When I was in New York City, I had one free evening to make dinner plans and I took my chances on getting all my NYC friends together at one time. I managed to get almost all of them together (including two friends from college and one of my closest friends from high school), but I had no idea where to meet up with all of them. Luckily, my friend Lisa suggested Empellon Taqueria in the West Village where she had dined once before with colleagues, and it turned out to be a perfect spot for dining with a group. Empellon is a chic, but cozy taqueria with a menu that includes eclectic takes on tacos and cocktails and that is perfect for sharing.
As you should at any good Mexican restaurant, we began our meal with some fresh guacamole. I could practically live on chips and guacamole and I loved Empellon's rustic take on guac: with a chunky texture, crunchy onion, huge slices of jalapenos (for diners who like their guac on the hotter side), and fresh cilantro. Their guacamole is always served with two of their seven unique smooth salsas: A super spicy salsa de arbol and an addictive creamy smoky cashew salsa.
Another unique menu item that I loved: Empellon offers several different versions of the traditional queso fundido. Our table immediately agreed that we loved shishito peppers and opted for a crock filled with creamy melted chihuahua cheese, a generous number of soft blistered shishito peppers, and a finely diced salsa Mexicana. This combination of flavors and textures was perfect: stringy mild cheese, sweet and spicy peppers, and a hint of flavor from the fresh salsa served with warm flour tortillas.
For main courses, tacos are the way to go at Empellon. They're available in orders of two or three, which made it fun (and difficult) for us to select several to sample at the table. I'm a huge fan of Brussels sprouts, so I was all about the vegetarian Brussels sprout tacos. They were packed with charred sprouts, toasted almonds, a flavorful almond mole sauce, finished with a sprinkle of cotija cheese and cilantro. These tacos had such a great savory flavor and combination of textures that you truly wouldn't miss the meat in these.
Next up, the lobster tacos. When I'm on the east coast, I can't pass up ordering and eating as much seafood as possible and I loved these tacos. Hearty chunks of tender lobster were combined with sweet corn and a little epazote (a Mexican herb) with a sprinkle of cotija and onions. The result was a taco that was more sweet than spicy and that tasted perfectly fresh and summery on that hot New York night.
Lastly, Empellon features a special taco each night of the week. On Tuesdays it's the crab cake taco-- and as a huge crab cake fan, this one was a must order for me! Each tortilla housed one good sized crab cake that was perfectly breaded and crispy on the outside and filled with sweet lump crab meat on the inside. They were simply dressed with a tangy and slightly spicy sauce, a little onion, and fresh cilantro. They were reminiscent of a traditional fried fish taco (which I love), but sweeter and more delicate with the inclusion of crab instead. The roundness and generous size made the taco a little difficult to eat at first, so I broke my crab cake up with a fork and then evenly dispersed it.
Our table also ended up with a few orders of steak and lamb tacos too, all of which were quickly devoured. And we all agreed that this was a perfect spot for old friends to catch up and enjoy cocktails and a great meal together
Empellon Taqueria is located at 230 W. 4th St. (at the corner of 4th & 10th) in the West Village.