While Pittsburgh is the second largest city in Pennsylvania, it is a baby when it comes to the scene of authentic Mexican cuisine. In fact, we are just starting to see little taco stands pop up and access to certain ingredients up until this point has been somewhat limited, especially in comparison to other cities.
However, Casa Reyna, which opened on June 4, 2013, is one of the first restaurants in the area to offer some mighty scrumptious and truly authentic Mexican food. The restaurant is located in the Strip District right next to the owner’s Mexican grocery store, Reyna Foods. It is housed in what appears to be the bottom floor of the store.
I went there for lunch with my brother, Chris, and his coworker and friend, Walter. The atmosphere is very relaxed and kind of made me feel like I was at an hacienda in Jalisco. There are large heavy wood tables with sturdy chairs, and the lighting is low but warm. The place is said to seat about 72 people. Some areas are decorated with talavera, painted ceramic tile, while other corners are spiced up with tin signs advertising Cerveza Corona. It seemed that the majority of the wait staff is from Mexico. I talked to several individuals who hailed from Mexico City, my stomping grounds. Yay!
The dinner menu is quite extensive and includes items like enmoladas (tortillas covered in a mole sauce) and tamales oaxqueños (tamales wrapped in banana leaves). Because we were there for lunch, the selection was more limited, but it was still difficult to choose. I ordered the tacos de barbacoa (slow-cooked marinated lamb) with a side of frijoles charros (smoky-flavored black beans). Chris asked for the chilaquiles La Bamba (tortilla chips covered with green salsa and marinated beef tips), and Walter got an order of tacos de chorizo (sausage) with frijoles refritos (refried beans). We all shared a glass of agua de sandía (watermelon water).
Being that I’ve spent a good deal of time in Mexico, as well as traveling around the country, I can honestly say that flavors of each dish were incredibly accurate and extremely delicious. From the moment I walked into the restaurant, I said to myself, this place even smells like Mexico. Tacos are served in true Mexican fashion with two corn tortillas, white onions, cilantro, lime, and salsa. I was so thankful that the restaurant did not try to accommodate the American/Tex Mex misconception of a taco by adding cheese, sour cream, or lettuce. The chilaquiles were equally scrumptious and cooked to perfection, neither too crunchy nor mushy, and the beef strips on top were both tender and crispy with a nice deep flavor. The agua de sandía was ever so light and happy tasting and was not oversaturated with sugar.
I was quite impressed with the staff’s service and politeness and will definitely be returning to Casa Reyna for another visit. If you are missing authentic Mexican food like me or looking to savor a real taste from our southern neighbors, stop by Casa Reyna in the Strip. ¡Felicidades, Casa Reyna! ¡Qué buen trabajo!
2031 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222