Smoke, located in the heart of Lawrenceville (the hipster capital of Pittsburgh), is by far one of my favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh. The way they incorporate smoked and grilled meats, as well as crisp vegetables and spicy sauces into their tacos is unreal. Smoke has everything a lover of Tex-Mex could desire. Some highlights of the menu include the juicy pork taco with spicy apricot habanero barbeque sauce, the creamy mac and cheese, and the smoky St. Louis-Style ribs. I could easily enjoy every single item on their menu. The restaurant has a very rustic feel with the wooden seating and the smell of smoke emanating throughout the entire restaurant. It makes you feel as if you're at your grandparents' upstate cabin. The waitstaff is always incredibly friendly and willing to provide recommendations.
It's very hard for me to branch out and stray from my tried and true favorites whenever I'm here. I always find myself starting with their fresh lemonade. It is the perfect mixture of sweet and sour, just as lemonade should be. They make it from scratch with the basics: sugar and a fresh, sour lemon. This drink is deliciously tart. Every time I take a sip my lips tingle. Smoke also has an array of sweet, fruity aguas frescas, which I highly recommend if you're not a fan of lemonade.
Another favorite of mine that I order every time I'm at Smoke is their famous queso. They melt a thick, creamy cheese (my guess is queso fresco) and mix in spicy smoked poblanos and Fresno hot peppers, flavorful smoked onions, and fresh cilantro. This combination of ingredients makes for a smokey, spicy, and luscious queso dip. It's so cheesy I could die of happiness every time I take a bite. They serve the queso with house made fresh flour tortilla chips straight out of the oven. These chips are always perfectly warm, chewy, and salty. Watch out, because this warm dip is addictive and so incredibly filling. I find myself finishing the whole thing with barely enough room left for one of Smoke's tasty tacos.
Smoke is famous for their wide array of delicious and unique tacos. One of my favorites, which is a classic, is the chicken and apple taco. It sounds like a strange combination, but trust me it is the best thing you will ever taste. The juicy chicken and tart, crisp Granny Smith apple work together perfectly. Smoke also mixes in crispy bites of bacon, creamy queso fresco, fiery jalapeño mayo, and leafy cilantro into this taco. The smoky bacon and savory chicken have different textures that complement each other well. The jalapeño mayo also adds a fiery kick that will have you constantly reaching for your drink. I find myself coming back to this taco again and again.
Something that I order as a side to my tasty chicken and apple taco is Smoke's jalapeño apple slaw. This dish is a zesty twist on an American classic. It pairs well with the spicy taco, as the cabbage and apple in this dish are both sweet and crisp. However, there is also a bit of spice to the creamy jalapeño dressing used to make this dish. You really can't go wrong with this.
Sometimes, Smoke can be incredibly crowded and the wait will seem endless. However, if you plan it just right, you can walk right in and sit down. I recommend weekdays for lunch. Smoke plays some killer music during this time too.
Smoke has never disappointed me with its endless options. You also can always find something that will suit even the pickiest eaters. You'll eat so much every time you're here that you'll have to come back to Smoke again and again, just so you can get a taste of everything.