Dos Reyes Brings Sonoran-Style Mexican Eats From The Desert To Dahntahn
The mobile eatery, which traces its roots back to Arizona, makes stops at many Pittsburgh breweries.
I never met the late Elvira Manriquez or dined at her namesake eatery in Apache Junction, Ariz., but I’m a big fan of her food. And her hat.
For 60 years, Elvira’s Mexican Restaurant was an oasis where patrons could get Sonoran-style Mexican grub full of flavor and family pride. Dos Reyes food truck brings those Southwestern specialties to the Steel City.
The name means “two kings” in Spanish, but the menu pays tribute to the team’s culinary queen.
Established in 2015, the mobile business is owned by Arizona natives Rich and Carlyn “Chuck” Santistevan (Elvira’s granddaughter) and Erin and Eddie Lilliock.
I first met the Dos Reyes crew outside of Allegheny City Brewing on the North Side, where we bonded over music, monsters and Mosaic hops. After devouring a Pollo Adobado Taco with red chile, marinated chicken, lime crema and shredded lettuce, I inquired about the words “Nana Approved,” which are stamped on the company’s T-shirts, stickers, koozies and trailer.
A decade after her death, Elvira, aka Nana Vera, is still a source of inspiration. And, since Elvira, aka Mistress of the Dark, is my personal hero, I took this as a sign from above (and below) to eat more tacos.
As a teenager, Chuck bussed tables at the Manriquez family eatery and found her niche in customer service. Eddie, her high school classmate, was a regular and Rich worked in the kitchen learning from the matriarch, who cooked with her heart, watched telenovelas and didn’t bother to write down recipes.
Through a series of serendipitous events, the three desert dwellers ended up in the ’burgh and met Erin, a veteran of the local restaurant industry whose mom waitressed at the West Mifflin Bob Evans for 40 years.
These folks know a thing or two about food service — and their year-round operation is often parked outside of my favorite breweries, which is a bonus.
Is there anything better than kicking back with a beer and a taco while nerding out over horror movies? Chuck and I even showed up to our sitdown interview at Bloomfield’s Trace Brewing wearing Frankenstein apparel in August.
Fire, bad. Hot sauce, good. (You can buy an 8-ounce jar of the spicy stuff for four bucks.)
The menu changes for nearly every outing, but each day’s offerings, including vegan and vegetarian options, are posted on social media. Sometimes Dos Reyes often bucks tradition to offer unique eats ranging from Asian fusion to themed delicacies based on “Star Wars.” On summer holidays they add a little South-of-the-Border heat to American picnic staples.
Labor Day features included The Sonoran Hot Dog, a bacon-wrapped frank with pinto beans, tomato, jalapeno, avocado and cotija cheese on a Breadworks bun and The Fat Jones Smashburger, two beef Chorizo patties, caramelized onions and jalapenos, queso Chihuahua and house-made gold barbecue sauce on a Kaiser roll. Even the accompanying Esquites potato salad was mixed with street corn and roasted poblano peppers.
So, will Dos Reyes ever put it in park and open a brick-and-mortar like Nana Vera’s?
Right now the owners are enjoying the ride as they blow through town like a tumbleweed.
I think Nana would approve.