New York City has recently come a long way with regards to the taco. A couple of years ago, we were just on the hunt for a decent taco. These days, with the recent influx of new options like Los Tacos No. 1, Otto’s, Taqueria Diana and Tacos Morelos among others, the bar has been raised. Well, there’s another new addition taco enthusiasts need to get on their radars immediately. Empellón Al Pastor is the latest in unlikely Mexican EEEEEATS hero Alex Stupak’s stable of hot sauce jams.
Stupak is obsessed with the glorious taco named Al Pastor, which involves pork shoulder that’s been cooked on a spit, with some pineapple in the mix for good measure. There is no juicier, no more flavorful, no more satisfying taco in the world, in our opinion. At Empellón Al Pastor, they’re doing right by the spit.
The set up is great too: you order food at the counter on one end, and alcoholic beverages on the other. The place is actually really a bar more than anything, with 17 beers on tap, an entire menu worth of Micheladas, and more mezcal and tequila than you’ll know what to do with. They ship corn in from Mexico to make their own masa for corn tortillas on site, and no one in NYC makes better salsas than Stupak. They’re incredible. In addition to a pristine Al Pastor taco, the beef with caramelized onions is excellent as well.
New York will never be San Diego or LA or Austin or San Francisco or Mexico for that matter, but we’ve definitely got some legitimate taco options to choose from now, few of which are better than Empellón Al Pastor.
Up until now, the best one we’d had in Manhattan is up on E. 117th Street at Taco Mix, but they use store-bought flour tortillas, and corn tortillas make all the difference. This is a bite of wet, juicy, pornographic taco heaven right here. Our only complaint here is that the serving size is inconsistent. Al Pastor tacos are not meant to be overstuffed - they need to be just right. However, we’ve been upwards of six times now, and sometimes the amount of meat is way too skimpy.
Aside from the Al Pastor, The other two tacos we like a ton are the Beef and Caramelized Onions (pictured), and the Red Chile Pork. Good news for vegetarians, they have not one, but two options for you: mushroom and cactus. The chicken we wouldn’t necessarily order again, and the beef tongue/tripe combo is there for those who get down like that.
Chunky, salty, creamy - it’s not as good as the pistachio guacamole they serve around the corner at Cocina, but it gets the job done. They make their own chips in house, which is nice, but they’re a little tough.
The only large plate item on the menu is disappointing. They serve up a big beefy short rib, which is lacking in flavor and overall seasoning, and you can make your own tacos out of the meat. Cute, but not as delicious as it should be.