I was able to spend the start of my 10 day vacation in Pittsburgh without work on my mind. I knew I would soon be on a backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon, but first I needed a Tacofest. Instead of worrying about compounding medications, monitoring IV drips, or stocking the satellite pharmacy, I started thinking about how many tacos I was going to have at the second annual Pittsburgh Taco Festival. To kick off my vacation, I invited one of my best friends, Alexis, to join me as a VIP guest to the festival.
This year, the PGH Taco Festival was held at Highmark Stadium in Station Square. There were two sessions again from 12-3pm and 4-7pm. As a VIP member, we were able to arrive 30 min early and were offered a free parking spot in the stadium parking lot. Alexis and I definitely took advantage of the early entry perk, but decided to take the incline down instead of driving as we didn’t want to limit our tequila tastings and consumption of Mojitos, Margaritas, and Tecates.
Before racing to a taco truck, Alexis and I ventured to the VIP room. The upstairs VIP lounge was air conditioned which was clutch for the frizzy hair humid day. We scoped out the nacho counter, bar, tequila tasting tables, private bathroom, balcony, and indoor seating. After getting a few free samples of tequila and purchasing our Mojitos, we were ready to take on the tacos.
Down on the field, we were distracted by one other tent prior to tacos: the t-shirt tent. As a VIP member, I was entitled to a free t-shirt. Just like the t-shirt at the first taco festival, this shirt was super soft and very appealing. So far, the festival is 2 for 2 for awesome t-shirts.
Okay now onto the tacos!
Our first stop was Taquitos taco truck. I have been to their primary location at 5101 Penn Avenue for Cinco de Mayo tacos after work, but Alexis has never been there. I wanted her to try Taquito’s tacos because she lives very close to the Garfield area. This could be new home taco turf for Alexis. Plus, I had a great first impression of their tacos so that just made me even more excited to her introduction to Taquitos.
What I ordered: Soy bean, cactus, and lengua tacos (all of these tacos are totally out of the norm for me-I went all out of my comfort zone!)
What Alexis ordered: beef and cactus tacos
What we thought: The soy bean taco was my favorite out of the three because I really enjoyed the seasoning and flavor that the beans absorbed. As for the lengua, it was my first time trying beef tongue. The meat was tender and soft in texture almost like that of a kidney bean. I’m still getting used to it mentally, but I’m glad I tried it. The cactus reminded me of the cactus taco I tried at Let’s Taco Bout It in West Reading with its high quality ingredients. Alexis sampled my lengua taco and loved it. Unlike me, Alexis has tried lengua tacos before and she said it was good lengua. Out of the two tacos Alexis ordered, she liked the beef taco a little bit more than the cactus taco. We were both really pleased with our orders. Writing this post reminds me that I still need to do a blog entry solely on Taquitos taco truck!
Our next taco stop was a new place for the both of us! We ventured to La Catrina‘s taco tent. This is a place that I have on my list of restaurants to still try in the Burgh. Their hub is in Beechview, not too far from Las Palmas.
What I ordered: one carnitas taco
What Alexis ordered: one al pastor taco
What we thought: The carnitas taco was very fatty and I was not a big fan of the cut of the meat. Alexis and I both thought our tacos were extra greasy as well. The al pastor was so greasy that Alexis’ paper bowl was filled with juicy drippings. I will have to give these tacos another chance at the restaurant sometime to get a final opinion of La Catrina.
Our last stop after drinking Tecates, catching up with friends, and listening to Gavas Beat, was venturing to Brisketburgh‘s truck. I was set on this truck after I heard that they sold a brisket and mac n cheese taco. Man, I am really venturing outside my traditional taco choices at this Tacofest!
What Alexis and I ordered: The Brisketburgh taco loaded with brisket, mac n cheese, biscuit crumble, and BBQ sauce.
What we thought: This taco was a great idea that was not executed well. The BBQ sauce was overpowering the other flavors of the taco and I could not taste the mac and cheese. I was hoping to taste the cheesy pasta. Alexis was also disappointed in this taco and said that this brisket and mac n cheese combination would probably work better on a bun than tortilla.
Other tidbits to mention about the 2nd Annual Pittsburgh Taco Festival:
- Gavas Beat (phenomenal band).
- Event was adequately staffed and well organized.
- Sufficient seating to eat, drink, and socialize.
- Awesome shirts.
- Abundant taco vendors.
- Easy access to drinks (but not tacos).
- VIP option.
- Venue itself- large enough for the crowd and great location (I can eat a taco and look over at the amazing skyline at the same time).
- Taco trucks running out of food before session ended. (This happened less frequently this year, but a friend of mine stood in a long line for a shrimp taco from Cool Bean taco truck and she didn’t end up getting a shrimp taco due to supply.)
- Lines for food were too long.
- Not enough guest participation (E.G. Raffle tickets, contests, Cornhole, KanJam)
All I know is that the PGH Taco Festival has substantially improved since the first time around. The founder of the festival, Craig McCloud, really took everyone’s positive and negative feedback from the first taco festival to enhance the experience for the attendees the second time around. As long as Pittsburgh keeps the love strong for tacos, I should hopefully be attending a third Pittsburgh Taco Festival in the future!