This year, heavy rain attempted to take over some of my favorite taco centered events like the Pittsburgh Taco Festival, Cinco de Mayo, and National Taco Day. It has not failed to make an appearance at each one of these occasions. On Thursday October 4th, for National Taco Day, it rained like crazy. Heavy downpours and floods led to many road closures in the South Hills. As a result, my Frisbee game was cancelled. A few of my league friends and I had planned to get tacos after the game, so I guess this just allowed us to get a head start on tacos.
We agreed on Steel Cactus Mexican Restaurante and Cantina at 1000 Cool Springs Drive in Bethel Park. Steel Cactus has 7 locations – all in the Pittsburgh area except for one lone location down in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Steel Cactus has some nice weekly specials with all you can eat tacos for $15 on Mondays and $2.50 tacos on Tuesdays. They have a happy hour from 5-7pm with 3 tacos (Three Amigos) and other apps for $5, $10 Margarita pitchers, and $2 off specialty cocktails. Even with all the great deals listed above, I was disappointed that Steel Cactus did not have any additional specials on National Taco Day besides the discounted tacos just for Happy Hour.
The Three Amigos appetizer includes a pulled chicken, pulled pork, and a beef taco on a 4 inch corn or flour tortilla with a choice of style. The three styles to chose from are gringo (lettuce, tomato, and queso fresco), Mexican (cilantro, onion, and queso fresco) and Cactus (spicy slaw, roasted corn salad and queso fresco).
Under the taco section of the menu, there is an option to make it a dinner meal with 3 tacos and 2 sides with a little more leeway in taco building. Meat options include beef, pulled chicken, carnitas, chorizo, tofu, vegan beef, and grilled steak. In addition to corn or flour soft shell, there is the option for hard shell. Next on the agenda is picking the style and sauce.
If you do not feel like making any taco decisions, there are specialty tacos on the menu. There were interesting combos like carnitas with avacodo cream, chorizo with pineapple and cactus sauce, shrimp marinated in lime and chili with chipotle remoulade, grilled chicken with candied pancetta and covered with smoked gouda and bacon aioli, smoked brisket with Prickly Pear Chipotle BBQ and pomegranate seeds, BBQ chicken and candied peaches, marinated steak with chipotle ranch slaw, grilled Mahi with cayenne lime creme, blackened tofu with spicy red cabbage, and buffalo chicken with a ranch drizzle.
I did not expect Steel Cactus to have such a unique pairing of meats, toppings, and sauces. Some of the combinations stuck out to me like the grilled chicken with bacon aioli and the BBQ chicken with candied peaches. Although they sound appealing, I can see them being dense and heavy on the calories. But I think it would be worth trying since I do suffer quite frequently from FOMO (fear of missing out).
Since I was running late to Happy Hour due to heavy rain and road closures, Kelly ordered me the Three Amigos tacos before 7pm. I arrived about 20 minutes after the tacos were delivered to the table and I was ready to see if the tacos would survive room temperature that long and keep to their shape.
Kelly surprised me with the gringo for the style and the flour shell for the tortilla. Out of the three I had, the beef was my favorite. The ground beef was rich and salty and paired well with the refreshing tomatoes. I also like the queso fresco which had that nice creamy taste in the form of a fresh crumbly mound. The cheese mound was luckily on all three tacos since I had the gringo style. The carnitas was my second favorite. It had a little too much fat to it, but it did have some favorable amount of spice. The chicken was my least favorite as the chicken was too dry.
My friends, Kelly and Sean, also liked the beef the best. Sean stated that the beef had “the most taco-y flavor.” Sean also got the Mexican style and I could tell he was a little jealous of the queso fresco on my tacos.
All in all, the tacos were decent but did not go above and beyond for me. I think there are other places for Happy Hour and discounted tacos that I would prefer over Steel Cactus such as Patron, Cafe Nikos (my next blog post!), Totopo, and Condado. Steel Cactus did grab my taco attention after reading about the specialty taco options and I will be back with a friend who would be up for a classic taco swap. With that being said, I do not want to completely eliminate Steel Cactus from the running without giving their specialty tacos a chance. Stay tuned!
Price: Three Amigos for $7 under apps ($5 during HH), 3 tacos with 2 sides for $11-13.50 as an entree.