Taco Fest: Music, salsa dancing, artwork and more!

Ace Sevigny | Staff Writer | Richardo Solis of Costa RicARTposed with sustainable pieces.

Ace Sevigny | Staff Writer

Nestled in the Strip District, was a one-of-a-kind festival. The annual Taco Festival at The Stacks combines many aspects of Mexican and Latin-American culture, brimming with style and adding a splash of color to the Strip District with vibrant art and music.

This past weekend offered a unique experience, with traditional mariachi music, locally sourced tamarind juice, salsa dancing and the work of Latinx artists.

Food trucks and vendors lined the perimeter of the festival, and guests were quick to grab a bite of something familiar with a creative twist. Crowds were dense as each festival goer attempted to choose the best dish. Among the dining vendors was World Chef, a food truck dedicated to serving internationally inspired cuisine.

World Chef offered a “Taco World Tour,” which consisted of three different tacos beautifully displayed in one dish.

The trio featured a Hawaiian-inspired pulled pork taco, an American buffalo chicken dip taco and a Brazilian beef taco. Each of these tacos had a unique and original taste profile, though for those repelled by pineapple on pizza, perhaps the Hawaiian proved too adventurous.

The truck also offered buffalo chicken nachos, which allowed for a Mexican twist on an American favorite.

Aside from the festival’s namesake, vendors also celebrated Mexican and Latin-American culture by serving other traditional dishes, such as empanadas, quesadillas, burritos, elotes, agua frescas and other street foods.

With more than 25 stands to choose from, booths had a multitude of meat options, including chicken, beef, carnitas (slow-roasted pulled pork) and chorizo (a Mexican sausage).

Many also had vegetarian offerings that relied heavily on vegetables and other plant-based meat alternatives inside tortillas or on a bed of chips.

Festival goers also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to send summer off with a final hurrah. With August being the last full month of the season, Taco Fest was the perfect opportunity to cherish the heat before the cold of fall sets in.

In addition to serving the “greatest hand-food known to man,” as described on Pittsburgh Taco Fest’s official website, the event also celebrated Latin-American heritage through art, music and dance.

Colorful paintings adorned the space and several booths offered local and homemade crafts, giving the event a livelier atmosphere, akin to the feeling of entering a friend’s home.

Richardo Solis, owner of mixed media shop Costa RicArt, sold small keychains and other art pieces made with upcycled materials, including bottle caps and paper.

“Part of my inspiration comes from biodiversity and the goal to reduce my environmental footprint,” Solis told Handmade Arcade in 2019. Solis’ art featured various animals, jokes and Pittsburgh detailing. His booth was filled with small magnets, pop-sockets, stickers and framed prints.

Another beacon of art at Taco Fest was the painted bus from Pittsburgh Art Bus, which featured a personified ram and a cat playing music on one side, and a woman bursting with color on the other.

Live music and salsa dancing also added to the ambiance of the festival. Musical talents were shared by Hugo Cruz and Caminos, PHDC Traditional Dance, Gavas Beat and Guaracha.

Returning to the main stage for a third year was local mariachi band, Mariachi Internacional.

“[We love] giving the people of Pittsburgh…mariachi music from Mexico,” said member of Mariachi Internacional, Jose Luis Nevarrete.

Other family friendly activities included live painting, community canvas and face painting. Many of the activities, dining options and artists required additional spending at the festival, but Pittsburgh Taco Fest partners very closely with Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation (PHDC) and Casa San Jose, which both receive generous proceeds from the event to further the education and presence of Latin-American culture and traditions in the Pittsburgh area.