Here are a dozen places to visit in Downtown/Strip District, East End, South Side and South Hills for the best tacos in Pittsburgh.
What is the sound of one hand clapping? Why does the caged bird sing? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? Why do you park in a driveway and drive on a parkway (except on the Parkway East during Squirrel Hill Tunnel repairs)?
Why can't an independent taco joint survive on the South Side?
Good questions all, and as with most of the major questions in life, Munch has no reliable answers (seriously, how do you solve a problem like Maria?). Taqueria Taco Loco was too far off the beaten path. The Mill Site Tavern's Los Amigos is now Le Brew House. Rivas (more Central American than Mexican) closed this year. Mexico City's existence was but a flicker, like a candle in the wind (not just any candle, obviously -- one of them Mexican candles with the Virgin Mary on the front). The former taco stand at 1412 E. Carson is now a breakfast diner. Heck, even Taco Bell moved out.
Qdoba and Emiliano's have survived, but they are both chains. (Emiliano's is a small one, with three Pittsburgh locations, but still.) Yo Rita remains open, but that's a different sort of taco joint, the kind with beef tongue tacos and $10 cocktails.
Against these odds, can Silvi's SouthSide stick around for more than a year or two?
The restaurant business is an unforgiving one, but Silvi's, which opened in May, is off to a promising start, offering an interesting mix of Mexican staples, less-traditional Mexican comfort food, and American bar standards such as burgers and reubens.
Take the "carne de puerco en salsa verde" ($9.99), a tangy little stewed pork dish served with rice, beans and tortillas. You won't find this dish on many Mexican menus, perhaps because it strays a bit too far from taco-fajita-burrito territory that we've all grown familiar with. Too bad -- this dish is a winner.
Reliable Lunch Partner Friend of Munch, pretty much despondent since learning that one of her favorite Downtown Mexican spots had been temporarily closed due to excessive rat droppings in the kitchen -- and really, isn't any amount of rat droppings in the kitchen excessive? -- was pleased to learn that this new addition to the East Carson corridor would satisfy her taco tooth.
I believe that's the No. 4 upper bicuspid.
Anyhow, RLPOM ordered a quartet ($10) of tacos -- three for her, one for Munch -- made "street style," which I guess is the Mexican way of suggesting you can eat them by hand, while wandering around the sidewalks of Nuevo Laredo trying to avoid the Gulf cartel. Point is, this is simple finger food, which is why you don't see much street-style lasagna or lamb chops.
The pork taco, RLPOM said, was perfect, while her side bowl of shrimp and clam soup ($3.29) was velvety, yet cleared out the sinuses.
Triathlete Friend of Munch, a commitment-phobe who can't settle on just one endurance event, likewise was wavering between the various beef and pork dished before settling on the "bistec a la plancha" ($9.99), a steak pounded thin, topped with pepper and onions, that has been grilled on a metal plate (that's where the "la plancha" comes in).
This steak, like most such steaks, seemed to have been marinated in garlic and a few squeezes of lime, and was handled nicely by the kitchen.
The kitchen, by the way, is owned by Dimitri Avilas and his wife, Silvi, the restaurant's namesake. She handles the fragrant, homemade corn tortillas, while Dimitri's Lone Star State childhood is responsible for the menus items like the southwest burger and the po' boy.
They have some work to do. The wait was a bit too long. The decor is a bit too bland. But these things can be rectified over time, supposing Silvi's is given that benefit.
Silvi's SouthSide Kitchen is at 2212 E. Carson St., South Side; 412-390-0333; www.silvissouthsidekitchen.com. Open Mondays-Saturdays 11 a.m. through late night.