Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's The Fuss?

You may have heard of a (relatively) new taco place in Pittsburgh called Smoke Barbecue Taqueria. It's near The Waterfront in Homestead, on Eighth Avenue and near Blue Dust & Tin Front Cafe.

Smoke had actually been driving me a bit crazy, and I hadn't even been there. For one, it seemed like everyone loved, loved, loved it. That always makes me step back and say, hmmmm.... There have been a few restaurants that everyone seems to love, love, love, but when we tried those places, we were less than impressed and could not understand why they got so much love.

Smoke seemed to be popping up everywhere, in lots of tweets, lots of blog posts, newspaper/magazine reviews and quite frankly, I got a little sick of seeing all the Smoke adoration. It started to annoy me, much like all the Salt of the Earth adoration. Every time I'd see 'tacos' or 'Smoke' I'd sigh heavily, roll my eyes, and get annoyed. I started to dig in my heels and swear that I'd never go there because it couldn't possibly be that amazing.

Also, it's tacos. I was like, tacos, really? Tacos inspire this much adoration? This much attention? This much hype? What do they put in those things?

And also, tacos. Not my favorite food. Yes, we make them at home, not with the packaged seasoning, and they're still only OK. I've been to lots of Mexican restaurants since SP likes Mexican but I remain unimpressed, even with Mad Mex, although I do like their margaritas. Why? Because Mexican food tastes  to me like a bunch of bland flavors with hot, spicy stuff mixed in to give it 'flavor.' There's no flavor other than heat. Followed by a gross after taste in my mouth that not even brushing & gargling will dispel. I need more than spice, heat, garlic, and onions to think a dish is tasty.

I know. Everyone is going to argue with me, call me a spice wimp, think I'm crazy, and say I am wrong and how can I possibly have a food blog?! But maybe this example is a better explanation of what I am trying to say:

I do not like spicy, hot foods that set my mouth on fire. But last year, we brought home a bottle of Peach Grilling Sauce from our trip to Dahlonega, GA. I tried it on some ribs. It was hot to me (and to a couple other non-spice loving friends of ours who tried it) and I gulped water to soothe my mouth BUT I couldn't stop setting my mouth on fire because the flavor of peach and sweet BBQ taste were so darn good! They shone through the spice/heat. It was so good that I am about to search for the sauce online to see if I can order it from the General Store where we bought it so that we can have peach ribs this summer.

Most spicy, hot foods, like Mexican and Indian, to me, taste bland underneath the heat, and all I end up with is a burning mouth and a gross aftertaste in my mouth. That's not fun.

But I try to be a good wife, and I knew SP wanted to try Smoke, but we are rarely in that area of town, so when I realized we would be in Greenfield for our nephew's 4th birthday party, I suggested to SP that after the party, we head over to Smoke and have an afternoon taco treat. My hope was that it wouldn't be too crowded.

It's been maybe a year since we last cruised around Eighth Avenue in Homestead and ate at Tin Front Cafe. Back then, street parking was plentiful. Not so much last Saturday afternoon. We ended up parking in a metered lot and SP decided he'd go check things out - make sure it was accessible, not too crowded inside for me, etc. He reported back that the few tables (I think he said there were three) were filled but they do take out, so he had grabbed a menu. We each chose a taco, only one taco each and no sides because we still had a bunch of errands to do so extra food wouldn't keep well in the car because of the heat plus we were not super hungry after birthday cake & snacks. It took 35 minutes, but finally, he returned to the car with the tacos.

I chose the BLTaco:
The bacon was tiny cubes. That was a good first sign since sometimes when I bite into bacon, I end up pulling the whole slice out and then the remaining food is bacon-less. The tomatoes were very red and juicy. I was a little concerned about the smoked pepper mayo - would it be too spicy? Leave that horrible after taste?

I am happy to report that my taco was quite delicious. I much prefer this kind of taco shell to a hard shell or too soft & floury soft shell. And yes, I know they make their tortillas fresh daily so of course I should have expected a delicious shell. I still do not like the taste of cilantro, so next time, I'd ask them to be sure to leave it off. There wasn't a lot of cilantro, but my last couple of bites had a strong taste of cilantro.

As I tweeted, if all tacos were this delicious, I would be more interested in eating them more often!

SP chose the Pork taco, with apricot habanero sauce and caramelized onions:
As expected he loved his taco. I tried a bite and really liked it, too. It had flavor in addition to the heat.

Best part - no disgusting spicy/heat after taste for me!

I now understand all the Smoke love. I'm not sure I understand it enough to drive from Robinson to Homestead and then wait a half hour or more for tacos all that often, but if we find ourselves in that area, I would definitely suggest stopping by for a taco treat. I also could see having SP stop by for take out after work. It'd be a bit out of the way for him, but we could order more then two tacos and some sides since he'd be bringing it home and we could safely refrigerate any leftovers.

It would be nice if they could add some more tables and maybe have the tacos ready a bit faster? I realize it's all made fresh to order but... it's a bit annoying to have to wait so long if you decide to just pop in and get something to go. If there were more tables, the wait wouldn't be so annoying because you could sit and have a beverage and chat and relax. Of course you can also call well in advance for your food and arrive 30-45 minutes later. But to just pop in on the spur of the moment is a time consuming thing.

*They are BYOB
**They also are cash only
***These are the best tacos I've ever eaten

SMOKE barbeque taqueria on Urbanspoon

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