Cucina Mendoza

Dawn and I dropped Max off with his grandma and headed out into the (south) hills.  Living in the city, we’re fortunate to be able visit restaurants and stores that either live in nice old storefronts or even their own buildings.   I haven’t fully formulated why yet, but I can not stand visiting restaurants in mini-malls, even if they’re pretty good.  Actually I have a few good ideas:  I moved to the city to live in the city, and I don’t really enjoy being in the suburbs.  Pittsburgh’s suburbs in particular seem so inhospitable to me.  There’s really no where to safely walk or bike, and as a result everyone drives everywhere.  Minimalls and “village” style shopping centers are everywhere, but they are so ugly.  All neon and backlight signage, parking lots, and overlit facades.

I’ve joked with my friends about how malls and big box stores are the shantytowns of the future, and to a degree I wonder if there isn’t some truth to that- what happens when those stores go out of business or decide its not profitable to have five giant shopping centers surrounding a dying city.  The thing is that even though a lot of minimalls are giving up their storefronts to pawn shops and check cashing fronts, there are also a number of genuinely good places to eat popping up in these otherwise barren symbols of lost prosperity.

Happily, Cucina Mendoza was one of them.   When we arrived it looked like so many storefront ethnic eateries- plastic chairs, fluorescent lighting, ugly tile floor.  Once we were seated we realized that they had set up a pretty nice bar, and our server quickly brought out homemade tortilla chips and fresh, delicious salsa.  When it comes to Mexican food, I really could care less about “authenticity.”  Authenticity at this point usually means strict adherence to old ideas that are no longer even relevant to the culture they’re derived- food for tourists.  I do however love a nice plate of beans and rice, some fresh salsa and something to put in a couple warm tortillas.  They got it good.

I ordered the “Reboz0”- a plate of meat, pork, chorizo, peppers, onions, mushrooms and pineapple with a generous helping of melted chihuahua cheese on top.  It was served with a few flour tortillas and an incredibly spicy salsa.  The inclusion of fresh vegetables and pineapples(!) was new to me as far as mexican goes and the whole dish was delicious. Dawn got some enchiladas and steak, which were also served with beans and another generous helping of fresh vegetables.

Afterwards we headed across the hills to another suburban ruin- Lebanon Church Road and the tusk of the Century III mall.  Delicious ice cream at Handel’s was had and at that point, we were ready to see our kid.  All in all, a nice, low key night out.

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