Food For Thought | Viva Los Tacos

Food For Thought is a biweekly blog where Kendall Swift reviews restaurants around Pittsburgh.


Kendall Swift | Contributing Writer

Viva Los Tacos on the corner of Forbes Avenue and South Bouquet Street in Oakland.

By Kendall Swift, Staff Writer

Viva Los Tacos is a taco restaurant selling Mexican-inspired food that recently opened on the corner of Bouquet Street and Forbes Avenue in Oakland. You might have seen workers renovating the building that was once the Original Hot Dog Shop. 

The interior has two stories of seating. The decor is very bright and vivid. The restaurant is decorated with bright lights, colorful paint and pop art graffiti on the walls, creating a fun and inviting atmosphere. 

Currently, only eat-in dining is available, but the wait was bearable. Although the restaurant was busy, I got a seat within 10 minutes of walking in when I visited on Saturday. The staff were also friendly, especially considering the restaurant is new. The menu, while rather small, has plenty of promising options. Tacos come in orders of three for $12. They also offer select appetizers and a drink menu. 

I ordered the baja fish tacos, which comes with “beer battered cod, flour tortilla, pico, crema, napa slaw [and] choice of roja sauce,” according to the menu. Roja sauce is available mild, fuego and diablo, varying by level of spiciness. I chose mild because I thought it would pair best with fish.

The food didn’t take much time to come out at all. Plus, all three tacos were large and made the portions plentiful. In my opinion, $12 isn’t a horrible price for the food because it is very filling.

The fish was one of my favorite parts of the taco. The batter was very crisp and added a crunch, considering it is a soft-shell taco. It was nicely cooked and was not overbearing on the rest of the toppings.

Even though the fish was excellent, the pico and napa slaw stole the show. The tomatoes in the pico were very fresh. The tomato cubes were small enough to not overshadow the fish, but big enough to add a fresh flavor. The napa slaw helped to achieve the same effect. However, there was not much of the slaw, nor was there a lot of sauce on the slaw. It was more like plain cabbage slices instead of a slaw. Personally, as someone who isn’t fond of coleslaw, I found the lack of sauce enjoyable.

Although the menu description claims to include roja sauce, the sauce seemed absent in this dish. I am not sure if it is typical for Viva Los Tacos to not use much sauce or if it was a mishap with my food, but I couldn’t taste the sauce at all. However, the lack of sauce didn’t hurt the dish — it was still very delicious. Next time, I would like to try it with the diablo sauce to see if it is more noticeable.

Overall, the food was very tasty. I enjoyed it all, from the food itself to the atmosphere and the staff. However, I do not think it would be a comprehensive review unless I mention the authenticity of the food.

Viva Los Tacos advertises on its website that it serves both “Mexican” and “MexiCali” dishes. Despite these proclamations, I don’t see any evidence that the food is authentic. Some of the options, such as “Korean BBQ chicken tacos,” “buffalo chicken tacos” and “southern fried chicken tacos,” do not strike me as authentic Mexican food. 

The restaurant is owned by the Pittsburgh-based Mero Restaurant Group, which also owns all CHiKN and Stack’d locations. I wasn’t able to find any evidence of effort to make the restaurant authentic, although they market it as such.

It is important for me to note that I am not the all-knowing judge of authenticity, yet I do think it is something customers should keep in mind if they go. If you want good food, by all means, go. Just be aware that if you are looking for authentic Mexican food, maybe you should try somewhere else.

Despite my concerns, I would recommend this option to anyone looking for a quick, filling meal in Oakland.

Kendall writes about food and restaurants. You can reach her at [email protected].