Tacos

Empellon Al Pastor


Overview:

The Empellon group is the shit. All three totally distinct locations & concepts, all totally the shit. Al Pastor is the most casual of the bunch, decked out with floor-to-ceiling graffiti art the likes of which I will never be talented enough to reproduce. The tequila heavy cocktail menu comes with a great bar food menu to boot. Once serving just tacos, Alex Stupak has expanded his offering to include tons of alcohol friendly items. There is excellent shrimp ceviche, chicken wings with peanuts & salsa macha and baby back rib carnitas. Choose from 8 different taco varieties, the best of which is a cheeseburger taco. All this from a man who worked as a pastry chef previously for a decade; pretty amazing. 

Information:

Address:  132 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

Phone:  (646) 833-7039

Neighborhood: East Village

Website: https://www.empellon.com/al-pastor/

Price: $-$$


 

Dekalb Market Hall


Overview

New York's newest food hall has arrived, this time in downtown Brooklyn. The ambitious project houses 40 vendors with a massive variety in cuisine types. You will find famous NYC staples like Katz's & The Arepa Lady as well as many newcomers. Whether you are craving poke, paella or pierogies, your needs will be satisfied here. I would opt for the more adventurous items and try Korean steamed buns from Bunsmith , grilled Pakistani meats at BK Jani, or Vietnamese plates from Bunker. The hall is also equipped with a show kitchen, cocktail bar & daily live programming.

Information:

Address  445 Albee Square W, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Phone:    (914) 288-8100

Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn/Fort Greene  

Website: http://dekalbmarkethall.com/

Price: $-$$


 

Empellon Midtown


Overview

Chef Alex Stupak has opened the fourth location of his Empellon empire. While each venue is unique, the new Midtown location is vastly different than the relaxed downtown iterations of his concept. In a very Midtown-esque fashion the restaurant is sleek, elegant, and grand. The crowd is a bit older, filled with men in business suits and tourists in the know. The menu is a largely upscale departure from Stupak's casual taquerias in the East & West Village. You'll see a wide selection of unique tacos with unexpected ingredients like pastrami and sweetbreads. Entrees are refined versions of comfort food like massive short ribs with olives and grapes or fideo with peas. I'd recommend making a meal out of the starters like the insanely creative crab & uni nachos or sticky rice duck tamales. Oh, and obviously don't skip the tequila. 

Information:

Address  510 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10022

Phone:  (212) 858-9365

Neighborhood: Midtown East

Website:  https://www.empellon.com/

Price: $$$

Good for: tequila, groups, somewhere finally decent to eat in midtown


 

2nd City


Information:

Address  525 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

Phone:   (917) 639-3262

Neighborhood: West Village

Website: https://www.2ndcityusa.com/

Price: $-$$

 

Overview

I met Jordan Andino on my birthday, and a happy birthday it was! He is the wide smiling, charming personality behind 2nd City. Jordan's colorful persona is reflected in his brightly colored restaurant and menu. The space is super tiny with just 12 bar seats, and you'll most certainly wait in line but it will be 100% worth it. The menu was first described to me as "Asian ingredients in Mexican vessels" which is pretty spot on. There are Filipino ingredients wrapped up in bao buns, tacos, burritos, and rice bowls. The fast casual menu is crazy flavorful and constantly updated with weekly specials to keep things interesting. If you want to eat literal crack, head there on the weekends for the plan b-rito which is a flour tortilla stuffed with longanisa, eggs, cheese, ham, avocado, bacon and salsa. 


 

Empellon Brunch

BAKED EGG WHITE - Hoja Santa Smoked Salsa Ranchera

 

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CHILAQUILES VERDES - with Black Beans and a Sunny Side Egg

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CHURRO FRENCH TOAST - with Smoked Maple Syrup

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SCRAMBLED EGG FUNDIDO - with Potato, Chorizo, Salsa De Arbol

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Short Rib Pastrami with Pickled Cabbage and Mustard Seed Salsa

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BRAISED BACON, EGG AND CHEESE TACO

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Fish Tempura with Cabbage and Lime Mayonnaise

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Address: 230 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10014

Phone(212) 367-0999

www.empellon.com/taqueria/

La Esquina

I always just feel extra fucking cool when I’m at La Esquina. Whether you’re upstairs on the patio with all the beautiful people, or downstairs in the secret dining room, you know that you’re hip at least for the day. The upstairs taqueria features a casual café and relatively cheap prices. Those in the know may ask to dine downstairs. If granted entree, you will be lead Good Fellas style down the steps through the kitchen, and into a very chic and dark Mexican brasserie.

There is a massive menu of margaritas and other cocktails to keep you lubricated. To share, you can sample expertly charred Mexican street corn, tart tuna ceviche, and grilled octopus tostadas. For taquitos, try the slow-cooked pulled berkshire pork,  citrus-rubbed rotisserie chicken, or the braised lamb shoulder. It is a large menu meant for sharing with an elevated presentation. Here’s what we had:

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Guacamole & Chips

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Queso Fundido Queso Chihuahua, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Chile de Arbol, Plantain Chips

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Elotes Callejeros Grilled Mexican Street Corn

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Sope Masa Cakes, Refried Pinto Beans, Avocado, Nopalitos, Queso Fresco and Salsa Verde

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Pulpo Grilled Octopus, Mayonesa de Azafran

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Tinga de Pollo Slow-cooked Chicken, Avocado, Chipotle

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Camarones BLT Shrimp with Garlic Butter, Chipotle Piloncillo Bacon, Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa, Pico de Gallo and Shredded Lettuce

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Pollo Rostizado Citrus-rubbed Rotisserie Chicken, Cilantro, Salsa Verde 

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Pollo Rostizado Citrus-rubbed Rotisserie Chicken, Cilantro, Salsa Verde 

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Address: 114 Kenmare St, New York, NY 10012

Phone(646) 613-7100

Menu: esquinanyc.com

No Fun

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“I didn’t even know they had food!” This is the response I mostly receive when I tell people I recently dined at No Fun on Ludlow in the Lower East Side. Well folks, they indeed have food to pair with the booze at this neighborhood bar and it is certainly not your average bar food. 

I love a bar that tries to go the extra mile. Sure, you can get some cocktails at No Fun but that’s not unique in this city. You can melt into the eyes of their beautiful bartender (seriously, I love you if you’re reading this lets run away together) and also have some great Mexican food while you’re at it. The ingredients are fresh, everything is made in house, and the presentation is more beautiful than anyone would need it to be.

Their version of a torta comes on fresh bread and is stacked to the ceiling with juicy chicken, cheese, avocado and beans. The enchiladas are slightly spicy and swimming in a rich mixture of chipotle sauce and lime crema. The stars here are the tacos. There is an insane variety of chicken, fish, steak, and shrimp all with varied toppings. We ate our body weight in tacos and each one was unique and flavorful. Do yourself a favor and order some food next time you are boozing here. Don’t forget to sexually objectify the bartender. Here’s what we had:

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Chips, Salsa, Queso house made chips

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Nachos house made chips, spicy beef, crema, monterey jack, salsa raja, guacamole.

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Quesadilla oaxaca cheese, guacamole, lime crema, chicken

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Enchiladas Roja chicken, chipotle, lime crema, monterey jack, rice, black beans

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Torta chicken, black beans, avocado, tomato, oaxaca cheese

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Tacos chicken, steak, avocado, shrimp, tinga de polio, crispy fish or grilled fish

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Elote Corn cotija, cilantro, chili aioli

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Address: 161 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002

Phone(212) 477-1616

nofun-nyc.com/

Cosme

Photo: NY Times

Photo: NY Times


If I'm being honest, I didn't have high hopes for Cosme. The phrase "fine dining Mexican" feels oxymoronic to me, and further more, who needs it? Me, I need it, because HOLY SHIT this was great. Upon entering Cosme you'll notice that the decoration is so minimal the space could be described as quite cold. That doesn't bother me. I often find, psychologically, that when a restaurant is dolled up like a Christmas tree it only serves to take away from the food and service.

The staff could not be more kind or attentive. We had 4 courses and I barely noticed as they cleared and reset each course for 12 people. The menu is packed with variety. Every dish is crammed with flavor, without having a single extra or unnecessary ingredient. I read familiar words on the menu like "tamale" and "enchilada" but they were entirely reimagined. Every flavor combination was new and unexpected without feeling forced. In a city where we are inundated with great food, and everyone eats out 5 times a week, this place shines out among the landscape of other NYC restaurants. Here's what I shared with my buddies from Wine 'n Dine : 

Uni tostada, avocado, bone marrow salsa, cucumber

Sliced raw fish, poblano, budhha’s hand, finger lime, avocado

Blue Shrimp a la veracruzana, garlic oil, olives, avocado 

Octopus cocktail, celery, chipotle mayo

Duck enchiladas, red mole 

Potato tamal, pasilla mixe salsa, cabbage

Egg sope, chorizo, refried black beans, queso fresco 

Husk meringue, corn mousse

Cosme 

Address: 35 E 21st St, New York, NY 10010

Phone:(212) 913-9659

 cosmenyc.com