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Empellon Al Pastor



I can’t hide the lust in my heart for Empellon Al Pastor. I’ve had a bone in my pocket for Chef Alex Stupak’s latest venture since watching his segment on Real Food with Mike Colameco last month and reading all those Eater articles.

Stupak has worked some amazing kitchens, like the late great WD-50 in New York and the other-worldly Alinea in Chicago. So who could guess the latest move by this molecular gastronomist would be an elevated Mexican dive bar in the East Village?

I start with the house Michelada; serrano chiles, reposado tequila, agave nectar and Mexicali beer. I’m not much for beer, but stir this up and you’ve got something special – an umani beer experience that pairs perfectly with tacos and guacamole.

I followed that up with a variant attributed to Chef Wyle Dufresne called the Michelote. This one was made with corn powder, Malta Goya, Ponzu, and Negra Modelo. I was thinking about it for weeks afterwards, but my girl didn’t dig it at all. She liked her cider beer, though, and the guacamole they make by pushing avocados through a grate. Their guacamole is not overly mixed or unduly seasoned, just an honest side dish with crisp house made tortillas.

My plan, executed to perfection, was to eat too many tacos. We ordered at least two or three Al Pastors, which, if there was any justice in the world, would be doing Cronut numbers. To make these, pork shoulder steaks are rubbed with chile before being spit roasted shawarma-style, sliced thin, layered on a soft corn tortilla with a piece of pineapple, and tastefully garnished with salsa and onion.

My plan, executed to perfection, was to eat too many tacos.

Neck and neck with these are the Shortrib Tacos with Maggi Onions. I could eat these on repeat until I flat-lined. There are worse ways to go.


I could eat these on repeat until I flat-lined. There are worse ways to go.

I’ve said it before, but if tongue is on the menu, my girl is putting it in her mouth. We both dug the succulent Beer Braised Pork Tongue tacos, as well as the Chorizo and Bistec variants. Yeah, we ate a lot of tacos – all served on fresh homemade soft corn tortillas made using the Nixtamalization technique where field corn is ground into masa for tortillas every day.

They’ve got a hamburger taco, a few vegetarian choices, as well as chicken wings, nachos, drunken black beans, and other cool sides. I’ve got to start making my way though the menu, including their Tequillas and Mezcal. And of course, there’s an array of Margaritas for you Sex in the City types.

Pull up a stool by the window and watch the lower east side unravel before your drunken eyes. Life is short; eat tacos.

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Toro NYC



We strolled leisurely down 11th, avoiding the tourist-infused High Line, toward a chef’s counter reservation at Toro where we happily ordered a step beyond what might be considered reasonable.

I went with a steady stream of Pizza Night! cocktails – a spicy Old Fashioned with Calabrian chili, chorizo infused bourbon, Mike’s Hot Honey, and peach bitters. Cold and hot. Spicy and sweet.

We also found the Hell’s Bell Pepper to be just the right amount of savory – tequila, mezcal, yellow bell pepper, agave and bird’s eye chili.

Now we’re diving headfirst into an expensive plate of Paleta Iberico De Cinco Jotas – a dry cured boneless Iberian ham that delights and is gone before you can say “twenty eight dollars.”

Some addictive Maiz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija followed – a dangerously convenient version of grilled street corn, and a nice foil for the Setas, a bowl of deliciously unctuous mushrooms set beneath a sexy chivy yolk.

Then things got heavy – in a good way. Unable to choose between bone marrow and foie gras, we picked both. I’m more of a purist when it comes to bone marrow, so the Asado De Hueso with guajillo and chorizo XO, Brussels sprouts and escargot – perhaps has a little too much going on. Yet I ate it happily.

We opted for the Foie Gras Tonkatsu – a crispy foie sandwich with strawberry tomato jam and pickled daikon. Kinda perfect bar food if you’re OK with foie taking second billing. Nice marriage of textures, too.

Hey man, that’s probably delicious, right?” asked a stranger at the bar – flanked by two liquored up and leathery ladies of a certain age. I smiled and snapped a picture of his seared foie.

For dessert we had hamburgers.

Ok, not dessert per se, but our last course were a pair of delectable Hamburguesas, mini dry-aged burgers with a spicy kick on a potato bun.

In a nutshell, Toro is the perfect place for you and your overpaid friends to meet up, get buzzed, and eat decadent small plates while ignoring a world gone mad.

At 15th St. & 11th Ave NYC  
Map . Website . Instagram Yelp

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659 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238 – Map

Prospect Heights restaurant from chef-owner Greg Baxtrom packs them in for dinner and recently rolled out brunch. Expect twists and turns, like a breakfast of Carrot Kathi Rolls (Carrot Pulp Falafel, Cilantro Stem Raita) or the Duck Duo, crispy duck sausage with scrambled egg and maple flatbread. And don’t leave without trying their bacon, egg, and cheese Egg Rolls, as delicious as they are adorable.

The tight and thoughtful dinner menu includes a scrumptious Duck Liver Mouse, a clever Beef Tartare, Heritage Pork with Raclette, and other seasonal curve-balls. Toss in a playful cocktail menu and you’ve found the perfect spot for those who like a dash of quirkiness on the plate.

Duck Liver Mousse


Beef Tartare Polonaise

Beet Gin, Preserved Lemon, Maraschino, Juniper


House Gravlax – Scallion Ricotta, Everything Bagel Crackers

Egg Rolls – House Made Bacon, Farm Eggs, Vermont Cheddar

Frozen yogurt with lavender honey

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What To Do: Paris



On your fourth trip to Paris, you take less pictures and enjoy more actual moments. Best to live like a local. We rent an apartment and stock up on breads from Poilâne, french butter, various cheeses, some fromage de tête. Good coffee. And the inevitable bottle of Orangina. 

The Google Map below has more restaurants than you could see in any one trip. I wound up having super memorable tasting menus at Frenchie and Ellsworth, and a nice meal at Ore in Versailles. But we also had excellent low key bistro meals, enjoyed Pizzeria Popolare, and some cocktails and charcuterie at aveK.

One of my favorite spots, L’Avant Comptoir, was closed the night I visited.  And I regret not getting to Clown Bar or the Experimental Cocktail Club.

There’s always next time. 

Between the historic sites, architecture, museums, churches, parks, and restaurants… there’s a whole hell of a lot to do in and around Paris. Check out our Google Map for some ideas.

Eater Paris
Time Out Paris
Lonely Planet Paris
To the GoogleMap above

Paris is My Gelée

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