Joe Kahn is banking on Pittsburgh to be part of his taco empire.
The owner of the Ohio-based Condado Tacos will open his second Steel City location this fall at the former Tender Bar + Kitchen in Lawrenceville.
“I love that neighborhood,” Kahn says of the trendy stretch of Butler Street where the old Arsenal Bank building, dating back to the 1890s, is located. “We looked at that exact space two years ago and when it became free we jumped on it.”
Pittsburgh got its first taste of the company’s Mexican fare in March 2017, when Condado debuted on Liberty Avenue downtown. That location is open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Kahn opened the first Condado in 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. Since then, the brand has added three more Columbus-area eateries (with two more expected to open this fall), a spot in Cincinnati and one on the way in Indianapolis.
Using a Scantron-style menu cards you fill in with a pencil, customers can build their own tacos – which are priced between $3.50 and $4.50 – from a wide selection of toppings, proteins, shells, salsas, cheeses and sauces.
Not into D.I.Y.-food? Choose from a list of Condado specialties, such as the Dutch Dragon, which features guacamole, grilled portobellos, corn salsa, pickled jalapenos, jicama, tomatoes and salsa verde wrapped in a hard corn and soft flour shell.
In addition to tacos, the menu features various dips, including a Tuscan-style guacamole made with artichoke hearts, basil, balsamic and queso fresco.
Wash it all down with a house-made Margarita or Sangria available by the glass or pitcher.
“Affordability, customization, and, of course, freshness have been the key to our success,” Kahn says.
An opening date isn’t set yet, but Kahn hopes to give a celebratory toast to the Lawrenceville restaurant by Nov. 1, which is the Mexican Day of the Dead.
Until then, his staff is busy customizing the site to suit its cantina aesthetic. Before opening Tender in 2013, the previous owners gutted and renovated the building, keeping the stately feel of the former bank building and adding sleek style.
Things will soon change; Kahn says the main granite bar will be replaced in favor of one more befitting of a Mexican joint. Street-style artists, including local talent, will paint and stencil Day of the Dead-inspired designs on the walls.
There will be indoor seating for 160 and a small outdoor patio for another 20 guests.
“We try to make each space different,” Kahn says. “About a month-and-a-half out, we’ll get together and go over what makes Lawrenceville special and create a theme.”
Kahn added that, in the near future, he’s hoping to expand into the suburbs of Pittsburgh: “We see a lot of potential,” he says.