Creamy queso at Calavara. Photo courtesy of Calavara Tap + Taco.

The owners of Downtown Pittsburgh’s Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room are heading North with a South-of-the-border-style restaurant.

Calavera Tap + Taco is expected to open in the North Hills in mid-November.

Executive chef Justin Schlotter, who helms the kitchen at Proper, is overseeing the new Mexican menu. There will be SoCal-inspired tacos and traditional dishes featuring house-made corn tortillas, spit-roasted meats, fresh seafood and vegetables cooked on a wood-fired grill, 20 (mostly local) beer taps, specialty cocktails and a variety of tequilas and mezcals.

“We were always making Italian food, so we started cooking a lot of Mexican-style dishes at home,” owner Suzanne Hrach says. “My best friend used to live in Arizona. I’ve been to California, Arizona and Mexico at least 20 times in the last 15 years. I’m very interested in the food scenes in those areas. It’s the stuff I like to cook. It’s the stuff I like to drink. I rolled that into this concept.”

Located along Route 19 on a one-acre plot in front of Warrendale Village — home of suburban dining hotspots Off the Hook and Il Pizzaiolo — the 5,000-square-foot establishment can accommodate about 250 guests, both indoors and on a large patio, which will open in the spring.

Calavera means “skull” in Spanish, so the colorful noggins are a central theme. Pittsburgh-based artist Brian Holderman, who is responsible for the striking octopus mural inside of täkō Downtown, designed the company’s logo and will paint it on the outside of the building.

Hrach and her husband Jason — who will be running the beer program at Calavera, like he does at Proper  — imported ceramic tiles, chandeliers and tin lanterns from Mexico to complete the aesthetic.

They opened Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room in 2013 to bring hand-crafted pizza, craft beer and upscale cocktails to the Cultural District. Their Warrendale operation will be more family-friendly, with affordably priced menu items for adults and children.

The Wexford residents are excited to share their love of good food with their friends and neighbors.

“We love to cook,” Hrach says. “That’s what we do. That’s our idea of a nice night; stay at home and just cook.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.