet mango in preparation for a classic taco swap. Nate and I both ordered the lime potatoes and Mexican-style corn on the cob as our sides.
The chips are chopped in-house then fried and salted. I liked the chips even though they were a bit oily. They matched well with the queso, which had roasted red peppers mixed in along with some onions. I love roasted red pepper in queso. There was an onion aftertaste at times but it didn’t really bother me as I finished the entire bowl of queso by the end of the meal.
As I was blogging away in my notebook, Nate sipped on his mango margarita. Unlike the margarita at Chayo in Las Vegas, this one had a balanced tequila to mixer ratio. Perfect ratio meaning lots of tequila. Very fruity and strong. Soon enough, our full and colorful plates arrived at our table.
I am very excited to talk about my tacos. The filet mango tacos were very unique. Three tacos were filled with tender marinated filet, mango pico de gallo and some sort of brown sauce. I was pleasantly surprised by the first bite. I tasted some ginger, soy and something like brown sugar. The combination reminded me of a sauce I once made for a steak stir fry. I believe the soy originated from the sauce and the gingery taste relating to the cut up mango cubes. I then noticed the tenderness of the filet steak and the subtle, manageable spice halfway through the taco. I would definitely get this taco again.
Now I probably would not get Nate’s taco choice again. We did the taco swap and I was able to try one of his tacos. The tacos de cochinita consisted of three tacos with slow-cooked achiote/vinegar shredded pork and habanero/vinegar marinated red onions. One bite of that taco was like a thimble sized karate kid crane kicking my taste buds ruthlessly with vinegar, spice and lots of tang. Nate enjoyed those tacos, so as you can tell we have quite different tastes (he also did try cricket tacos once as well). I thought the pork looked super appetizing, but I could not get over the tang.
In addition to the filet tacos, I LOVED the sides. The sides here closely resemble the sides at Las Velas, but for some reason, the elote (Mexican-style corn on the cob) at Madero Cantina was better prepared than the one from Las Velas. The examples we had presented us with less crema, and it seemed liked the crema and cayenne seasoning was absorbed in the corn more this time around. The papas leticia (lime potatoes) were well seasoned, but I could only have a bite of them because I was so full after only two tacos and corn. I would definitely get the elote again as a side and maybe try a different carb like the Mexican rice or cilantro lime rice.
For the next visit, I think I will stick to the specialty tacos because I loved the unique sauces and combination of flavors. I think the next taco swap will include the tacos de arrachera and tacos al pastor.
Price(differs by a dollar or two from online menu): chips and queso $6, 3 tacos with 2 sides ranging from $12-14
Not open on Sundays