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Get a Solid First Look at Tako in Downtown Pittsburgh

The owners of two Cultural District hotspots team with another visionary local chef to provide the city with a street-food and quality-drink haven.




PHOTOS BY HAL B. KLEIN
 

Tako, the latest downtown restaurant from Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sevdik (Meat & Potatoes, Butcher and the Rye), opened Tuesday night at 214 Sixth St. Despite the name, this is much more than a taco joint — though you can get those there, too.

DeShantz will run the Tako kitchen with Dave Racicot, formerly of notion.
 


“With his technical aspects and my creative aspects, we’re going to be doing some pretty amazing things,” DeShantz says.

Korean fried rice, one of a handful of dishes that I previewed yesterday, is a fine example of the collaboration between the chefs. Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice is paired with house-cured bacon, kimchi, red dragon sauce and a six-minute egg for a spicy, succulent plate of street food.

Street food, small plates and raw dishes make up a good portion of the menu. Then there are some chef-driven dishes where Racicot’s influence on the menu is most apparent.
 


“English Peas,” for example, is a beautiful plate of food. It’s a bright, palate-cleansing dish where spring peas are elevated by lemon curd, mint oil and white chocolate and then brought back to Earth with a dehydrated shiitake dust. At $7, it’s great value for money.

“We’re really having fun and playing with technique here,” DeShantz says.

There are — of course — tacos. Each comes wrapped in a freshly pressed and toasted flour and lard tortilla (vegetarian tortillas also are available). The list is a mix between classic taqueria (carnitas, al pastor, Baja fish) and global modern (octopus with harissa and preserved lemons, Korean with wagyu short rib and fermented cucumber).
 


Spencer Warren heads the beverage program for all three restaurants; Maggie Meskey will manage the day-to-day operations of the Tako bar program. The bar already is rather impressive, and liquor orders still are coming in: Warren expects there to be between 300-350 bottles of tequila, 100 different mezcals and about 100 rums stocked over the next few months.

Warren and Meskey collaborated on the cocktail list, which is a mix of terrifically prepared familiar (pisco sour, daiquiri, Michelada), spins and a few originals. Watch out for the Ramon’s Gin Fizz — it’s an addictive blend of green tea-infused Tanqueray, avocado, lemon, lime, cream, rose water and mandarin Jarritos. I enjoyed the slightly savory Yellow Jacket from the lengthy margarita list; if you’re looking for something sweet and refreshing, try the Aloe & Elderflower.
 


A solid beer list tilts toward Mexico and Asia, and there is also a very limited selection of wines.

Smart design details are everywhere. Steel grates block the end of the wood and rivet bar so servers can pick up booze orders, but patrons can’t line up and block their access. Those steel grates are echoed in an overhead catwalk that leads to an elevated DJ cage. A huge wallpaper replica of Warhol’s "Last Supper" looms over a wall. Rose-pink-tinted chandeliers are made of bike chains.
 


My first thought after visiting Tako is that I’m ready for hot, sweaty summer nights full of street food, tacos and good booze. Tako looks like it’s going to be a fantastic addition to downtown’s development as a food and drink destination. I hope it delivers on that promise. I’ll have more on the space as it develops.


 

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