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Interior bar of Duo's Taqueria.
Open spaces to facilitate interaction. Photo: Duo's.

‘Duo's Taqueria,’ a place to learn Spanish with a full belly in Pittsburgh, PA

The restaurant and bar created by the popular Duolingo language app is now open to the public.

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Duolingo, the language learning platform, recently announced the opening of ‘Duo's Taqueria,’ next to its headquarters in East Liberty, Pittsburgh, PA.

Originally opened as a take-out window in 2022, ‘Duo’s Taqueria is now reinvented as a full-service restaurant and bar offering an expanded Mexico City-inspired menu with a focus on fresh, homemade nixtamal tortillas created by Salvadoran chef Marcella Ogrodnik.

Luis von Ahn, CEO and co-founder of Duolingo, stated in a press release:

After the success of our takeout window, we’re so excited to re-open Duo’s Taqueria as a full restaurant and bar.

Learning Languages and Celebrating Cultures

Each of Duo's spaces, as well as the customer service experience, were designed to offer language learning opportunities.

Its service staff is bilingual, and flip-over drink coasters allow guests to indicate whether they want to order in English or Spanish.

Additionally, Duo's highlights that its customers can also receive animated language learning tips by scanning tokens (using near-field communication technology) mounted throughout the restaurant, and can play a fun tabletop quiz with friends at any time.

‘El Menú’

Noting that the recently expanded menu still has favorites like tacos al pastor, with the opening of its new spaces also came sharing platters, entrees and desserts.

Chef's favorites include the 'vuelve la vida' ceviche, made with striped bass and avocado, as well as the ‘barbacoa de borrego’ with lamb sourced from Elysian Fields Farm, served with ‘consomé’ and homemade tortillas.

To complement the customer’s experience, the kitchen recommends trying the sweet cocoa tamale topped with whipped cream of corn and a rich Mexican caramel called cajeta.

The bar also offers classic Mexican drinks like margaritas and palomas, as well as modern cocktails from the heart of Mexico City's bar culture, like tres leches punch.

Our goal with this restaurant is to give back to the Pittsburgh community by providing the best Mexican food in the city. And we know food is a wonderful way to get people excited about learning and speaking Spanish. At Duo’s Taqueria, practicing a little Spanish can be delicious and rewarding,” added von Ahn.

About the Chef

Since it opened its 'pick up to go' window, Duolingo highlighted that Ogrodnik's selection was based not only on her culinary skills focused on traditional Salvadoran cuisine, but also on her knowledge of the area and her special relationship with the farmer’s markets. 

“Marcella Ogrodnik is proving to Pittsburgh that a chef can brandish culinary gusto from a table at a farmers market. And, Ogrodnik is doing more than serving some of the best food in the city at Café Agnes, her year-old pop-up. She is telling the story of her Salvadoran heritage through her cooking,” highlights a Pittsburgh Magazine review.

 Salvadoran chef Marcella Ogrodnik. Photo: Duo's.
 Salvadoran chef Marcella Ogrodnik. Photo: Duo's.

Ogrodnik, who has dual citizenship of the United States and El Salvador, told the same outlet: “That was my initial goal, to bring an awareness of Latin culture in a positive light,” Ogrodnik says. “Food is a vessel for talking about culture. Bringing more understanding of El Salvador through its food is something that I’m proud of.”

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Ogrodnik has worked at well-known restaurants, including Cure in Pittsburgh, French Laundry and Ramen Shop in Northern California, and High Street On Market in Philadelphia.

One of the highlights of the Salvadoran chef's kitchen is the nixtamalized corn dough that she grinds on her own and uses to make her tortillas and tamales.

Nixtamalization is a technique for treating corn with an alkaline compound, such as slaked lime (calcium hydroxide), that dates back thousands of years. This process alters the structure of the grain to make it more nutritious and digestible.

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