Mevan Dissanayake picked up a soft-shell taco covered in hot salsa. Without any hesitation, he took a bite from it as the salsa and pieces of pork carnitas fell off the taco onto the plate.
“Oh, man. This is delicious, so much flavor in one bite,” Dissanayake said with a mouthful.
Dissanayake was enjoying the Mexican food along Brookline Boulevard at Las Palmas, one of four Pittsburgh-area locations started by four brothers intent on filling a need for Mexican groceries and food in the region.
Jose, Gabriel, Luis and Francisco Berumen Cruz had a landscaping business in Indianapolis, but on a visit to Pittsburgh, they noticed the city lacked Mexican food and grocery shops, according to Jorge Aviles, manager and butcher of the Brookline location.
“This was an idea to open a Mexican store for people to come shop,” Aviles said.
The Brookline location has been open for about five years, and there are three other stores in Beechview, Oakland and Washington.
The grocery stores have produce sections with Mexican and Latin American products, a variety of vegetables, fruits, and an authentic Mexican carniceria (butcher shop in Spanish) that has fresh cuts of meats and fajita blends.
Fresh-made, soft-shell tacos are sold every day from a taco truck right outside the door.
“Whenever I am around here, I always try to grab one,” Dissanayake said.
According to Aviles, the taco truck has been there for about two and a half years. On weekdays, the offerings include fajita mix, chicken, ground beef, chorizo and steak. Pork carnitas, barbeque beef and vegetarian rajas are added on the weekend. The tacos are sold for a flat rate of $2.50.
“It’s cool that they charge the same price for all the meat,” said Jorge Montiel, as he was enjoying a pork carnitas taco.
Customers can choose from 10 different salsas, guacamole and a cilantro-and-onion salad to put on their tacos. Aviles said the homemade products are catching on fast for customers who can’t find them elsewhere.
“I love food trucks; it’s a different experience, and you can taste the freshness of the food,” said Ryan Sowka, a customer who was in line to order tacos.
When asked if they ever move the truck, Aviles said they cater to events when requested.
“It’s there 365 days a year, my friend,” Aviles said. “We put a little heater outside and sell tacos.”