Alex Stupak opened Empellon because he thinks, quite simply, that “Mexican cooking is awesome.” He opened the doors to his taqueria with the intention of treating tacos with a high level of respect and serving them in a fun environment; how he believes tacos should be enjoyed, and who can argue with that? Bare wooden tables and white-painted brick walls emphasize the casual atmosphere, but the elegance comes with the food and drink offerings. An impressive selection of artisanal tequilas and mezcals round out the bar, with inventive cocktails like the spicy, cilantro-infused tequila concoction called the Por Qué No or the mezcal-mixed, orange juice and chile-spiked Darkest Corner of Oaxaca.
Influenced, but not limited by authenticity, Empellon’s menu strays far from the average downtown Mexican joint. From braised beef tongue and smoky lamb barbacoa to peanut mole chicken wings and tempura-fried baby shark, the soft-corn-tortilla taco creations are outstanding—even if they overshadow the entrees available. If you have room after all the delicious courses, do not forget about dessert, which ranges from plates of Mexican cookies to sweet mini bunelos (fritters dipped in warm honey) to an exotic passionfruit tart.