Fact: New Yorkers love to be right about things, and we’re maybe especially passionate about where you can get the best ________. It doesn’t really matter what fills in the blank. Martini, everything bagel, grandma slice, salad bar, cheeseburger, paella, cappuccino, chocolate chip cookie… the list of argument-inciters is almost literally endless. And that’s just in the food-and-drink division! So it pleases me to no end that I can now add a new item to my own personal list of absolute true facts about this wonderful town, the Best Guacamole in NYC is at Alex Stupak’s lively East Village restaurant, Empellon Cocina.
Yes, I Said the BEST Guacamole in NYC
Seriously, Stupak’s guacamole sets the bar so high on this ubiquitous Mexican-joint starter that it redefined the whole category for me. And it comes in several varieties! I devoured a bowl of the Bacon Guacamole on my first visit to Empellon Cocina last weekend, studded with chewy, smokey swine and served with a phenomenal black pepper “salsa”. Accompanying your avocado delight is a box of crackling, ingenious Masa Crisps, which, as the Times’s Pete Wells said in his two-star review last fall, “have a baked texture but a fried flavor.” This is spectacular–I supplemented my order with one of the seven a la carte salsas, a wonderfully incendiary habanero number, tempered with citrus juice–and some folks claim that Empellon Cocina’s Pistachio Guacamole is even better. Reason enough to visit this place again, and as soon as possible.
Guacamole is not the only Thing that’s Fantastic at Empellon Cocina
But the good news doesn’t end at the beginning of your Empellon Cocina meal. Not even close. In fact, both of my other dishes were every bit of that amazing guacamole’s equal. Under the “Cold” section of the Empellon Cocina menu I decided to see what a $12 dish of Roasted Carrots was like, and was rewarded with an explosion of flavor, the young, fresh-picked roots caramelized, tossed in a spicy mole poblano sauce, served atop a pile of creamy yogurt, topped with bitter greens and crunchy wafers of the sauce, dehydrated. Worth every penny.
And if you’ve ever eaten at Chef Stupak’s Empellon Taqueria over in the West Village, you know his tacos feature creative combinations that satisfy. You can get either two or three tacos per order here at Empellon Cocina, and I loved my Shrimp duo, the crustaceans fat, soft and sweet, with enough flavor to stand up to their partners-in-tortilla, the intense with smoked potatoes and rich brown butter crema. Just superb, all of it.
Empellon Cocina is located on First Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets in the East Village, and is open for dinner every night at 5:30, and for brunch on the weekends between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. More info and the complete Empellon Cocina menu can be found here.