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. 

 

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Hot Bread Kitchen

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Lots of times at bread and bakery shops, each specializes and houses a particular style or type, whether it be Parisian, or Eastern European. But, At Hot Bread Kitchen in East Harlem, you can choose from an array of multi-ethnic breads. 

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Located in La Marqueta, they produce all of their breads on-site, from loaves of bread, to tortillas to lavash. Everything looked great, but I decided to try a couple of things. 

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First, I went for their Pecan Raisin Roll. The bread itself has a nice crust on the outside, and a softer texture in the center, with almost a bit of that bite sourdough bread has. Then, you get the sweetness of the baked in raisins and pecans, adding a nice texture as well. 

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Then, I went for an old familiar item, the Bialy. My family grew up on the Lower East Side in NYC, so, visiting as a kid, we’d always stop by one of the local Jewish bakeries and pick up some fresh Bialys. Since then, they’ve become more sparse, and not as common to see or find. So, this was a nice little surprise, and had to pick one up. Theirs is light, with a nice chew to the bread, and then you have the tiny caramelized onion and poppyseed combination in the center, making it an authentic Bialy. 

The Shorts:
Name: Hot Bread Kitchen
Location: 1590 Park Avenue, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Yes, they have a cute little cafe there as well, so you can grab a coffee and baked good, or, take it to go.
Would I recommend it? Yes, there is a nice variety, something for everyone. And, if you can’t make it to the shop, you can find them at a number of other locations