A PittGirl dining review:

If I were to describe my eating experience at the latest “authentic” Mexican Restaurant to pop up downtown, this one being Cocina de Mexico I would carefully choose my words, and those words would be “Ew.” and “Huh?” Cocina is located on Smithfield, just down from the fur shop and directly across from Wiener World.

From what I can tell the owners are Asian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but really, could a Mexican open an “authentic” Chinese restaurant? Could an American open an “authentic” Ethiopian restaurant? I guess they could try, but damn, they shouldn’t.

The waiter … and no, that’s not a typo … one waiter for 20 tables of lunch goers, definitely was hired because he looks Mexican. However, when my dining partner orders the “Pollo en salsa verde” (that’s what the menu says) and the waiter goes, “Huh?”, I doubt he’s Mexican. And when you point to the item on the menu after saying it three times, and the waiter mispronounces every word you just said, you KNOW he’s not Mexican. (Pollo is pronounced po-yo, NOT polo as in Marco Polo.)

In addition, that ONE waiter pissed off lots of people because who wants to wait ten minutes before their drink order is taken? I had to. And how about when he comes to your table to take your order, but he forgot his order pad and on his way to the kitchen to get it gets stopped by other customers, and then on his way back to your table, he delivers food to other tables, clears their plates, etc.? Sucks. So it took fifteen minutes before we even got our drinks. I saw three parties come in, get tired of waiting, and just up and leave.

The food? Meh. Nothing special. Very salty. Lots of shredded lettuce. I swear the tortilla soup is Egg Drop Soup without eggs and with tortilla strips. Same broth. No lie. The tortilla chips are as stale as three month old bread, but they are served warmed up. There’s no fooling PittGirl by warming up old chips. Please.

I ordered the Mexican Voodoo Chicken Wrap (that’s what the menu says). It is a huge 12 inch tortilla stuffed with massive amounts of lettuce, some onions, big chunks of chicken, and this weird sweet salsa (Sweet and Sour maybe?). They also have a Pittsburgh wrap that is steak and cheese and french fries smushed into a wrap.

I have Mexican friends; I lived in Mexico for two months; I went to the restaurant with a Mexican; I know authentic mexican food and THIS is not it.

I put it on about the same level as Mexico City on Smithfield. Meh. Best part? There is a sticker on the door that says it was voted as the AOL City Guide’s best Mexican in the city. Huh? Then why can’t I find it listed on AOL anywhere? A little help?





22 Comments

  1. Dave
    September 20, 2006 3:01 pm

    You really need to try Taco Loco.



  2. pittgirl
    September 20, 2006 3:09 pm

    Ah, but I have. :) I do enjoy their food greatly. In fact, I know some of the peeps that work/have worked there. Thanks, Dave for reminding me that it still is over there on Jane Street. I’d forgotten about it.



  3. pennhillsalum
    September 20, 2006 3:10 pm

    The Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood in Southwest Florida is run by an Hispanic family (Mexican, I think).
    And you’re right. Damn, they shouldn’t.



  4. PittDude
    September 20, 2006 3:23 pm

    That’s soooo funny. I work across the street from this restaurant and, while I haven’t tried the food, the amusement my co-workers and I have gotten from the idea of an Asian Mexican (Asican?)restaurant has been priceless.
    I still say Chipotle is THE place to go for deeelicious burritos that are the size of your foot. Or at least my foot.



  5. Chris
    September 20, 2006 3:43 pm

    In Raleigh, NC, there is this restaurant, The Mayflower. Its an “authentic” seafood restaurant. The history of this place runs this short timeline: Started as a japanese steakhouse. It went bankrupt and was bought out by the Mayflower, but they kept the original staff. However, when you walk in they have mexican music playing all the time….so a seafood restaurant, run by japanese, with a mexican ambience….



  6. Maria
    September 20, 2006 4:11 pm

    I ran into more than one Chinese Cuban restaurant in NYC. I guess the connection is rice.

    (Taco Loco is great!)



  7. Woy
    September 20, 2006 4:32 pm

    The Franklin Inn. The cuisine is damn tasty (Stretch believes the quesadillas are the best ever). And, the sheer ridiculousness of Ben Franklin’s mug on the sign outside make you laugh.

    http://www.franklininn.net/



  8. Anthony
    September 20, 2006 6:39 pm

    Actually, Mexicans have staffed the kitchens of China Palace and Sushi Too restaurants on Walnut St. in Shadyside for years.



  9. Jo Janoski
    September 20, 2006 7:52 pm

    Chinese owners? I dare you to go back there and order some coffee. I’ve had coffee made in Chinese restaurants…Pfew!



  10. pittgirl
    September 20, 2006 8:04 pm

    Anthony is right. There is a chinese joint in Monroeville that staffs only Mexicans in the kitchen and works them from 8:00 a.m. until close, pays them under the table, and even rents a house for them all to live in together.



  11. Lino Gunn
    September 20, 2006 8:09 pm

    Baja Fresh is close,Taco Loco is close, but having lived in So Cal, Texas and Mexico for about 20 yrs I gotta tell you there is NO PLACE in Western PA that is REALLY authentic.



  12. pittgirl
    September 20, 2006 8:41 pm

    Lino, have you tried Azul in Leetsdale yet?



  13. ethan
    September 21, 2006 9:12 am

    We ate at Azul a couple of months ago. In Leetsdale, of all places! The place was *packed* on weeknight. I was skeptical, having commuted to Texas for work for a while and eaten at some of the more authentic restaurants. The food was tasty; I would return.



  14. Kate
    September 21, 2006 10:52 am

    Has that taqueria in Beechview that used to be called Maya reopened yet? Since Beechview is supposedly da ‘Burgh’s “Little Mexico” it might be promising.



  15. miXi
    September 21, 2006 12:25 pm

    from what I remember the Latino population of Pittsburgh was near nil…is that changing? I never once had good Mexican food while I lived there (although I didn’t know it until I moved to other cities with large Mexican and Latino populations…)



  16. Julie_Gong
    September 21, 2006 12:33 pm

    I don’t want to comment on the Mexican fiasco but I do wish you would comment on Joey Porter’s dogs getting loose and kiling a minature pony… http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06264/723752-54.stm



  17. pittgirl
    September 21, 2006 1:00 pm

    Oh, Julie. You know me well. Writing it now. Had a dr. appt. :)



  18. Lino Gunn
    September 21, 2006 11:53 pm

    Pitt Girl, you darling, muchas gracias estoy en la manera !



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  20. Very promising info
    March 3, 2007 1:01 am

    The sticker for”AOL’s Best Mexican in the city” was actually for “Cielito Lindo” the previous Mexican restaurant at 633 Smithfield (this was back in 2005). Actually, “Cocina de Mexico” will be closing this month and “El Azteca Restaurante Mexicano” will be opening at that location on April 2 (about a month away). Hopefully, you’ll be able to make it down there. You’ll be very pleased!!!



  21. Regina
    February 29, 2008 4:19 pm

    Daniel Sepulveda is Mexican and I would not mind eating him.