The restaurant is run by a trio of food industry vets — Rebecca Avila; her husband, Henry; and their business partner Brian Magaritz — who all have experience in local kitchens.
The three owners understand what sells. “No one can say no to tacos and fajitas,” says Avila. At the same time, they want to work in more authentic pieces of various Latin American cuisines. (On the website, they call their menu a mix of “Mexican cuisine and a variety of Latin food from South America.) Avila’s husband is Honduran and has already been weaving in traditional dishes, like flautas and sweet plantains.
For my first visit to El Sabor, I went with a few Mexican standards: carne asada tacos, chiles rellenos, and a what-would-be-made-tableside-if-not-for-COVID guacamole.
It was all middle-of-the-road in taste, save for an accidental order of salsa verde, which kicked with flavor. (I ended up mixing the salsa verde into almost every dish; it added an especially perfect zing to the fresh, but flat, guacamole.)
The tacos, which I ordered Tijuana style (they also have a Pittsburgh-style option on the menu too, made with flour tortillas topped with lettuce and cheese), were just slightly off. The mix of the corn tortilla, cabbage, onions, and queso fresco was missing something; I wanted a pinch of cilantro or the zesty flavor of a really raw onion. The mild flavor of my carne asada — done quite well and was easily my favorite part of the tacos — was masked by the other elements.
I had a similar feeling towards the chiles rellenos. The cheese sauce that smothered my expertly-cooked peppers stuffed with ground beef overwhelmed the dish; it was too rich.
El Sabor is one of the many restaurants that has been forced to push back its opening date due to COVID-19 restrictions. The delay, paired with recently fast-changing restaurant regulations as Allegheny County’s cases spiked, has prolonged El Sabor’s soft-opening phase; Avila says they are still working out kinks and tweaking recipes. The restaurant has the bones of a good menu, and I’m excited to return in a few months to taste the changes.
El Sabor Latin Kitchen. 4100 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. elsaborpgh.com