Alex Stupak is not exactly the kind of person you expect to be running a mini Mexican food empire. The Masschussets born chef who has been working as a chef since he was a teenager is now one of the most lauded chefs in New York and all four of his restaurants are turning out authentic and innovative Mexican food.
After culinary school and cooking at some of the most prestigious restaurants in Chicago and Boston, Stupak became the pastry chef at Wylie Dufresne's molecular gastronomy temple WD-50. But it was not truly what he wanted to cook. With inspiration from his Mexican-American wife and trips down to Mexico, Stupak fell in love with the cuisine and decided to try his hand at it in the Big Apple. Many critics and food writers thought it was absurd that a Caucasian guy from New England could be a serious contender for a great Mexcian chef. Yet since 2012, he he has had success with four Emepllón restaurants: the Taqueria, Cocina, the brand new Midtown location, and Empellón al Pastor.
Emepllón al Pastor is the most casual of the bunch with a rollicking bar serving up great cocktails with a focus on tequila and mezcal and a taco counter in the back banging out classic and creative combinations.
The establishment is named for one of our favorite tacos - the al pastor. Generally, when you see al pastor tacos on a menu in New York, it means it is marinated pork with pineapples. But the traditional way to prepare al pastor comes from the Lebanese immigrants in Mexico who cut meat off a rotating spit. That's how the pork is cut here with a juicy pineapple roasting on top of the spinning pork. It can't be beat.
More recently, Stupak introduced a gimmicky-sounding cheeseburger taco that is absolutely delicious. It tastes like the lovechild of a cheeseburger and a taco featuring grilled chopped meat topped with gooey Chihuahua cheese, tomatoes, avocado, and ketchup.
Other tacos include a beer braised pork tongue, chorizo, and noaples (cactus). And you can wash it all down with a selection of playful margaritas including a spicy cilantro pineapple option.
Not only is the food, drink, and ambiance great here, but it's literally across the street from Tompkins Square Park where we start our Craft Cocktail Tours. If you find yourself arriving early or are looking to pre-game, this is a great place to have a quick bite and sample some craft cocktails in the neighborhood. And since our tour starts at 6, you could easily stop by here for Happy Hour and find some great deals.
Empellón al Pastor,
132 St. Marks Place,
New York, New York 10009