It seems that despite the fact that it’s been 6 days since I’ve been on the East Coast, my body refuses to adjust to the 3-hour time difference. I woke up today at 12 noon, which is a bit late for my liking. I was rather well-rested though, so that’s a positive to waking up ridiculously late! Let’s just hope I don’t do this when I need to travel to Philly on Saturday morning XD
Usually when I start my day late, it takes me a long time to leave the house. This held true today. I’m glad I got that croissant yesterday morning because it came in handy today. Final verdict on La Gourmandine: a-ok but not a must. Croissant was sufficient for my feeding purposes but didn’t blow my mind. After nibbling on the pastry while watching copious amounts of 30 Rock, I meandered around the house until 3PM, spoke to my Airbnb host for about an hour and a half, then finally left the house around 5PM to go grab an early dinner. Today’s restaurant choice was täkō, a fusion taco joint. Pittburghers also rated this rather highly on Yelp at 4.5 stars, and my host’s boyfriend told me I had to go here. As with any highly rated establishment, I was a little cautious. When you’re unfamiliar with a city’s population/tastebuds, it’s always good to come in without super high expectations because not all cities favor the same flavors and foods.
Biking here was pretty simple—just straight down on Penn Ave to about 6th St. It’s close by to the HealthyRide bike stations, so that makes it a convenient spot for dinner. Thank goodness for the downhill on Penn Ave! It was about a 3-mile ride from my place in Garfield, and if I had to go uphill, I would die. I was already ridiculous sweaty despite going downhill, so I don’t even want to imagine the alternative. Anywho! After parking my bike, I walked through the lovely Market Square. Sorry, no pics of this because I was catching my breath/drying my shirt and wanted to get to täkō before the wait got crazy. If you’re in the downtown area though, check out Market Square. It’s a very cute, cobblestone-paved area that’s great for just walking around and dining. Reminds me a bit of San Pedro Square in San Jose.
When I reached täkō, I noticed that they had some outdoor seating, so I requested a seat outside. Inside looked pretty swanky, but it seems like a place you’d want to sit with friends instead of by yourself. Lively music played throughout the inside of the modernly decorated, softly-lit restaurant, so I suppose it could be a good place for a date. Outdoors, though, was an absolute treat. If you’re at all interested in seeing how a kitchen works, outdoor seating at täkō is spectacular. You get to see the well-organized staff make the dozens of orders that come into the kitchen every couple minutes. Each item is made with such precision and care, so you know they REALLY care about their food here. They even make their own tortillas. In fact, they have a specific guy whose job is solely to roll and press out perfectly round tortillas.
Everything on the menu looked good, but I decided to start with some of their guacamole because the guy in front of me was assembling all the guacamole appetizers. All of their guac choices starts out with your classic avocados, onions, jalapeños, salt, and lime. Then you can add other ingredients if you wish. Some items cost $1-4 extra, and there are a couple of free add-ons. I opted to add the pickled habaneros and green onions since I didn’t want anything too rich to fill me up before the tacos. I also ordered a strawberry yuzu margarita since the waiter mentioned it was a refreshing drink, which sounded great after a sweaty bike ride on a hot afternoon.
Both items arrived relatively quickly. The margarita was okay. I thought it was a little too sweet and could’ve used more yuzu juice, especially since the glass was sugar rimmed. I tend to like my drinks a little more tart, so perhaps this was a bad choice for me. The guac though was great! I think I could’ve used a little more lime as well, but the pickled habaneros added just the right amount of heat and slight sourness that helped balance out the dish. The chips were perfectly thin and crisp, clearly made in-house as well.
By far, the clear star of this restaurant is the tako (octopus) tacos. I would give this restaurant 5 stars based on this dish alone; it was THAT good. I’ve had octopus a couple times before, and often times, places don’t cook it well. täkō knows their stuff, which is nice to know since it’s their namesake haha (tako is octopus in Japanese). The octopus was well-seasoned and incredibly melt-in-your-mouth tender. The accompaniments in the taco made for the perfect flavor profile. The tender octopus gives you the nice salty element, the harissa aioli is rich and creamy, the toasted chickpeas gives that textural crunch, and the lemon and herbs help cut through the richness to balance out the flavors. Honestly, those tacos are the absolute best thing I’ve eaten so far in this trip. While tako is a little pricier ($18 for 2 tako tacos), it is honestly worth every single penny.
The lady that sat next to me ordered the same thing and chatted with me about how Pittsburgh didn’t have too many outstanding restaurants, but täkō was definitely at the top of the food scene in the city. It’s no wonder the restaurant gets so crowded because their food is definitely top-notch. She mentioned how her husband and she could never get a table, so when she saw an empty seat at the outside bar, she decided to grab dinner before heading off to see some friends. It’s really that good, guys. I don’t know how anything else is in the restaurant, but if everything else is as good as that octopus taco, they’re golden. Also, that name makes me giggle. täkō serves tacos. Ordering octopus tacos means you’re saying “I’d like the tako tacos, please.” How could you NOT like that?!
After dinner, I walked across the Fort Duquesne Bridge to make my way to the Duquesne Incline (pronounced “do-cane”). When I was originally researching Pittsburgh, the Duquesne Incline was rated among the top attractions in Pittsburgh, and the pictures made it look pretty cool and worth checking out. To get there from downtown, you can simply take a 30-minute walk across the river to reach it. When you walk along the area before the bridge, you’ll see a large open park area where people just hang out and walk around. The bridge itself is pleasant walk since you get a nice view of the river and downtown. When you end up on the other side, you’ll see a big red building, and that’s the Duquesne Incline.
The Duquesne Incline is a pretty short ride. It’s a cable car that goes up the side of Mount Washington that was originally used for workers to scale up the mountain easily in the late 1800s. Eventually, the number of passengers declined over the years due to improvements in technology. In 1962, the Duquesne Incline shut down because major repairs needed to be made to the incline but the owners didn’t want to put down the money due to low ridership. However, local residents didn’t want to see the place shut down, so they raised money to make the repairs and reopened place again in 1963. The Duquesne Incline is now a protected Historical Landmark in Pennsylvania, so it probably won’t be going anywhere soon, which is good for us since we get to see the lovely views from up top! 🙂
The views from up top are nice any time of day, but if you want the most spectacular views, I would highly recommend going during sunrise (around 6AM) or sunset (around 8PM). I got there a little early, around 7PM, but it was definitely worth the hour wait till sunset. There’s also a museum/gift shop up top that’s probably open during more regular hours (9AM-5PM, I suppose. They didn’t say), but just sitting there to enjoy the view is enough, really. There are also some $0.25-coin-operated binoculars that’ll let you take a closer peek at things on the other side of the shore if you wish.
After some spectacular photos, I trekked over to Station Square by walking along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Unfortunately for me, it had begun raining the moment the sun had set (weather report lied to me!!), so I got pretty wet from that walk. Depending on how skittish you are, walking along this particular trail at night might not be the best idea. I’m clearly still alive, but there’s not much around that area except freeway, the river, and empty parking lots and the trail is pretty dark. I didn’t feel unsafe at any moment, but I also have chihuahua syndrome (I think I’m bigger and more vicious than I really am) 😉
Once I reached Station Square, I found myself thoroughly disappointed. Don’t believe what the website says, it is not the best area for both locals and tourists. They’re lying to you!
Station Square was completely empty, minus one or two groups having quiet dinners. Perhaps it was the rain, but the area was very unimpressive. I stayed for a total of 5 minutes to allow myself to take pictures of the fountain before I made my way over to the Smithfield St Bridge to get over the river and take a Lyft back home.
And there you have it! Day 6 completed. I don’t have huge plans for tomorrow but I am planning to attend Southside Works Exposed, so hopefully that’ll be exciting. Until tomorrow, leave me your questions, comments, and critiques! 🙂