Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina is a very new addition to the Pittsburgh restaurant scene (it literally opened only a couple of weeks ago) and what a welcome addition it is. Located in the city’s up and coming East End section, it is housed in the Glass Lofts which, according to its website, “is a unique condominium building in the Penn Avenue Arts District of Pittsburgh.” Even when checking out its website, I could tell that Verde was not going to be like other Mexican restaurants in the area, as its decor and menu offerings were decidedly more upscale and varied than the standard fare of burritos and tacos.
I decided to make reservations for Verde as I saw that they were participating in the city’s 2012 Restaurant Week. The restaurant and cantina are open seven days a week, with dinner starting at 5 PM, as well as a happy hour that runs Monday through Friday, 5-7 PM. Verde does have six parking spaces reserved for diners in the lot behind the restaurant, but there seems to be ample street parking too.
The first basket of the house made chips and salsa iscomplimentary (additional baskets are $4) and they were delicious. The chips were still warm to the touch and I greatly enjoyed being able to try out a green salsa (roasted green tomatillo), since most gratis chips are usually accompanied by a red salsa. The salsa was not at all spicy and even had a bit of a sweet twinge to it.
Although the cantina menu is quite extensive (there are over 160 tequilas featured ), I decided to go the non-alcoholic route with a jarrito, a Mexican soft drink for $3. There are very few places where one can find a tamarind (a fruit) flavored beverage in Pittsburgh so when it’s on the menu, I’ll normally order it. However, the Spicy Honey BBQ Margarita certainly sounded interesting (honey, Mexican spices, and smoke).
D opted to go the a la carte route but I ordered the Restaurant Week Pre-Fix for $25, which included an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Options for the appetizer included fresh made guacamole with chips, a green salad which featured a poblano-jocoque dressing, and fritos de camarones y maiz (grilled corn, rock shrimp, quinoa, and avocado cream) which is what I selected. The corn, shrimp, and quinoa came blended together which is not what I was expecting, and overall found it too salty for my palate. This was the only weak link of the meal though.
For my entree I went with Enchiladas de Pollo which featured smoked chicken, white cheese, and poblano cream. Although you can’t get more unoriginal than enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant, it’s always a tried and true favorite for me and the ones at Verde held up to the favorite labeling. Accompanying them were beans and rice with a tomato flavoring. Other Restaurant Week entree selections included Carne Asada (grilled tequila-marinated steak, chimichurri, sweet potato and onion) and Chiles Rellenos de Hongs (oven-roasted poblanos, criminis, wild rice, white cheese, chipotle asado sauce, and samfaina).
D ordered the Pollo en Mole Poblano, a chargrilled half chicken topped with house made mole and accompanied with yucca fries. I tried a bite and it was delicious, the chicken absolutely fork tender. I have loved yucca ever since trying it in Costa Rica and the fries at Verde were superior and healthier (at least in taste) than any of the potato ones served at burger establishments.
Dessert selections were the Torta de Chocolate (flourless chocolate cake) and Tres Leches Pudin de Pan (traditional Mexican bread pudding with Flor de Cana rum sauce which just happens to be el mejor, the best Nicaraguan rum ever). I went with the cake, D the bread pudding. Needless to say and no surprise, both were divine.
We had a fantastic time at Verde and look forward to returning again in the near future, especially during the warmer weather when dining al freso is an option. Bienvenidos a Pittsburgh, Verde!
Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina
5491 Penn Avenue