Duolingo Is Opening a Taqueria That Helps Diners Practice Their Spanish

Customers can opt into the "Español Challenge" for a discount on their order.

At some point during the past two-plus years, it seems like all of us dipped our toes (or nos orteils or le dita dei piedi) into Duolingo, the free language app that allows you to learn more than 40 different languages, and periodically disappoint its cartoon owl mascot in the process. For users who opt for its Spanish lessons, some of the first words you learn are about foods and restaurants, including things like "meat," "cheese" and "the check."

Duo's Taqueria
Courtesy of Duolingo

That kind of vocab will come in handy at Duo's Taqueria, a take-out restaurant that is scheduled to open right beside Duolingo's headquarters in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood. According to Pittsburgh magazine, the restaurant will be helmed by chef Marcella Ogrodnik and the options for its Mexico City-style street tacos will include adobo-marinated pork, brisket, chorizo, and tripe, in addition to a vegan-friendly taco. The sides will include beans, guac, salsas, and a dessert option.

"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," Duolingo's senior experience designer, Charlie Barber, told Next Pittsburgh.

And, because we're talking about Duolingo, of course there's a language-learning tie-in. Customers will be asked if they'd like to take a crack at the "Español Challenge" in order to score a 10- to 20-percent discount on their order, or even a free item. "It's a good way to incentivize someone to get out of their comfort zone and learn a little bit about speaking another language," Ogrodnick said. (Don't panic: the Challenge is just a single question, and chances are you'll nail it.)

Duo's Taqueria
Courtesy of Duolingo

This isn't the first time that Duolingo has combined food with its language offerings. Last March, the company partnered with five delis in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Pittsburgh to help promote the launch of its Yiddish course. Anyone who went into one of the participating delis and placed their order in Yiddish — or gave it a really good try — could leave with a free bagel.

"Yiddish is as interesting historically and culturally as it is linguistically; it's one of many languages spoken across the Jewish diaspora, and in its very vocabulary and grammar you can trace Ashkenazi Jewish communities' stories of immigration, survival and adaptation," Michaela Kron, Duolingo's Lead PR and Social Media Manager, said in a statement at the time. "Although Yiddish is considered an endangered language, it's one that's still alive and lively."

And in February, Duolingo coordinated with several Haitian-run restaurants in New York City in Miami to promote the arrival of the Haitain Creole language on its platform. Customers who dropped into the participating eateries were eligible to score a free month of the app's premium Duolingo Plus service.

Back in Pittsburgh, Duo's Cantina is scheduled to start serving its first street tacos in mid-June. It's currently hiring for several open positions and, as you might expect, it's hopeful that its servers will be bilingual in both English and Spanish. Nobody wants to disappoint that owl.

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