Monday, February 13, 2012

...Casa Rasta

Tacos are trendy.

I never imagined when I started this blog that so many new Hispanic/Latino restaurants would open even beyond the ones that were opening at the time.  In the original, epiphany-inspiring article, China Millman mentioned Alma, Smoke, Verde...but even more are opening, and they all have a common theme.


James checked out a place in Overbrook on Route 51 a few months ago called California Taco Shop, which I have yet to patronize.  Recently, he was made aware of a place in Beechview called Casa Rasta.

He was on it.  Quickly.

He ranted.  He raved.  He tweeted.  He blogged.

And now I had to get there myself, too!  Tacos are my thing, after all.

We were planning on spending a Saturday afternoon with Food Collage, shopping in the Strip District and making dinner at her place so that James could show off his cooking talents (and so that she and I could reap the benefits), so we thought, why don't we do lunch at Casa Rasta?


After shopping for our dinner ingredients in The Strip, we drove to Beechview, not far from Dormont, right along the "T" tracks (weird, because the "T" could come by at any moment, and we'd have to yield to it).  Lo and behold, Casa Rasta soon appeared on the left.

Casa Rasta
It's small and cute, with limited seating, just like Smoke BBQ Taqueria, but it definitely adds to the charm of the place.  James had become friendly with the owners, Antonio and Laura, who were so amiable and welcoming when we entered.

It was tough to decide what to order.  James had tried...well, most of the menu, and he liked it all, so it was hard to decide.  We spent a lot of time mulling over the menu, but in the meantime, I ordered a Mango Jarritos:

Menu + Mango Jarritos
One additional menu item for that day was a Ceviche Tostada.  When I hear ceviche: ceviche = sold.  Fresh.  Clean.  Refreshing:

Ceviche Tostada
 Even though the snow was blowing around outside, I already felt like I had escaped to a tropical, Caribbean resort in the middle of...well, Beechview.  Who knew? 

Snow surfing? Nah, just a knick-knack on the windowsill at Casa Rasta. It's adorable!
 Laura brought out a dip tray with a traditional red salsa, tomatillo salsa, and additional jalapeno peppers.  No matter how much I try to like tomatillo salsa, I always find the traditional red to taste better to me.  Not that the tomatillo was bad (not at all!), I just prefer the red to the green:

Tomatillo salsa, traditional salsa, jalapenos
I had finally settled on a Poblano Pepper & Rajas (Potato) Torta, a vegetarian option (not that I'm vegetarian, but I don't mind eating like one sometimes).  I also ordered a side of black beans and a side of rice:

Poblano Pepper & Rajas Torta
Oh wow.  You're probably wondering why I got a torta and not tacos - well, James got tacos, and I knew he'd let me try torta it was.  No doubt it was amazing - all of the ingredients were very authentic, but I especially loved that it was topped with fresh avocado.  It was pretty filling, too - I did force myself to eat my beans and rice, though, to the best of my ability:

Black beans & rice
 Like I mentioned, James allowed me to try his tacos - a carnitas (pork), and a steak, or "carne asada".  I will definitely be getting tacos next time - maybe I'll try every single one.  They were reminiscent of the ones from Reyna's Taco Stand in the Strip District or at the taco stand at Las Palmas, with the savory meats and doubled-up tacos.  So tasty, so flavorful, so delicious:

Carnitas & Carne Asada Tacos
Food Collage went the taco route, too, and ordered similar to James.  For her review, click here.

Since we were the only ones there at the time, Antonio offered us some Chocolate-Chile Pepper Truffles, which were sweet, yet spicy.  These spicy chocolate truffles were rich and decadent, and melted in your mouth with that combination of sweetness and spice:

Chocolate-Chile Pepper Truffles
In addition, we sampled a quesadilla made with cheese (queso fresco) and "empazote", a leafy-green vegetable native to Mexico.  Antonio told us that people would just walk outside of their house and pick empazote from the plant in the yard to put it in their quesadillas.  Although simple, it was yummy!

Quesadilla: Queso Fresco & Empazote
Finally, we tried goat cheese (not my favorite, remember) with blueberry.  If I ever eat goat cheese again, it will be this - the tangy sweetness of the blueberry made it taste almost dessert-like:

Blueberry Goat Cheese
It's a good thing Casa Rasta isn't close to me (like Smoke), because I'd be there - well, as often as I am at Smoke.  The tortillas, the ingredients, the atmosphere - I loved it all.  Not to mention the charm and love that Antonio and Laura put into the food.  I also can't wait to work in conjunction with them on a fundraiser for the Spanish Club that I sponsor (that's how kind and generous they are!)

More Hispanic/Latino places have opened.  More will be opening.  I could easily live on a diet of tacos and other traditional foods - and I wouldn't complain.  Wouldn't complain at all...

Casa Rasta
2102 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216 (Beechview)

Casa Rasta on Urbanspoon

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