By Ollie Gratzinger | Asst. Features Editor
When one walks into South Side’s newest Mexican eatery, Tres Ríos, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually in the heart of Pittsburgh. If it weren’t for the name, which means “Three Rivers” in Spanish, one could convince themselves that they’d just entered a place entirely foreign, complete with the scents and sounds of Mexico. First opened in November and nestled between tattoo shops and bars, Tres Ríos is something refreshingly new and pleasantly different.
Rustic, wooden menus and historical wall décor honor the traditional side of Mexican cuisine, while the fully-equipped bar and diverse food selection are sure to appeal to lovers of all things modern and fresh.
When scoping out a new restaurant, there are a few pretty important things to keep in mind, so let’s see how Tres Ríos stacks up against its competition.
Most of the time, people go to restaurants to eat, so the quality of the food is by far one of the most important features. At Tres Ríos, the food is fresh and easily comparable to that of Emiliano’s, the South Side Flats’ notable dining destination. The portions are large enough to satisfy the most ravenous of appetites or split among friends, and many items, such as the guacamole, are made-to-order. The fajitas and the made-to-order guacamole, which I sampled, were both delicious and unique in comparison to the foods one might expect to find elsewhere around the city. As for the food I didn’t sample, it looked and smelled like it would taste just as good. Beyond the food, though, is the bar settled off to the side, complete with an extensive supply of tequila. Tres Ríos is just as well-known for being South Side’s newest margarita bar as for its take on Mexican street food, so if you’re legal and looking for a quick cocktail, this place might just be for you.
Let’s face it: We’re college students, and consequently, that means we’re broke. Affordability is key if you’re looking for a place to go for dinner with friends, and in all truth, Tres Ríos is going to cost a little more than pizza or ramen noodles. With that being said, it isn’t terribly expensive when considering the size of the portions. Dinner for two plus an appetizer is going to run you upwards of $30, but you won’t leave hungry, and you certainly won’t regret it.
You’re greeted upon arrival and seated, just like in most sit-down restaurants, and the waitress we had was quite friendly, albeit a bit shy. The service was quick, too, as they weren’t exceptionally busy, and the bulk of the patrons had gravitated toward the bar. The interesting thing, though, was that the manager came over to our table pretty frequently to make sure all was well. He was all smiles and a personable kind of guy. There was certainly the vibe that all of the employees wanted their customers to have the best experience possible.
It’s hard to feel stressed within wooden walls decorated with artwork by local and legendary artists like Andy Warhol. The music playing was soft and ambient, while other parts of the décor, such as a wall with “Si! Si! Si! Worker’s Rights” sprawled across it in a way that imitated street art, paid homage to parts of Mexican history and heritage. This particular wall seemed to allude to the phrase, “Si, se puede,” which not only means, “Yes, it is possible,” in Spanish, but also serves as the motto for the United Farm Workers, coined by labor leader Cesar Chavez in 1972. There was a soothing and casual vibe to the eatery, but it also felt incredibly authentic, bona fide and accurately reflective of the culture that it represents.
Just about every Duquesne student is familiar with the South Side for one reason or another, and Tres Ríos is right along the beaten path. Taking the South Side steps down, it’s about a fifteen minute walk to its location at 1719 East Carson St. With winter upon us, the thought of walking might bring about a groan and a roll of the eyes, but South Side is abuzz with Ubers and Lyfts, and Pittsburgh’s Port Authority transit system has stops all throughout the main stretch. It’s certainly accessible and just as close to campus as other fan-favorite South Side eateries.
Long story short, when you get tired of Chipotle’s burrito bowls or just need something to hold you over until the next Taco Tuesday at Options, Tres Ríos is a solid way to get your Mexican food fix. The food itself was appetizing and ample, but the pleasant atmosphere and kindness of the staff made it well worth the not inexpensive price tag, and it made for a fun night out.
But hey — don’t take my word for it. Head down to South Side and find out for yourself.