Former WD-50 pastry chef Alex Stupak took a big leap last year when he opened up Empellón, a high-end Mexican taqueria in the West Village. A year later, Stupak is back with Empellón Cocina, a taco-free, quieter, slightly higher-end sister restaurant in the East Village. I stopped by a few nights ago to check out the space and the drinks.
Once a week or so, the question pops up in the New York talk boards: "I'm coming to the city for two days. Where should I eat?" It's a question so open-ended that it's tough to answer. But our fair city has so many visitors that we figured it was high time to put out a little guide. So here's our guide to eating in New York: whether you're traveling solo or traveling with kids, up for adventuring or not leaving Midtown.
Chef Alex Stupak may read as bracing, controversial or overly opinionated, but in person his humility and drive come across more than anything. The celebrated pastry chef made waves when he left wd-50 to open a Mexican restaurant—a cuisine he had no previous personal attachment to. But since opening Empellón Taqueria and the recent Empellón Cocina, Stupak has been collecting both upraised eyebrows and ample praise. But praise doesn't drive Stupak. Nor does fear of failure. What does? We had a chat to find out.
The spirit of Alex Stupak's Empellón Taqueria and Empellón Cocina is one of invention, but heavily steeped in the traditions of Mexican cuisine. It's little surprise, then, that the bar program, run by Mat Resler, is the same way—with creative agave-based cocktails that express the full range of mezcal and tequila, be they fruity or peppery, grassy or smoky. Come check out six of Resler's new drinks.
Hanging out at Empellón Cocina a few weeks ago, bar manager Mat Resler shared what I thought sounded like one of the most unlikely drinks I've ever heard: "The Negronifico." Translation? "Well, I was drinking a Negroni... and also a Pacifico... and then I had to leave the bar and I was half-done with my Negroni, so I dumped the rest of the Pacifico into the glass and drank it."
You know a restaurant opening is an important one when, a few months later, you can't imagine New York without it. 2012, despite plenty of closures even before a catastrophic storm that crippled, closed, or delayed so many restaurants, was a fantastic year for eating in the city. Here are my favorites of the year: not just full-service restaurants, but the odd bakery, cocktail bar, and Mediterranean lunch joint thrown in for good measure.
Chef Lauren Resler, Alex Stupak's wife and pastry chef at Empellon Taqueria and Cocina, got into pastry to make people smile. She talks with us about how she does just that, what it's like working so closely with her husband, and plans she has in store.
There's no shortage of first-class cocktail bars in Manhattan. But increasingly, some of the best drinks in town come from the bars of restaurants. Here are our 10 favorite restaurant bars of late, with drinks the equal of any dedicated cocktail bar in town.