Last tacos of 2016 at Round Corner Cantina
New Years Eve of 2016 turned out to be one of my favorites of all time. I woke up Saturday morning without any plans made for the day. The only thing I knew was that I would be having leftovers for lunch and tacos somewhere for dinner. After watching a few episodes of Parks and Recreation, I pulled out a list of breweries around the Pittsburgh area that I wanted to try. As soon as I mentioned Draai Laag Brewery in Millvale, Nate and his friend Brandon were 100% in. Nate loves sours so this would be his heaven. I am not the biggest fan; I was more looking forward to the tacos for dinner.
After spending a few hours at Draai Laag and trying sours we met up with my friends, Heather and Dave who live close by, for another brewery visit to Dancing Gnome Brewery in Sharpsburg. This was definitely more of my style and I loved the Oatmeal Stout they had on tap. After a few more hours, we took an impromptu trip back to Heather and Dave’s house for some bumper pool and darts.
We built up an appetite after the basement games so Nate, Brandon and I made our way to 3720 Butler Street for some tacos at Round Corner Cantina in Lawrenceville. In addition to my brewery list, I have a taco list. (No surprise there) And this place was on my list.
We made sure they were open New Years Eve for dinner before we left Heather and Dave’s house. The kitchen hours at Round Corner Cantina are Monday–Thursday 4-11pm, Friday & Saturday 11am-11pm, and Sunday 11am-11pm with happy hour Monday-Friday 5-7pm. I did not know this until looking at their website but they also have daily specials in addition to happy hour. Monday caught my eye with select tacos 2 for $5 (taco selections change weekly), Tuesday 2 for $6 crunchy tacos & $5 La Cantina margaritas, Wednesday $5 Red Sangria, Thursday $5 La Cantina margaritas, Friday 11am-4pm $10 taco or burrito platters and $5 for all margaritas, and Friday 11am-5pm $3 beef picadillo and soy chorizo tacos. I may possibly have to alternate Taco Monday night with Patron, The Library and Round Corner Cantina.
As soon as we walked into Round Corner Cantina, I immediately noticed the wall behind the bar. It was covered in leaves. I thought it was unique and very inviting. We were taken to the back bar area. Both the back and front bar were narrow and had little high top seating. The staff was also getting ready for a New Years Eve Party so I bet some tables were taken away early. The staff was extremely accommodating and allowed us sit at a reserved low table and couch in the corner even though that table was reserved for a party coming at least an hour later.
After getting super comfortable on the couches, we ordered the guacamole and chips to share. The guac was very cold and the texture was pasty and thick. Round Corner Cantina makes their own chips and corn tortillas which are definitely worth pointing out. I thought the chips were probably the best chips I have had in Pittsburgh. (I also loved Fiesta Grill’s chips but those are back in California). The chips were flakey and double layered and had just the right amount of salt. It was like eating two chips that were glued together with air in the middle.
While reviewing the menu, I ordered the La Cantina house margarita ($7). My margarita was very strong so I enjoyed it. Nate ordered the ginger pineapple margarita ($9). He said to Brandon and I and to everyone else he could tell waiting on us that it was the best margarita he has ever had.
Now back to the menu. All tacos came in sets of two, so we did a few taco swaps between the three of us. The taco options included al pastor, chorizo, carnitas, Yucatan-style chicken, mahi mahi, shrimp, tofu, vegan mole, brisket, and carne asada. I ended up having the al pastor, carne asada, and chicken.
Side note, many of the tacos at Round Corner Cantina had achiote listed under the taco descriptions. Achiote, which I first introduced in the Las Palmas blog, is used as both a spice and a food colorant (bright orange-red) that can bring a peppery aroma and a subtle flavor that has been described as nutty, sweet, and earthy to a variety of Latin American and Southeast Asian recipes. Achiote will be mentioned below in some of the tacos.
All the tacos were presented on fake paper plate dishes which I thought was cute. I tasted the al pastor taco first. The al pastor was dressed with grilled pineapple, achiote, onion, cilantro, avocado, lime, and salsa verde. The al pastor was definitely comparable to the al pastor tacos I had at Las Palmas and täkō. The only thing I noticed was a little bit more fat around the pork.
The Tecate-marinated carne asada taco was served with arbol, guacamole, cilantro, lime and queso fresco. The menu should just say chihuahua cheese under the description since that was the cheese used and that is the best cheese ever used in a taco :). The carne asada was a little fatty and tough but still full of flavor. This taco was slightly spicy due to the arbol which is a small and potent Mexican chili pepper. With this taco, I really noticed the crunch on the rim of the homemade corn tortilla shell with each bite. Round Corner Cantina’s tortillas are amazing.
The Yucatan-style chicken was extremely shredded (anymore shredded would be considered chicken salad) and topped with cilantro, pico, achiote, guajillo, lime and salsa verde. The chicken was slightly dry and could have used a little bit more of the tomatillo verde sauce to juice it up. Like the carne asada, this taco was also spicy, and this spice comes from the guajillo chile which has mild to moderate heat. The guajillo is a thick, leathery and dark reddish brown chile, and is one of the most commonly grown chiles in Mexico. Brandon and I split this taco order and he said he would order the chicken tacos again over the chorizo tacos he had first.
Overall, I would say Round Corner Cantina has qualifying street tacos. My favorite out of the three was probably the al pastor because it was a little less spicy than the other two but each of the tacos were substantially full of flavor. I now know that arbol and guajillo mean hot and to watch out for that. I would go back for their taco or margarita specials and definitely for their homemade chips and tortillas.
Price: $8-10 for two tacos per order