Music, drinks and most importantly, tacos!
A few months ago, my coworker told me that her son, Zach, a friend of mine who graduated from the same high school, was in a band called Saybrook. The pop punk band originated in Greensburg, Pa, near my hometown of Irwin. My coworker told me about his concerts for the past month or so but I could never fit them into my schedule since most of the concerts were in Uniontown. She told me about Saybrook playing on a Friday night at The Smiling Moose and she suggested that I check out the tacos there, because she heard they were interesting. So with an open Friday night in the Burgh, I was ready for tacos, drinks, and live music!
The Smiling Moose, located on 1306 East Carson Street in Southside, serves as a great Pittsburgh bar and concert venue featuring live music, comedy, karaoke, 80’s nights with a DJ, and trivia nights along with a wide variety of craft beer and food.
A few friends and I arrived around 6pm for dinner and drinks at the downstairs bar area. Their bar hours are from Sunday- Saturday 11am-2am. Kitchen hours Wednesday-Saturday 11am-12am, Sunday-Tuesday 11am-11pm. All of the beers are half priced from 5-7pm which is a steal since I ordered a few Southern Tier Pumkings. I was amazed by how awesome the beer selection is at The Smiling Moose and I would definitely return to this bar for their happy hour specials.
However, I do not know if I would return for the tacos. The Smiling Moose has three rotating taco specials including shrimp, tilapia, and steak tacos. Through process of seafood elimination, I ordered the grilled steak tacos with Hungarian peppers, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, and horseradish slaw.
The steak tacos were served on two larger flour tortillas, definitely bigger than the standard 6 inch size. I did really like how the tortillas were grilled, it was like I was eating a quesadilla which I did not mind at all. Each bite however was a little too spicy for me. I believe it was mainly due to the Hungarian peppers. It was so spicy that I had to use ice cubes from my water glass to cool my mouth after most bites. The taco was also filled with slaw that tended to overpower the steak. I think the tacos could have used a bit more steak and a little less slaw. A few more pieces of steak would have balanced out the use of a large tortilla shell, as some bites were left with no steak. I did like the crema that was drizzled on top which also thankfully helped to ease the spice a bit. After the meal, I was still a little hungry. For $12, I think there should have been a third taco or at least a side dish. Their specialty sandwiches (with the side of the day) and baked macaroni and cheese dishes looked very appetizing from the menu and looked to be a better bang for the buck than the taco dishes and I would probably try one of those next time.
My friend again got the fish tacos, since he tends to pick up the seafood slack for me. Their fish tacos came on the same type of shell, with a very similar presentation. My friend seems to handle spice a little better than I can, since he said there was a bit in his fish tacos as well.
Compared to the fish tacos I had at Totopo, these are more ‘traditionally’ breaded. Still good though, but if I had to choose I’d go with the tempura breading that Totopo used. Spice wise, yeah, there was a good bit in there but it was in the goldilocks zone I’d say. Any less, why bother and any more I wouldn’t be able to handle. I did like them, and if I find myself back at Smiling Moose I can see myself trying them again. However, I think I would need a side. The two tacos just didn’t do it for me.
Post taco beers and music
Before going upstairs to see Zach perform, my friends and I enjoyed a few more drinks. Our waiter and the bartender were very friendly and accommodating. I also noticed that the Smiling Moose had a Star Wars movie marathon playing on the television behind the bar and on the projector. I love Star Wars so I enjoyed the background entertainment.
After we paid our check, we went upstairs to see Saybrook. Side note, you cannot take drinks bought from downstairs bar to upstairs venue. They do have a bar upstairs, but there is a certain area where you can drink. I think this was a good way to prevent a mess near the stage and to keep the equipment safe from spills. Since there were multiple bands performing that night, there was a lot of equipment over in the corner. I had to watch Zach’s guitar as he was packing up – a very important job. Overall, Saybrook had a great show and turnout and I am glad I got to see my friend perform along with trying some new tacos!
Price: $12 for two larger tacos – tacospensive!