Baby Loves Tacos Thunderdome offers local art, music and tacos

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Colm Slevin | Senior Staff Writer

Baby Loves Tacos Thunderdome opened a month ago on Meyran Avenue.

By Sarah Demchak, Staff Writer

Walking on Meyran Avenue, the hanging cantina lights and the bright, yellow lawn chairs outside make Baby Loves Tacos Thunderdome glow. Inside, the groovy music, eccentric art and quirky decor combine to create a culture and community-focused space, according to owner Gary Musisko. 

Musisko opened the restaurant a little over a month ago with help from Zack Shell, owner of the original Baby Loves Tacos in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood. Musisko said the Thunderdome’s unusual name matches the unusual aesthetic he created, which differs from Shell’s establishment. 

“This one’s called Thunderdome because we were jokingly calling it that and it was just too stupid not to use,” Musisko said. “It just doesn’t make any sense for a taco place to be called Thunderdome. Also, a lot of this place doesn’t make sense in terms of its aesthetic as a taco place.”

Musisko worked with his friend for about two and a half years prior to opening the restaurant, and he said he learned everything he knows about cooking from Shell.

“Wisdom is using someone else’s intelligence and skills,” Musisko said. “I can say that it is a wise decision to use Zack’s recipes and food ideas because he’s the best, and I think he’s a genius. I wrote a Yelp review [about the Bloomfield restaurant] that said, ‘Not only are these the best tacos in Pittsburgh, they’re the best tacos I’ve ever had in my life.’” 

The Thunderdome offers many vegan and gluten-free options. According to Musisko, the fan favorite is currently the Gordita Crunch, which is a giant burrito with chips and a house-made queso rolled inside for $15. The nachos are big, fancy and elaborate for $11. Customers can order three mix and match tacos for $11.

Annie Makepeace, a Thunderdome employee, said she enjoys the flexibility of the restaurant’s menu and has even concocted her own special order. 

“I also make a mini burrito bowl with a little chips and a little queso, cauliflower and chicken,” Makepeace said.

Makepeace said spice should not be a problem — everyone can enjoy the restaurant.

“If you can’t handle your spice, we’ll take care of you,” Makepeace said. “But if you are spice curious or spice adventurous, we will take you on a journey and you are in good hands.” 

In the future, Thunderdome plans to have fish and seafood specials along with their current protein specials. According to Musisko, many people love the brisket, which makes it hard for him to keep it in stock. They have house-made drinks as well, such as beet lime juice. The restaurant has their new horchata this week, which can be served hot or cold. 

Along with their menu, the environment itself adds to the overall ambiance. With the help of his mother, Colleen Musisko — a carpenter, builder, plumber, electrician, roofer and tiler — Musisko built everything in the restaurant by hand, from the stairs and railing to the pillars and bars. 

To decorate the restaurant, Musisko hung up works from mostly local artists. All over the walls, there are many different pieces that fall under the genre “Outsider Art,” which Musisko said is art that people who aren’t part of the “art establishment” create. 

To get further involved in the community, Baby Loves Tacos Thunderdome hosts live music from local artists on Saturday nights, such as Poster Child. Musisko plans to hold one-act plays on Sundays, which will hopefully involve students from local universities. 

Musisko spent a lot of time cultivating the restaurant’s “French vampirism” aesthetic, and said the 20-year-old romantic mind inspired the colors and vibes.
“I think of the mind of a 20-year-old as being a really romantic mind, regardless of the fact that everyone’s busy with homework,” Musisko said. “I think that that’s just a really important mind, so I wanted it to look like that.”

Jennifer Mytych, a sophomore psychology major, said the overall atmosphere was cool and inviting.

“The vibe was very groovy,” Mytych said. “The live music and decorations really added to the chill ambiance.” 

According to Musisko, Baby Loves Tacos Thunderdome invites students and locals to share their art, which promotes culture throughout the Oakland community. He said the restaurant strives to be as beneficial to the community as it can through positivity. 

“We just want to be useful and we want to be dynamic and we want to have a positive impact on the people around us,” Musisko said. “And so we’ve created a space, and even though it’s just a humble little space, we want to be involved in the community for sure.”

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