I am pretty much happy anywhere you stuff me full of tacos and tequila. If you don’t share the same disposition, we probably won’t get along. There is no shortage of tequila/taco palaces in NYC. My favorite of the bunch are the Empellon restaurants from owner & chef Alex Stupak.
Stupak’s story is very interesting. He was a pastry chef at Manhattan’s WD-50 and Chicago’s Alinea. He had never cooked Mexican food when he decided to open his restaurants. He opened Empellon Taqueria in 2011, Cocina in 2012 , and Al Pastor in 2014. Since then he has enjoyed great success including being named Food & Wine’s best new chef & being nominated for James Beard awards.
Taqueria in the West Village and Cocina in the East Village are fairly similar to me as far as the concept. Both are contemporary and modern. The vibe is hip and loud with tons of young people. Dark wood, dim lighting, good music. At Taqueria there are several dining rooms and a large bar for dining. You will see some of the most colorful, exciting paintings covering the walls of the spaces. In the Cocina location you will find a long space, open in the front (weather permitting), and a semi open kitchen. The space is great for large groups or a date.
At both locations Stupak provides an elevated Mexican dining experience. Dishes are beautifully presented. You will find reinvented versions of the Mexican food you love. The tacos come with high(er) end ingratiates like softshell crab. lobster, and tempura fish on fresh flour tortillas. They have a phenomenal guacamole at both locations, coming with a staggering 7 house made salsas ranging in heat. You can round out your meal with any number of small, flavor packed starters & snacks. Don’t forget the margaritas. Lots of margaritas. Here’s what we had:
Guacamole With 7 Salsas - smoked cashew, arbol
Beets with Hibiscus and Brown Butter Crema
Octopus with Parsnip, Pumpkin Seeds, and Salsa Papanteca
Lobster with Sweet Corn and Epazote
Fish Tempura with Cabbage and Lime Mayonnaise
Chicken with Crema and Salsa Verde
SPANISH RED PRAWNS with chintestle mayonnaise
SQUID with black mole, nugget potatoes and chorizo mayonnaise
CHICKEN with celery, pipian and pepitas
OXTAIL with hot sauce and maggi vegetables
Address: 105 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003
Address: 230 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10014