This past weekend I participated in a lazy Sunday (which is rare for me to do) and stayed in bed all day watching episode after episode of Flash and Arrow. For my lunch, I planned on getting takeout tacos at Mendoza Express, a tiny roadside building that I came across along Mansfield road in East Carnegie when I was heading home one day after errands. However, I found out they are closed on Sundays so I thought I would try takeout from their sister restaurant – Cocina Mendoza located in a shopping plaza in the South Hills on 300 Mount Lebanon Blvd in Castle Shannon, Pa.
Nate and I still did the pickup option since we wanted to be able to eat tacos and watch Flash/Arrow at the same time. We pressed pause on the remote and took a few minutes to look over the menu. Nate and I were in the sharing mood (well…I sort of convinced Nate to share) so we ordered the Mexican Plate #1 which includes one enchilada, one taco, one tostada and one fajita along with Mexican rice, refried beans and a choice of sour cream or guacamole. You also get a choice of chicken or beef in the taco. To keep adding to the smorgasbord, we also ordered a side of chips and salsa and steak tacos. All the taco meal options come with the choice of three hard or soft corn tortillas, or two flour tortillas served with refried beans or rice. The options for tacos included chicken, ground beef, pork, chorizo, shrimp, and steak.
About ten minutes after we ordered, Nate and I made our way to pick up our grand order. I have driven past Cocina Mendoza many times before but this was my first time in the shopping plaza. Nate and I were pleasantly greeted by the waitress and we immediately liked the atmosphere. It was cozy and warm with Christmas decorations everywhere with stockings and Santa hats hanging from the bar, lights around the windows, poinsettias at every table, and a giant Christmas tree by the entrance. If it wasn’t for my current addiction to Flash and Arrow, we definitely would have stayed to eat at the restaurant.
As an aside, one thing I’ve noticed when I eat at Mexican restaurants is that some of the plates comes out at 1000 degrees F but the food cools incredibly fast. That being said, I should have probably reheated everything once we returned to Dormont.
Once we were back, we threw everything off the coffee table and started to make our plates. There was so much to try but obviously I went for the tacos first.
Our steak tacos were served on double corn tortillas topped with onions and cilantro with a lime wedge and a spicy sauce on the side. The sauce was too spicy for me which made me think I should of asked for a tomatillo or milder sauce (if possible) on the side. Unfortunately, this was not my favorite steak taco. The steak itself was a little dry and lacking flavor. Most pieces were tough as well. I was craving more of a juicy cut of steak bursting with flavor. The corn shell was pretty generic and the taco was slightly overpowered by the onions.
As opposed to the steak taco, I did like the ground beef taco. The beef taco was presented in a crunchy corn shell with cheese, lettuce, and tomato. The beef was juicy and salty. The salt was just right for me, any more and it would have been too much. I did like this ground beef taco better than the last ground beef taco I had at Old Mexico.
I think the most unique part of the meal was the salsa that came with the chips. It was definitely a homemade salsa. It stood out since it was nothing like I would expect, and by the end of the meal and leftovers, I couldn’t tell if I liked it or not. The color of the salsa was that of Campbell’s tomato soup and even tasted similar to it. I think that’s why I was thrown off. It had a very pasty tomato-y taste that left me wanting more but at the same time I was still craving other salsas I have had before.
With all the samples Nate and I shared, I would rank my favorites in the following descending order: chicken fajita> chicken tostada> beef taco> chicken enchilada> steak tacos. The white chunks of chicken marinated and seasoned to a beautiful orange-brown made the fajitas my number one choice. I also preferred their rice over the beans. The beans were too bland for me but the rice was fluffy and the bits of corn added a sweet touch.
I do not think I found my favorite Pittsburgh tacos here, but I would probably return on another lazy Sunday.
Price: Mexican Plate #1 was only $11.99 for all that food, taco meals range from $5.50-$6.50. Very reasonable prices and there was enough food remaining for a single leftover dinner.