If St. Clair Hospital in the South Hills and Social House 7 in Downtown had a baby, you would get the name of the next Pittsburgh taco place I traveled to… St. Clair Social.
St. Clair took a leap of faith and opened up during the pandemic. Their drive is to get Pittsburgh social again. The corner bar and restaurant is located at 302 South Saint Clair Street in the Friendship neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Here, we get the name St. Clair Social from their purpose and location and not from my baby name theory.
My friend David told me that St. Clair Social has Taco Tuesdays as well as a unique taco that is regularly on the menu. With a previous Taco Tuesday visit to Tocayo, I was ready to continue the weekly taco trips and check out St. Clair Social.
We arrived right before the end of Happy Hour, so I got one of the Social house cocktails. It was so hard for me to decide on which cocktail to order, but I only had minutes to decide before 7 pm. I went with the Cider House Mule with apple cider, ginger beer, lime, pumpkin spice, angostura, and vodka. David chose the Tequila Sunrise with mole grenadine, blood orange soda, lime, tequila, and mole bitters. Boy, was I happy with our choices. My drink had a strong, burning kick that settled down as the ice cubes diluted that fireball burning spice. I tried a sip of David’s drink and found it to be refreshing without tasting too sweet. I peeked around the booth to see our waitress/bartender make the concoctions and she was definitely a perfectionist with her work. If you are in search of something different with cocktails, then go no further. Like their menu states, their Social cocktails are inspired and influenced by the 1950’s-1990’s drinks, re-imagined with a modern twist.
Speaking about the menu, I really liked how they update their online menu daily with the changing specials. Prior to my visit, I was able to see that the Taco Tuesday special that week was chicken chalupas or jackfruit burritos. An item that was not changing on the menu was the ‘Bar’ ria Tacos (birria tacos) under the Sandwiches and Handhelds.
We decided to each order the ‘Bar’ ria taco meal (one order with cornshell and one order with flour shell) and split the chalupas as an appetizer.
The chalupas were nothing like I had imagined. Little fluffy dough balls with the tiniest bit of chicken and a sprinkle of cheese, lettuce, and pico de gallo. The ratio of dough to filling was unbalanced as I tasted way more bread than toppings. I think a crema drizzled on top and more toppings would give it some extra flair. The chalupas were served with house made spicy tortilla chips. I thought these chips were great, but really had a punch in lime when picking chips with a lot of seasoning. The chalupas tasted and reminded me of eating a fresh Italian sub with my favorite bites coming from the tomatoes and onions in the pico de gallo.
The chips that came with the chalupa did not have a salsa, but the chips with the tacos came with a fire-roasted tomato salsa. Like I said, I was a big fan of the chips. However, I was not a big fan of this salsa. I think I would have preferred a pico or salsa verde instead of the fire-roasted tomato salsa. To me, the salsa had a fermented spaghetti-like smell that just threw me off. I wanted to like the salsa, but it just wasn’t for me.
Speaking of salsas, a pico would have also worked with the ‘Bar’ ria pork shoulder tacos better than the fire-roasted salsa. This taco was meat and cheese heavy and a pico would have paired well and balanced out some of the heaviness from all the melty chihuahua cheese. Traditionally, birria tacos stem from a Mexican beef stew where the beef is marinated in spices and peppers and then made into a stew with onions, stock, and more spices. A shell is then dipped into the soup to get a fatty layer and filled with the shredded meat, onion, and cheese, then fried. The crunch came from the frying step and the burnt cheese bits on the outside of the shell which were to die for! Speaking of shells, David and I both like the cornshell ‘Bar’ia tacos better than the flour shell ones. The corn shells just seemed to hold the flavor in place and were less soggy than the flour shell. I am glad David and I each ordered a set of tacos so we could swap one of the tacos to compare the shells. I loved the side of au jus sauce stemming from the beef juices. The sauce was savory and David could not stop raving about it either! Overall, I would give these tacos a 3 out of 5 on my taco scale. Taco was rich and delicious, but just a little heavy on the stomach as expected from the taco shell being pan-fried in its own fat. I was also hoping that ingredients in the taco would be as show stopping as the au jus and the crispy edges, but they weren’t quite there.
St. Clair House cocktails, vibe, and menu reminded me of the Summit in Mt. Washington. Just more options. It’s like the Summit’s big sister. I actually introduced my girlfriend Alexis to St. Clair House later in the same week because of how much I adored the food and drink menus here.
Price: 2 ‘Bar’ ria tacos with house chips for $12. 3 mini chicken chalupas for $10.