Tasty Tacos at Empellon al Pastor, Now Open in the East Village

The beautifully painted murals on the ceiling at Empellón al Pastor in the East Village.

Chef Alex Stupak has been making me very good food for a bunch of years now. I had the great pleasure of dining at the seminal wd-50 when Stupak was the pastry chef there. When he went rogue and starting opening up Mexican restaurants (which seemed strange at the time; less so now), Stupak served me some excellent mariscos and even better tacos at Empellon Tacqueria in the West Village; then mounds of the best guacamole available anywhere in the city, as well as plenty of awesome tacos, at Empellon Concina in the East Village; and now, at his brand new and predictably packed Empellon Al Pastor on St. Marks, Stupak is turning out some amazing, you guessed it, TACOS, including a truly remarkable version of the joint’s namesake creation. I’ve eaten their twice during Al Pastor’s opening week, and am heading back for more as soon as possible.

Delicious pork and pineapple tacos from Alex Stupak's newest taco spot in the East Village

Alex Stupak’s East Village Mexican Masterpice

Stupak’s Al Pastor has all the ingredients you’d expect: spit-roasted pork and pineapple, a bit of raw onion, a few sprigs of cilantro, all piled upon one–and only one–of the chef’s new corn tortillas (he makes flour tortillas at his other spots). So why is it so great? For one thing, the pork is perfect: sweet, juicy, chewy, fatty, charred, deep, rich, bit of smoke. And it’s complemented beautifully by the acid funk of the roasted fruit, and even more beautifully by Stupak’s signature salsas, squiggled on top. This is a masterpiece.

Sumptuous steak tacos from Empellón al Pastor, Alex Stupak's new East Village restaurant

Emplellon Al Pastor: More Than Just Tacos

And everything else here is nearly as good! My second favorite taco was the earthy Mushroom with pasilla chiles which, like the Al Pastor, offered both breadth and depth of flavors. This is exciting food. More tacos: the Chicken Chipotle and the Steak with Caramelized Onions were less thrilling, the meat a little dry on both, but given Stupak’s supreme skills, and the love he puts into his ventures, I’m going to chalk that up to getting slammed opening week, and try these two again soon. Plus another Al Pastor taco. Or two. #obsessed

Fresh-made guacamole from Alex Stupak's Empellón al Pastor on St. Marks Street in the East Village

More Beer, Guac and Tequilla Please..

There are also several sides to be had; the two I’ve tried were good–the guacamole and the greens with chorizo–but the tacos are the real stars here. The vibe at Al Pastor, as befits its location in Alphabet City, is total dive bar. You order at a counter, grab a seat wherever you can find one, and place your numbered flag on your table so the server knows where to plop down your paper plates of food. There are graffiti-ish tags and murals all over the walls and ceiling, the “jukebox” plays rock and roll, the booze tends toward margaritas (there are a number of standards and a few curveballs on the menu), cerveza (bottles, cans, and draft), and micheladas, which are beers “enhanced” with things like yuzu, or habanero, or beef broth, or um, gin. In other words, this place is pretty much guaranteed to be a smash success.


Menu and More Information on Empellon Al Pastor

Al Pastor is located on the corner of St. Marks Place and Avenue A, and is open daily from noon until midnight, except for Friday and Saturday, when it’s open until 2:00 a.m. For more information on Empellon al Pastor check out the complete food, beer, margarita, and michelada menus.

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