When I heard that Pirata, a Caribbean/Latin American restaurant whose specialty would be rum (hundreds of types to be exact) was opening in Pittsburgh, I was thrilled. As I’ve mentioned before, Pittsburgh, for all the accolades and glory it’s been getting nationally, is still sorely lacking on the Latin American food front. And the many hole in the wall joints serving the same gringo, Tex-Mex tacos are simply not cutting it.
Sadly (for me and my stomach), it didn’t open when the newspaper had first reported it would, but finally one day last fall I came across reviews for it on Yelp and I knew the long anticipated wait was over. I scoped it out one day on a walk during a break and that weekend we dined there.
While Pirata says that it’s on Market Square, it’s really a block or so from it (I mention this so you’re not walking in circles in Market Square wondering where it is). The interior décor is fantastic; I loved the hand-painted mural of a Caribbean beach scene including a pirate ship, of course (pirata means pirate in Spanish in case you couldn’t guess). My only very minor complaint is that I wish the bar and more importantly, the big screen TVs were a bit more removed from people simply wanting a meal without the latest game on. C’est la vie.
At a rum bar, naturally the drink of choice is rum with an extensive cocktail menu to boot. I opted for a perennial favorite of mine, the Mojito Royale (fresh mint, limey champagne) while D ordered the Stoned Manhattan (ginger wine, essentially a Caribbean rum version of a Manhattan). We both thoroughly enjoyed our beverages.
I noticed that since dining there in October, the main lunch/dinner menu has somewhat changed and both of the entrees we ordered are no longer options. I know with new places, this happens a lot as chefs create and amend to see what works and doesn’t. I’m somewhat sad about this since I know we both enjoyed ours. I had the Lechon Tacos (these are Cuban-style pork) while D ordered the Ropa Vieja (a Cuban dish of stewed beef with vegetables).
Another new addition that I didn’t remember from my autumn visit was the selection of Caribbean rotis. Rotis are a type of flatbread that originated in India but have since traveled to all corners of the world with the Indian diaspora. Many Indians immigrated to Caribbean islands more than a hundred years ago. I’ve never had a roti before but this is something I would love to try, especially the Guyanese Curried Goat option ($14).
We split the Malanga Fritters ($8) to start. Malanga is a type of root vegetable and these were served with pickled mushrooms and garlic aioli. This was my first time having malanga and I really liked the taste.
With our meals, I had a side of the Tostones ($6). These are twice cooked green plantains that came with mojo de ajo (a type of orange garlic flavored dipping sauce), while D ordered the Pollo Friscasse empanada ($3).
I was much too stuffed to contemplate dessert but had I had room in my stomach, I undoubtedly would have gone with the Pina Colada Flan ($7). I always love flan but pina colada flan just sounds divine.
Seeing as it serves the cuisines nearest and dearest to my heart, I can’t wait to return and dine here again.
A note to Pittsburghers-skip the bar food, whether of the greasy or hipster variety, and head to Pirata. Support the restaurants that serve cuisines you really can’t find elsewhere around here.
274 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh