Vendors at Pittsburgh International averaged 3 critical violations over the last two years vs. 14 when the Post-Gazette checked 4 years ago.
Nine words that should never be uttered to Munch in the dead of winter: "I hear there's a great Mexican place in Butler."
It doesn't take Encyclopedia Brown to guess what happened next. Munch and Company plowing down unlit country roads as inches of snow covered street signs. It was only thanks to the directional capabilities of Engineer Friend of Munch's trusty iPhone that Munch made it to Gutierrez Mexican Restaurant from Downtown in less than two hours.
Munch's usual dining companion, Dear One of Munch, refused to make the trip on the strict principle that one must not drive more than an hour for Mexican food. On one particularly harrowing part of the journey -- the passing of a salt truck on snowy Route 8 -- EFOM reasoned, "We can't die driving, because then DOOM will have been right."
It was EFOM, who works with several Butler residents, who tipped off Munch to Gutierrez Mexican Restaurant in the first place. And as Munch finally pulled up to the place, with Floridian Friend of Munch and Colleague of Munch also in tow, it seemed to live up to its promises of authenticity (if there's a spot in Mexico that receives four inches of snow in a matter of hours).
The restaurant is contained in one room, with the owner cooking right next to a small set of tables. A gregarious fellow who came to Butler by way of Acapulco and Laguna Beach, the owner had to turn the water on for Munch to use the bathroom upon arrival, and had even accidentally locked the door for the evening, sending Munch into a minor panic.
The space, he explained, was originally supposed to be temporary but had lasted three years. At the end of the year, however, Gutierrez is moving to new digs close to the Butler County Courthouse, with a kitchen big enough that he can actually cook the carne asada platter listed on the menu.
Hungry after its long journey, party of Munch wasted no time in inhaling the freshly cooked chips, two varieties of homemade salsa and fresh guacamole. As the Munch crowd pondered the mystery ingredient in the pureed salsa, Gutierrez's owner happily contributed to the discussion (it was oregano).
Munch ordered the chicken burrito but ended up with the taco and enchilada combination platter ($8.95). FFOM actually ordered said platter, while EFOM chose the Royal Burrito platter ($9.50) and COM couldn't resist the tostado (a fried corn tortilla served with beans, lettuce, tomato dressing, cheese, carrots and beets, $7.95).
While all dishes were perfectly passable, and Munch particularly liked the rice and beans portion of the platter, the entrees couldn't top the meal's delicious beginnings of salsa and guacamole. Not wanting to go back out into the cold night, Munch also lingered over a tasty dessert of flan.
On the long drive home, party of Munch agreed that perhaps Gutierrez was not worth a three-hour round trip in the snow on a weeknight. But, that said, if Munch lived anywhere near Butler, Munch would be a regular visitor.
And it might just be worth a trip back -- in the summer -- to check out Gutierrez's new digs and new menu.