Gas Station Tacos And Warm and Fluffy Feelings Abound In Bloomfield
Pittsburgh’s Little Italy is home to El Pariente Taco Shop and Jeremy Raymer's latest horror mural.
(Editor’s note: It doesn’t matter how good your tacos taste if you don’t abide by Allegheny County Health Department rules. El Pariente didn’t and was ordered to close on May 30 until the issues are resolved.)
Bloomfield’s a great place to visit If you’ve got a monster appetite.
There are some killer eateries throughout Pittsburgh’s Little Italy, including inside the BP gas station at 4006 Liberty Ave. Gas up (in every sense of the word) at El Pariente Taco Shop.
The convenience store’s kitchen offers a small but satisfying menu — kind of like a greatest-hits compilation of Mexican food. I ordered two carne molida tacos with generous sides of rice, beans, guac and salsa roja, paid a fair price and grabbed cerveza from the cooler (you purchase booze and other stuff at the front counter). There’s a small seating area, but I took the fiesta to go.
I was on a mission to find Fluffy.
I motored up Liberty and soon spotted my pal Jeremy Raymer painting the giant beast on the side of Rust Belt Relix, an antique shop at 307 Taylor St.
Don’t let the name fool you; Fluffy isn’t the cute-and-cuddly type; he’s an Arctic, ape-like creature featured in “Creepshow.” The horror-comedy anthology was directed by Dad of the Dead George Romero (our 1990 Pittsburgher of the Year) and written by Stephen King. Tom Savini, Hollywood’s Godfather of Gore, provided the special effects. The guy grew up in Bloomfield, so his blood and guts are black and gold.
I’m not sure if I was drooling over the bag of tacos in my hand or from fangirl euphoria, but it’s nice to see The Zombie Capital of the World creatively embracing its spooky roots just like its industrial heritage. As soon as he finds the perfect wall, he’ll paint Pinhead from Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” series. Lead Actor Doug Bradley is a Steel City Cenobite.
Sorry — back to tacos.
The frightening furball’s yellow eyes seemed to watch as Jeremy and I cracked a couple of East End beers and devoured our Mexican munchies. I was going to spice up the tacos even more by dousing them in Tom Savini’s Texas Chainsauce. I randomly purchased a bottle at a hardware store in Ambridge after interviewing the owners of Divine Swine food truck. Thankfully, Jeremy had the good sense to read the label.
It’s actually more of a garlic-parm condiment. Savini is a proud Italian, after all.
Jeremy painted the man himself on the side of an Almond Way home in Lawrenceville and was nice enough to invite me when he revealed it to the inspiration. For a lifelong Pittsburgher and horror fan, it was a nightmare come true.
In 2003, Savini autographed a then-newly released copy of Pittsburgh Magazine for me with his menacing mug on the cover. Since then, I’ve proudly displayed it in my home, but it means so much more now that I’m a part of this publication.
After putting in more than 30 hours of work on the “Creepshow” mural — which might grow to include other characters from the 1982 film — Jeremy can relax with a vodka-spiked glass of Tom Savini’s Extra Bloody Mary Mix. Sadly, since the company that produced these liquids went belly up, the stuntman’s personal blend of ripe Roma tomatoes and a hint of horseradish is now a collector’s item that should remain sealed like a burial vault.
But, as they say, sharing is (s)caring. I guess eating almost-Italian tacos by Fluffy has given me all the feels.