Tango Café

By | April 7, 2006

Tango Café
5806 Forward Ave
Squirrel Hill, 15217
Sun-Th 10-10; F-Sat 10-11

Forward Avenue has a lot of character with its funky little stretch of shops. There is the movie theater, where you to think that Terminator 2 must be playing in the next theater over until you realize its just people bowling in the upstairs alley. Then there is Pizza Amier, who now refuses to deliver to my friends who live up very many stairs…because of the stairs. There is that crazy real estate building that is entirely covered in a dark wood façade made of diagonally placed slats, and which has a forest of houseplants covering all the windows in the place. A European grocer, a funky antique store, the apartment building with the pointy screened-in porch….Forward Ave is a veritable sketchbook of genius. With this as the landscape you’d think it would be tough to fit in, but Tango Café just adds to the charm.

Tango Café specializes in bringing Argentinean culture to Pittsburgh. They have traditional sandwiches and empanadas (neither of which I have tried yet though I am excited to) as well as imported specialties, like candy bars, maté tea (uber-caffeinated), and dulce de leche. They also sell the gourds and special straws that one traditionally uses to drink maté. You just throw the maté leaves into the gourd with your water and let it brew. Then you use this special straw that is open on one end and closed on the other. You put the closed end in and sip the tea through numerous tiny holes poked into the closed end, which prevents the tea leaves from being sucked up. It is a totally cool way of getting around the tea leaf problem!

For dessert-time, Tango Café is a great place to go. ‘Hot Chocolate’ is on the menu, but if you want the real Argentinian hot chocolate deal, you have to order what is called a ‘Submarino’. A Submarino is steamed milk poured over a bar of chocolate in your glass. You have to sit there for a little while stirring it up and making sure the melted chocolate is throughout your drink. It turns out that you have to wait that long anyway, because the steamed milk is so hot that it would burn your lips off. It is an interactive drink that makes you take life slow, and I love that. I found that this Submarino could probably use about twice as much chocolate to begin with, but still I loved it because I had a pretty chocolaty pastry. In general, I find that a chocolate dessert is not a good pairing with a chocolate drink, as the competition can cancel out all the good flavors. (This would be why I think Oreos are better with regular milk) So having a more milky drink went well with my pastry.

Speaking of my pastry, I want to be over-joyously enthusiastic about the delectable pastries they serve up at Tango Café. Firstly, they make all the little cookies and whatnot themselves, making traditional Argentinean offerings with some imported ingredients. I had a cañoncito, a cone of dulce de leche with a chocolate top that was decadent and delicious. My friend Jill B. had two big meringue puffs, held together by dulce de leche and chocolate. That was really wonderful, as the meringue was as fresh as possible, and still a little soft! There are a variety of other cookies and little pastry thingies, with and without the dulce de leche, all of which look delicious. The only bad thing about all this is that I am obsessed with dulce de leche, and with such easy access I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep myself from going to Tango Café all the time.

Finally, Tango Café is integrated into the neighborhood in a refreshing way. They allow a knitting group to sit and knit for a few hours every once in a while. On the night we were there, a couple of fiddlers showed up and the barista-chic broke out her guitar and they all started playing music together. It also seems to be a haven for Spanish speakers in Pittsburgh. For sure, you’ll hear more Spanish being spoken than English. It is an amazing little environment, and if you are there on a night like we were, with Argentinean musicians and Spanish language abounding, you might feel like you aren’t in Pittsburgh at all, but on vacation instead.

Pastries (especially with dulce de leche)

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