Speakeasy Tacos in Pittsburgh’s North Side

Speakeasy Tacos in Pittsburgh’s North Side

Update:  The Speakeasy is unfortunately closed.  I believe there was noise complaints leading to its closure.  Such a shame.

Taco Tuesday in Pittsburgh replaces Wing Night in Dormont

A few weeks ago when the standard crew could not make it to Jamison’s wing night, I took the opportunity to visit another spot that has a taco Tuesday special. I first discovered James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy had tacos when I went there for drinks prior to attending the Incline’s Ultimate Food Truck Bracket Contest to support and try Las Chicas tacos (which I have been craving lately). Listed on the Gastropub’s wall were $2 tacos from 5-10pm every Tuesday, along with $3 Coronas and a margarita discount as well. They also have a happy hour Tuesday-Friday 5-7pm with $2 off small plates, $2 off craft drafts and $3 PBR & Old Tankard Ale. I am not sure what Old Tankard Ale is but there were plenty of craft beers that I wanted to try like Full Pint’s Swedish Furniture.

James St Gastropub Exterior

Just as a heads up, the James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy located at 422 Foreland Street, is closed on Mondays and they do not open until 4pm Tuesday-Friday. I found this out the hard way on my first visit when I was standing outside waiting for the restaurant/bar to open after work. I would like to say that was the first time I anxiously waited for a bar to open but it happened before at Full Pint Brewing (ironically who’s beer I would be later drinking at James Street) in North Versailles, but that time it was strictly to use the restroom before ordering beers.

Speakeasy schedule

This time I arrived well after 4pm. Nate and I got there around 6:30 pm so we made it just in time for one happy hour special drink. Every Tuesday, the Gastropub hosts an Open Mic night in the downstairs speakeasy from 7-10:30pm. Although I had a slight urge to bust out the keyboard and play Disney songs or perform some rusty acrobatics specializing in the worm, I remained silent and let the real comedians, poets and musicians of Pittsburgh let loose.

James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy, and their Taco Tuesday Specials

info plaque on side of building
There’s a nice plaque on the side of the building explaining what it used to be!

However, before making it to the Speakeasy downstairs Nate and I sat at the bar for tacos and drinks. I love the interior of this place. Deep red paint, exposed brick, dark woods and some stained glass windows. Smooth jazz played in the background. The building is in the Deutschtown part of Pittsburgh being built in 1898 and was formally called the Perry Homestead Loan & Trust Company. This entire area is really coming along nicely, from the Mexican War Streets and the gorgeous facades that adorn each home, to Deutschetown where small bars and even a brewery (Allegheny City Brewing) now call home.

tacos and beer

We skipped the small plate special and ordered our tacos.  The $2 tacos included chicken, beef, and black bean vegetable with the option of either hard or soft flour shell tacos.  I ordered two tacos to start, the hard shell beef and soft shell black bean vegetable.

The tacos came out of the kitchen quickly and were served with a generous amount of lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, sour cream and salsa all on the side. Be prepared to dress your own tacos. I quickly added the cheddar cheese to both of my tacos to give the cheese a chance to melt. I think the tacos could have been a tad warmer as the cheese did not really melt at all. The dressing of my own taco brought me back to the times in grade school where my mother would make the Old El Paso taco seasoned ground beef and my family and I would gather around the kitchen island to add our standard American style toppings to the Old El Paso crunchy shells.

james st tacos
You can see the black bean vegetable taco on the right

My first taco victim was the black bean vegetable.  The flour soft shell was toasted which kept the overall taco from being too soft and mushy.  After adding all the toppings, I folded the shell in half and it surprisingly remained closed.  Despite the loaded taco, the pasty black bean mix glued the shell together.  The beans were cooked with red and green peppers and onions.  The filling was healthy and light but could use a little more seasoning to compensate for the loaded beans and vegetables.

beef taco

The next taco I tried was the beef taco in a crunchy shell.  Like before, I added the cheese first and would have liked the beef to be a little hotter but they did load plenty of beef in the taco which made it possible to have a bite of meat with each piece of the shell. I think the beef was seasoned well and had a slight kick which was mellowed out by the lettuce, tomato and sour cream. The only thing the beef was missing was a little bit of moisture. The beef itself tasted a little dry to me, but not enough to stop me from ordering one more. Out of the two tacos I ordered, I craved the beef a little bit more.

3 tacos
all 3 of Nate’s tacos!

Nate ended up ordering three tacos as well with one of each type of filling. His favorite taco was the chicken, surprisingly since he doesn’t often pick that. The chicken was shredded which I usually prefer over chunks or cubes.  Nate stated “I could tell the chicken had been marinating for awhile and that the heat was right at the level I could handle.”  I didn’t order the chicken taco as my third taco because I thought it was too spicy when I sampled Nate’s.

With all the heat and spice, I ended up with a very specific eat/drink schedule.  Bite of taco–> sip of water–> sip of East End Monkey Boy/Full Pint Swedish Furniture–> and repeat.  I always wish beer and spice would work better together chemically.

At the very end of the meal, I witnessed something that I have never seen at any place I have had tacos in Pittsburgh.  The bartender passed out wet naps for all of us!  It was a much appreciated gesture.

band at open mic night
The host band warming up for the open mic night

After tacos, we made our way down to the Speakeasy.  Unlike certain places like the Smiling Moose in Southside, you are allowed to take your beer from the upstairs bar to the downstairs Speakeasy and bar.  Nate and I settled in at one of the candlelit tables, listened to some bands, and relaxed with the swanky vibe while digesting our tacos.

Price: $2 per taco

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