Duolingo, a popular language-learning app that encourages users to try their hand at more than 40 languages, has opened a taqueria in East Liberty, near the company’s Pittsburgh headquarters.
The take-out-only restaurant offers what the company refers to as, “Mexico City inspired tacos with a focus on fresh nixtamal tortillas made in house.” This includes a variety of tacos made with pork, chorizo and tripe, as well as chips, guacamole and a selection of salsas.
The app became especially popular during the pandemic, when many people decided to practice their bilingualism during the lockdowns. The new restaurant is mostly indistinguishable from a standard taqueria, with one twist: customers who participate in the “Español Challenge” are given anywhere from a 10-20% discount on their food. Some customers may even be rewarded with a free menu item.
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In an interview with Next Pittsburgh, Charlie Barber, Duolingo’s senior experience designer, said, “Duolingo is a Pittsburgh company, so we wanted to give back to our city with amazing food and discounts to show people that learning a new language can be fun and rewarding.”
Duo’s Taqueria is led by chef and Pittsburgh native Marcella Ogrodnik, a Salvadoran chef who previously ran a pop-up restaurant in the city called Café Agnes, according to Pittsburgh Magazine. Speaking about the “Español Challenge,” Ogrodnik said, “It’s a good way to incentivize someone to get out of their comfort zone and learn a little bit about speaking another language.”
For the restaurant’s shyer customers, fear not: getting the discount means answering just one question in Spanish with a simple response. Responses will be judged by a built-in microphone that analyzes the speaker’s mastery of their Spanish-language skills, reports Kidsburgh.
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Although Duolingo put up the initial capital to get the restaurant open, the hope is that it will eventually operate as an independent entity separate from the company.
According to Food and Wine, this isn’t the first restaurant-based endeavor Duolingo has pursued in recent years. In March of 2021, Duolingo partnered with a handful of delis, one in five major American cities including Pittsburgh, to promote their Yiddish course. Any customer who attempted to order in Yiddish would be rewarded with a free bagel.
Similarly, Duolingo worked with a handful of Haitian restaurants in New York and Miami to promote the app’s Haitian-Creole language lessons. During this promotion, customers were awarded a one-month subscription to the Duolingo Plus service if they patronized any of the restaurants involved.
Duo’s Taqueria in Pittsburgh is now open for business, and is open from Wednesday through Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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