Duolingo, the East Liberty-based language learning company with the green owl mascot, opened its first full restaurant on Tuesday, May 16, on the ground floor of its Penn Avenue headquarters.
Duo’s Taqueria launched last year as a takeout window and has now been expanded to include a 2,600-square-foot dining room and bar that can seat 130 patrons.
Spanish is Duolingo’s most popular language to learn in the U.S., the company says, and the restaurant is a way for people to practice their conversational speaking skills. All the waitstaff speak both English and Spanish.
“Our goal with this restaurant is to give back to the Pittsburgh community by providing the
best Mexican food in the city,” said Duolingo CEO and co-founder Luis von Ahn in a statement.
“And we know food is a wonderful way to get people excited about learning and speaking Spanish.”
Like the takeout window, Duo’s Taqueria features cuisine inspired by Mexico City, with homemade nixtamal tortillas, and dishes including tacos al pastor, ceviche vuelve la vida, and barbacoa de borrego with lamb from Elysian Fields Farm in Waynesburg.
The full-service bar serves authentic Mexican cocktails including margaritas, palomas and tres leches punch.
The menu was crafted under the guidance of taqueria chef Marcella Ogrodnik, a Pittsburgh native whose culinary experience includes working at restaurants in New York, Spain and California. She previously who operated a food stand called Café Agnes that sold Salvadoran cuisine at farmers’ markets around Pittsburgh.
The gamified learning that Duolingo is known for is part of the restaurant as well; if English-speaking diners want to try to order en español, they can flip their drink coasters to the Spanish side.
Tokens around the restaurants provide animated language tips for patrons who tap them with their phones. And guests can play a Spanish vocabulary quiz game at their table.
Duo’s Taqueria is now open at 5906 Penn Avenue. Hours are Tuesday through Thursday, from 5 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.