Back in the early winter, D mentioned wanting to try a new Mexican restaurant he had heard about on Pittsburgh’s South Side. So on a typically cold Pittsburgh January day, we ventured there for a late lunch/early dinner as we had business to take care of earlier in the day in the downtown. Even though it was an off-peak dining time, there were still a decent number of tables occupied. And in case you were wondering, Tres Rios means “three rivers” in Spanish and one of Pittsburgh’s nicknames is “three rivers” due to the confluence of the Ohio, Monongahela, and Allegheny Rivers here.
Thankfully the city has seen a rise in the number of hip and stylish Mexican taquerias, as opposed to the very stereotypical Mexican restaurants with cheesy decor (i.e. think sombreros, sarapes, and stuffed burros). Tres Rios definitely falls into the cool and chic category, not a total surprise considering it’s located in the quasi-edgy, young person preferred South Side neighborhood.
I started by ordering one of their margaritas, the Elderflower Rosemary ($8). It came neither on the rocks nor “slushie style” so that was different for me but I enjoyed it. It was easier sipping it like a cocktail; it went down smoother and didn’t make me feel as full as margaritas often do. The only thing I didn’t like was the rosemary that garnished the rim of the glass. I love the taste and smell of rosemary but it just kept going on and into my mouth, a bit too much of the spice. But it went great with the delicious chips and salsa.
As I mentioned above, Tres Rios is a taqueria (a place that serves tacos). All of the taco selections include three tacos in handcrafted corn tortillas which are served with cilantro rice and charred tomatillo salsa (known as the Mexican husk tomato, it’s small and meant to be green).
For my entree I went with the Pato Tacos ($12). I’m a sucker for duck whenever I see it on a menu, especially duck tacos. They put barbacoa and carne asada to shame in the culinary uniqueness factor. They consisted of tender duck legs marinated and braised in a Tres Rios combination and fresh citrus juice, shredded and topped with mango salsa, jicama slaw, and spiced crema. I’m somewhat of a hard critic when it comes to tacos but these were truly delectable. My only critique, albeit completely silly, is that they were super messy, so you’ve been forewarned!
I’ve eaten a lot of tortillas over the years and let me just say that these corn tortillas were amazing, almost on an artisanal taste level. That’s how good they were. And this bears repeating, corn tortillas are authentic, flour tortillas are Tex-Mex. If you want to make sure you’re eating authentic Mexican food, always go the corn route. And even though D was dubious (he’s not at all a fan of cilantro even though it might just be my favorite herb), the cilantro rice was very tasty. A nice and welcome change from your usual “Mexican rice.”
D selected the Carne Asada tacos for his main course. He was a little hesitant since (at least according to the menu), they didn’t seem “as” special as my pato tacos or the pork belly tacos, but order them he did and no surprise, he loved them.
Although Pittsburgh has a long way to go before it rivals cities like Los Angeles and San Diego on the taqueria front, Tres Rios is a strong addition. The food was great and the service excellent. I love Mexican cuisine, especially the more exotic, not as well known foods, and yet you can never go wrong with an honest to goodness taco.
1719 East Carson Street | Pittsburgh, PA