Although The Boy certainly shares my adventurous appetite and general love of food, he doesn’t quite follow/care about media and news surrounding food like I do. He generally doesn’t care what’s trendy. He doesn’t really care what chef is where or what new ingredient is considered innovative. He eats what tastes good and goes to restaurants he can rely on.
I, on the other hand, am sucked into the ‘food scene’. I want to know what is happening where and what is ‘hot’. A rolling ‘to try’ restaurant list sits on my desk.
One such ‘trendy’ spot I have been dying to try is Yo Rita, the newest Kevin Sousa project. Yo Rita is located at 1120 E Carson Street, Southside. In true Pittsburgh fashion, I will tell you that Yo Rita used to be the Iguana Grill. It became Yo Rita sometime within the last few years and (to me) was an indistinguishable pseudo Tex-Mex bar joint, lost in the shuffle and nonsense of the Southside. About 3 or 4 months ago, Kevin Sousa announced on his blog that he would be helping the place re-do its menu and concept. Sousa food blocks away from The Boy and in a relaxed setting? I had to go! Of course this desire was driven by curiosity and the Sousa name. The Boy scoffed. I continued to whine. Finally, we set off for the place this past weekend.
I believe the interior has gotten somewhat of a makeover, at least from its Iguana Grill days. It was pleasant, decorated in cool whites and grays. It was actually nicer than I expected. Yo Rita is open every day (including Sundays) for dinner, starting at 4PM. They also just added a Sunday brunch which runs from (I believe) 11AM to 2:30PM.
Yo Rita’s menu is small. A page of appetizers, a page of tacos, a page or two of drinks (extensive tequila selection). There are also daily specials (the menu also mentioned a soup du jour and a ceviche of the day). Additionally, a board at the restaurant listed drink specials, including a pineapple margarita and a ginger/lime margarita. I quickly ordered a ginger/lime margarita and the boy ordered a mojito. Chips and two types of salsa were brought to the table. The waitress did not really explain what the two salsas were – one was chunky and one was not, and thats all I could really decipher. I am not sure the chips were freshly fried in house but they were thick, crunchy and pleasant. My margarita arrived. Very smooth. I could not specifically detect ginger but I was getting some lime and tequila and I was happy.
The Boy’s mojito was odd. It was in a huge glass and just seemed to be mostly club soda. While it was refreshing it just didn’t taste strongly of anything in particular.
And now, the food. Our ordering started with confusion over the specials. Sadly, our waitress did not not offer up information on the specials – yet we saw them written on the aforementioned board with the drink specials. We could see ‘menudo with arepas’ written. When we inquired as to what that was, she said “Like tripe?”. Only today, after a quick internet search, do I suspect it was a Mexican soup made with tripe over cornmeal cakes. Her description certainly did not make us curious about the dish. I still am not sure if this was the daily special or the soup of the day or what? I think the board also said something about a watermelon gazpacho, but the waitress never mentioned that either. We also inquired about the ceviche of the day and she said “I don’t think we have one today”. Hmm, OK.
We ended up ordering a jicama salad appetizer and four tacos (all to split). We ordered the black eyed pea taco, the soft shell crab taco, the braised pork taco, and the chorizo taco.
The jicama salad arrived. It was a crisp mix of jicama, sweet corn, edamame, radish, mint, melon, and goat cheese. There may have been a few other chopped up ingredients that escaped me. It was lightly dressed in a pretty hot pickled pepper vinaigrette. Whew! I sucked down a glass of ice water but kept eating. The flavors were all complimentary and I love chopped salads. (I used the menu to refresh my memory of the salad components – I swear I remember pineapple too and that wasn’t on the menu – oh well, it was good!).
Next, the tacos arrived. The Boy was impressed by the decent amount of ‘stuffing’ in each one.
OK, these were good. They all contained flavor combos that make you want to keep eating. Flavor combos that you remember days, weeks, and months later. My favorite was the braised pork taco. Paired with mole, scallion, jalapeño, and apple, this thing was spot on. My mouth was on fire from the jalapeños, but I kept eating.
The remaining tacos, in order of preference, were soft shell crab, black eyed pea, and chorizo. The chorizo was in big chunks and I just wasn’t in the mood for it. (To note, The Boy had no complaints as he finished it off).
Four tacos might not sound like much, but we were pretty full. Our bill came to around $45. Hmm. Seems slightly steep for tacos. Mind you, the tacos are a la carte, no rice or beans or anything. But the ingredients are certainly high quality. And we did have drinks. (See how I am trying to validate a return trip?).
Overall, although The Boy and I both really enjoyed the food, the service was just too aloof for us. I mean the menu revamp and Kevin Sousa are the reasons new people are coming here – the servers need to be informed of all this and talk it up! If someone wandered in and didn’t know the back story, I think they would be confused by this little place.
I think I will return, if only for a well made margarita. I really really appreciate tacos/Mexican food that is taken above and beyond ground beef and shredded cheddar cheese. However, I also really appreciate a restaurant that is the full package (food and service) and Yo Rita isn’t quite there yet. Please, please, keep trying though. I loved that damn pork taco!
I hesitatingly recommend that you try the place out, as I have never had Mexican food like this in Pittsburgh before. However, don’t say I didn’t warn you about the service and a la carte menu style 🙂