BIKINIS

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I love finding somewhat hidden gems around the city. And luckily, I found another, in Alphabet City, for brunch, BIKINIS. 

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First off, the name is pretty adorable, so, I knew we were off to a good start. This Spanish cuisine restaurant is small, yet very bright and charming. On the walls you’ll find quirky pictures and paintings, namely one of a hairy chested, mustachioed man. Everything on the menu is extremely affordable and sounded delicious.

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We were first brought out some complimentary little Mimosa shots. Not a bad way to start.

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Then, for my entree, I ordered the Verde Bikini (Barcelona style pressed sandwich made with challah bread, sautéed crimini mushrooms, organic catalan style spinach, pine nuts, raisins, roasted peppers, provolone cheese). Served with a mixed green salad, this was a really nice sandwich. Golden brown and crisp around the edges, this was more of a fork-and-knife sandwich for me. The ingredients go really nicely together, and the mix of textures and flavors made this really tasty. 

The Shorts:
Name: BIKINIS
Location: 56 Avenue C, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? For sure. The space is totally charming and the service was excellent.
Would I recommend it? Yes. They have a really nice menu, something for everyone, at really affordable prices, in a casual, cozy space. Just a heads up, they’re only open for dinner and tapas Tuesday-Sunday and brunch Saturday and Sunday.

Empellón Al Pastor

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Well, I’m a huge fan of the Empellón line, I’ve dined at Empellón Cocina and Tacqueria a number of times. Now, with their third installation, Al Pastor in the East Village, I naturally had to pay it a visit. 

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With the same quality and integrity as their other locations, this spot focuses more on the bar atmosphere, where seating is first come first serve in a quick-serve style, serving up a variety of tequilas and mezcals, and then snacks of tacos, sides, and chips all $4 each and gluten free. 

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You’ll find similar tie-ins with decor too, like their skull-faced pictures on the wall, but, you’ll also find a gigantic lama, skeletons, stacks of cash mural on the ceiling. Because, what else would you paint there?

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To start, I ordered their Classic Margarita (Pueblo Viejo Blanco, fresh lime, smoked salt). Pure delight. Their drinks never disappoint me, and this one is no exception. 

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First, I had their Guacamole with Chips. The chips are a bit thicker than your average chip, making them substantial and crisp, and not breaking in half with you scoop up some of the rich and creamy guac. 

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Next, I had their Nopales Taco (nopales, arbol chile, queso fresco, cilantro, onion, salsa). This was great. Served on a soft, yet meaty, corn tortilla, all of the ingredients taste fresh and dynamic. There’s a great heat with this one, but smoothed out a bit from the queso fresco. 

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Then I had the Oyster Mushroom Taco (oyster mushrooms, a la Mexicana, cilantro, onion, salsa). Now, I couldn’t effortlessly pick out all of the components here, but, I will say it was delicious. The mushrooms and plump, and packed with flavor, and married very well with the other ingredients. 

The Shorts:
Name: Empellón Al Pastor
Location: 132 St. Marks Place, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? For sure, the drinks are awesome, the food is great and super affordable, and the atmosphere is really relaxed and casual. 
Would I recommend it? Yes. I’d recommend either getting there before the crowds (before 7pm), or after (around 9pm) if you want a place to sit and eat. Since it’s all quick-serve, you order at the counter, given a table number, and your food is brought out to you.