Restaurant Review-Casa Reyna (Pittsburgh, PA)
This post is long overdue considering I ate back there in July but it’s not one I wanted to forget about either. A greater number of Mexican restaurants are popping up in Pittsburgh but many of them are the same, serving the same “Mexican-American” food (tacos, burritos, enchiladas). I’ve never been to China but I can imagine that Chinese food in America is just as different as Mexican food in America. And although an upscale Mexican restaurant has yet to open in Pittsburgh (I’m dying for this to happen since other major cities have them, including one of my favorite restaurants in Philadelphia. Los Catrines Tequilas), Casa Reyna in Pittsburgh’s Strip District comes close.
Casa Reyna is the creation of Nicola DiCio, owner of the popular Latin American grocery store, Reyna Foods. The restaurant is actually located in the basement of the store which only adds to its unique atmosphere since just about everything in the Strip District is street level. The fare at Casa Reyna is concentrated from three cities in Mexico-Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and the capital of Mexico City. Many Americans (especially those in Pittsburgh, I’ve found), are unaware that Mexican cuisine encompasses an incredible variety, which should come as no surprise since there are 31 states. In the United States there is no such thing as “American” cuisine, but rather there are regional dishes like those from New England and the South. The same goes for Mexican cooking.
The restaurant is festively decorated and one of the rooms features works done by the famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. Our table was actually right by the kitchen and you could look inside. Regardless the restaurant or cuisine, this always gives me pleasure. My only critique of the restaurant was that it was too cold inside, compounded by the fact that we were sitting directly below an air vent. Granted, I ate there back in the summer but that day wasn’t very hot (it actually did nothing but rain that day) and nothing is worse than being cold when seated. Hopefully the temperature settings have since been adjusted.
For the table we ordered a salsa sampler and chips. You get two salsas for $3 and we went with sweet mango and chipotle. There was an even assortment between mild and spicy selections which is always a good thing. I didn’t try the chipotle but I did really enjoy the sweet mango. And the chips were delicious and recently made (i.e. hot to the touch). Reyna’s tortillas are known throughout the region and they sell them directly to many area Mexican restaurants.
D and I split an order of the Azteca Soup (cups $4, bowls $7) although he ended up eating most of it as it was incredibly spicy. It came with crisp tortilla strips in a tomato broth and was served with queso fresco and toasted pasilla, is a type of chile.
We arrived when it was still “lunch” (about 3:30 PM) so we had to order from the lunch menu. This was a “slight” disappointment since some of the more non-typical Mexican items were on the dinner menu but I certainly made do.
I went with the Amigas Migas ($7) for my entree. It consisted of corn tortilla strips mixed with scrambled eggs and was served with Mexican red rice and refried beans. This was my first ever time having this and I really enjoyed it. I love how much the egg is featured as a main dish in Mexican cooking.
D chose the Chilaquiles la Bamba ($12), corn chips covered in a mild tomato sauce and topped with queso fresco. It was served with grilled beef strips in a mildly spicy salsa and charro beans. It was well received.
My parents were in town that weekend and joined us. My dad ordered two tacos for his entree (tacos are tacos) but my mom selected the Mexican Huarache ($9) which was corn dough made from fresh nixtamal that was flattened and cooked on the griddle. It was topped with refried beans, lettuce, queso fresco, avocado cream, and your choice of meat (she opted for the chicken).
Service at Casa Reyna was excellent and I look forward to returning again and trying the dinner menu.