No chef has made his or her mark in the Big Apple for Mexican food quite like Alex Stupak. I’ve been to his Empellon Cocina a couple of times and liked what he was doing in terms of bringing Mexican cuisine forward to the modern world, not restricted to boring guacamoles and tacos but really showcasing the diversity of the country’s flavor and texture. I’ve heard about his casual project on St. Marks that is a bit more modest in serving almost exclusively tacos for a while, but only recently did I make a visit with my girlfriend.
The menu at Empellon Al Pastor is really simple, although it has expanded a bit from almost exclusively tacos. It’s meant to be a casual operation where you can get your food in five minutes max. I felt the guacamole was more or less pedestrian, but it is really in the tacos department that this place shines. Chicken and chipotle taco had the nice combination of flavor, and the namesake al pastor taco also was quite delicious with the way the pork worked with chopped onions and cilantro. Surprisingly, however, the best taco I had tried that night was not even meat based. I instantly fell in love with mushroom and epazote (a type of Mexican herb) taco the moment I took the first bite. It was wonderfully complex in flavor and texture without any sense of overloads of ingredients. I actually wouldn’t mind having vegetarian tacos all the time if they were all this good!
Empellon Al Pastor doesn’t take reservations but you would have no problem getting a seat somewhere, either at the bar area up front or the taqueria area in the back. It’s always a good idea to complement your meal with a glass or two of strong margaritas that the bar serves. The space feels more like a casual hang-out spot for college kids than a serious restaurant, but if you’re looking for a quick fix on tacos, Empellon Al Pastor definitely brings something unique to the table.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
Address: 132 St. Marks Place, New York, NY 10009
Telephone: (212) 367-0999