Spice Up Your Life With The Latest Pittsburgh Food News

From Caribbean pepper sauce to taco trucks, this article registers on the Scoville scale!


What is it about blue skies and sunshine that make me want to consume spicy food? If the recent string of fair weather has you ready to feel the burn, here are some hot topics of culinary conversation.

Totopo/Tacayo/Poco Loco/Vaya

Juan and Danielle Grimaldo have a lot on their plate — and they’re hungry for more.

The couple owns Mt. Lebanon’s Totopo Cocina & Cantina and Poco Loco Taco Co., Tocayo Taqueria & Tequila in Shadyside and a future Bloomfield spot called Camino Coctelería y Cocina. A coctelería is a cocktail bar.



This month they launched the rebranded Totopo food truck, Vaya, which means “go” in Spanish. The vehicle, which is now decked out in bright colors, serves a condensed menu of Mexican street food such as tacos, burritos and churros. Longtime Totopo food truck manager Marco Honores will continue his duties on the revamped ride. 

The Tocayo food truck remains in operation as-is. 

“We don’t like to replicate restaurants or food trucks,” Juan says. “We can have fun and do whatever we want with the menu and decor.” 

Last August, the Grimaldos opened Poco Loco, a fast-casual joint in a former Bull River Taco Co. space a few blocks from Totopo on Washington Road. The booze-free business caters mostly to local students and their families, who crowd the Mt. Lebanon business district after the school bell rings. 

Poco Loco also will be the sole purveyor of eats at Dormont Pool, starting in May. Restaurant managers and sisters Diana and Estefany Suarez, will sell fresh and affordable food from the concession stand whenever the facility is in operation this summer.



Camino Cocteleria y Cocina, which is slated to open in the former Del’s Bar & Ristorante at 4428 Liberty Ave. in Bloomfield, is in a construction holding pattern until a permit is approved. 

Like Totopo and Tocayo, the soon-to-open spot will have a full-service bar. I recommend the Spicy Pineapple Margarita — available at both locations —  made with mezcal, orange liqueur, fresh pineapple juice and housemade spicy pineapple syrup with Tajín Chile on the rim.



Tasty Taquitos

To Fernando Quintanar, food and family are everything. 

Together with his parents Ray and Elizabeth, sister Alondra and a bunch of heirloom recipes he runs Tasty Taquitos, an authentic Mexican eatery and catering company with three unique locations in Pittsburgh, including a new metallic taco trailer in the SouthSide Works

The year-round location joins Smokin’ Ghosts BBQ and Slice on Broadway — which both operate out of shipping containers — as the property’s outdoor food purveyors. The green space between the South Side’s Tunnel Boulevard and South Water Street also offers indoor restaurants, picnic tables and a dog park. 

Tasty Taquitos was launched in 2015 as a single food truck that made the rounds to different events throughout the city. Since 2016, that vehicle has been permanently parked at 5101 Penn Ave. in Garfield. 

With help from the property owner, the Quintanars transformed the vacant lot next to Spak Bros. Pizza into an outdoor oasis with a deck, seating and, in the summer, a jungle-like assortment of plants. 

Tasty Taquitos also handles food service at The Evergreen Cafe at 7328 Penn Ave. in Point Breeze, where there are exclusive menu items.

The biggest seller of the brand is the Taco Loco, a crunchy shell loaded with your choice of meat and toppings wrapped in a soft tortilla with melted cheese in between the shells. Slow-cooked cactus tacos with onion, tomato and cilantro is another crowd favorite. 

The Quintanars source most of their fresh ingredients from local farmers. With experience running a Community Supported Agriculture program in Minnesota, they hope to establish their own family farm someday to help cater to the legions of vegetarian foodies that visit Tasty Taquitos. 

“We know how important it is to have healthy ingredients,” Fernando says. “You are what you eat.” 



Mezclado Sauce Co.

Eric-James Corbin lives in Beaver County but his taste buds are always on island time. 

Before settling down to raise a family in Western Pennsylvania, he ran a beach shop in the tourist town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico where he sold souvenirs and locally made products, including an array of hot sauces. 

Corbin, a Marine Corps veteran who graduated from Penn State University with a degree in advertising, always considered himself a bona fide foodie and spice connoisseur. He decided to make his own blend and the Mezclado Sauce Company was born. 

The word “mezclado” is Spanish for “blended.” 

“It’s a blending of flavors and a blending of cultures,” the native Pittsburgher says of his Caribbean-inspired hot chili pepper sauce.  

It’s naturally fermented and mixed with herbs like culantro (which is similar to cilantro) and a custom-made, barrel-aged pineapple vinegar created by Gibsonia’s Native Vinegar Co

Spice fans put it on eggs, pizza and tacos. The green habanero-and-lime flavor pairs well with seafood and pork.  

Corbin sells Mezclado Pepper Sauce online, at farmer’s markets and in several mom-and-pop shops in the area. Recently, the start-up launched a Honeycomb Credit campaign to raise funds to form an LLC, expand the product line and get the various sauces into big box retailers. 

Corbin and his best friend Danny Tomaino bottle the hot stuff after-hours at Community Kitchen Pittsburgh in Hazelwood. They perform this job in the evenings so no innocent person’s eyes or nostrils are irritated by the habanero peppers. Aji dulce peppers, which are sweet, aromatic and found in Puerto Rico, balance out the heat.

Corbin sources heirloom pepper seeds from Puerto Rico, has them grown and harvested in California and processed and mashed in Nashville, Tennessee. 

A commercial loan administrator by trade, Corbin is banking on Mezclado going global.

St. Clair Social 

St. Clair Social, a bar and restaurant in Friendship, is giving its vegan and vegetarian amigos a lot to taco ‘bout. 

Every Monday, the eatery recreates popular fast food meals that are given a meat-free makeover.

April’s menu items are veggie-friendly takes on grub from a company that featured a talking Chihuahua in its commercials. So far, options have ranged from nacho fries, crunchwraps, cheesy gorditas and cinnamon twists. 

The rest of the month’s items are bound to ring your bell, especially if you pair them with a spicy cocktail.

Categories: PGHeats