Empellon Taqueria was definitely my white whale. I've tried to write a review about this place many times, but yet I've never able t...

Empellon Taqueria was definitely my white whale. I've tried to write a review about this place many times, but yet I've never able to. At one point in time, Empellon Taqueria was my closer. It was the place where I would take the bimbos I met when I was still in the dating scene. The relaxed vibe, ridiculous good food, and decent playlist always had someone naked in my apartment later that night. The problem was that many of these bimbos frowned up my duties as a food blogger. This meant no picture taking, no tweeting, no socializing with the staff to get some confidential info. No nothing. I was pretty much assed out. 

Fast forward a year later and the kid (me) is living the wife life. For months on end I would tell my girlfriend that I'd take her to Empellon for dinner, but the stigma that surrounded the place made me feel weird. Luckily, there was Empellon Cocina. I figured Cocina didn't carry the same stigma as the taqueria once did. Emepllon Cocina is located a few blocks from Taqueria, in the East Village. I knew I was in the right place because as I walked in Common's "GO!" was playing throughout the space, while people chattered and glasses clinked. We sipped on a classic margarita while we read the menu, this is what we got:

Chilaquiles Rojos ($13) - Poached duck egg, ramps. Strips of crispy tortillas, black beans, topped with a slow poached duck egg, crema, and crushed queso. Tons of flavors and textures happening all at once. And let's face it, anything with a fried egg over it makes it ten times better. 

The Guacamole and all 7 salsa's ($15) - Guacamole, pistachios. The Guacamole was extremely rich and deep and in texture, but not to the point where it was over done. Served alongside crispy masa chips, which had to be taken away from me so that I wouldn't fill up on them. 

The 7 Salsa's started with a salsa called "Sikil Pak" which was made up of pumpkin seeds, tomato, onion, garlic,cinnamon, epazote, sour orange juice, and serrano pepper which had a nice and mellow, sweet flavor to it. The last salsa, called "Salsa Habanera," made up of habenero, orange juice, grapefruit, and Mexican oregano had a nice mellow flavor at first, but then a nice tingle of heat hit my mouth. 

Chilled Shrimp ($16) - Sea urchin mousse, lettuce, masa waves. I didn't know if I wanted to eat this dish or hang it on my wall. The shrimp was tender, but a little dry until I mixed it around with the mousse - and then the hamster finally got back on the wheel, and I understood was happening. 

Lamb Tartare ($14) - Avocado leaf oil, pasilla oaxaquena, gauje seeds. Of all the dishes I had this was perhaps my least favorite. I felt the flavors were a little too flat, and what hit me was rather gamy. 

Squid ($17) - Chilmole, nugget potatoes, sour orange mayonnaise. Another work of art to the eye and to the palate. The squid and potatoes were tender in texture. The sour orange mayo gave the dish a nice touch of acid, with a hint of sour. Straight Banger. 

Carnitas ($24) - Onions, cilantro, salsa verde. If I had to explain this dish, it's kind of like getting smacked in a face with a bag of money, by a big breasted woman, while driving a Ferrari Enzo. The pork was perfectly cooked with bits of savory fat every few bites. The flavor reminded me of the pastrami from Katz's Deli. The fresh tortilla, which are served on the side of this dish, were warm and chewy. My favorite dish of the night, and maybe even of all 2014. 

So I finally caught my white whale, and fuck was it delicious. Empellon does a great job at sticking to the script of authentic Mexican food, while bringing a little refinement into the dinning experience.  Another thing I enjoy about Empellon is the chef, Alex Stupak. Once the head pastry chef at Wylie Dufresne's WD-50, Stupak set out to open a Mexican restaurant, with much controversy surrounding the opening. A straight up underdog, and I always root for the underdog. Chefs like Alex Stupak who cook foods from outside of their native backgrounds, and do it right, is what makes the New York City food scene so exciting and off the wall. If Empellon three (which is in the works as we speak) is anything like Empellon one and two, I might have to camp out for an opening day reservation. 

Empellón Cocina 
105 1st Avenue New York, NY 

Grabbing a quick lunch is a little bit traumatizing when I'm working in the South Street Seaport area. I could play food truck roulett...

Grabbing a quick lunch is a little bit traumatizing when I'm working in the South Street Seaport area. I could play food truck roulette and see what's parked where, but time is always limited. The rows of crappy delis, with their stomach flu incubators that double as salad bars are the main reason as to why I brown bag it on a daily basis.

On Fridays, I tend to "forget" my lunch so I spend most of the morning devising plans. I was going to roam around for 10 minutes and if I didn't find anything good, I was gonna hit up Chipotle. With having any luck, there I was on course to Chipotle, but just as I got there I noticed a location of Clarke's Standard. There I stood trying to figure out one of life's greatest questions - burritos or burgers. Through the window of Chipotle, I could see the line of desk jockeys wrapped around the store. I looked over at an almost empty Clarke's Standard and the decision was clear. I don't do lines or long waiting times.

Clarke's Standard is a fast casual burger spot whose pedigree comes from legendary Manhattan bar PJ Clarke's. A quick skim of the menu and this is what I got:

The Butchers Cut Combo ($9.90)
The Burger: A 6 ounce burger topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato and PJ's special sauce cooked to order. I usually take my burger cooked medium, but this burger was cooked more to the taste of medium-well, nonetheless the burger had a decent char flavor to it, and it was juicy. I'm pretty sure that the special sauce was just Russian dressing which is just a mix of ketchup, relish and mayo.

The fries: The fries were medium sized in cut with the skin on. Crispy outside, starchy soft texture inside, with a nice light coating of salt. Might I also mention the abundance of condiments on tap - including BBQ sauce, which I prefer to dip my fries into. Step your condiment game up, homey.

Chances are you won't be sucking someone's dick for a cheeseburger from Clarke's Standard, but to throw something into your weekly lunch routine, this place is perfect. At such a low price point you'll probably have enough money left over for happy hour.

Clark's Standard 
101 Maiden Lane, New York (4 locations in total)

I will admit it, I am a burritHO. I can eat burritos all day, everyday, and twice on  Wednesday while watching Seinfeld in my boxers. So whe...

I will admit it, I am a burritHO. I can eat burritos all day, everyday, and twice on Wednesday while watching Seinfeld in my boxers. So when I heard that Danny Bowien was making burritos at his new spot Mission Cantina, I had to see what the deal was. I loved Mission Chinese, but I never got the chance to write about it, as I was too busy sweating my balls off from the chicken wings to jot down my thoughts on the dishes we ordered.

We arrived around 9pm with an hour wait, which was cool because we had a few specialty drinks at the small bar situated across from the front door. I liked the bar so much that we wound up eating dinner there. This is what we ordered:

Scallop & Veal Heart Ceviche ($13) -  Topped with fried capers, olives, and red rice vinegar on a crispy house made tostada. This dish had a lot of things working for it. Right off, I noticed the flavors of savory and sweet from the corn tostada and the vinegar. I loved the texture of the firm scallop and veal heart with the crispiness of the tostada. My palate was having a field day. My favorite dish of the night.

Chicken Wings ($12):  Mole, spices, chili vinegar, sesame, crema. I'm not going to lie, I was kind of in shook when they brought these wings to the table. I remember the wings from Mission Chinese, which were extremely spicy and mouth numbing. I like heat, but the spice had me sweating harder than Gwyneth Paltrow when asked for directions to Brooklyn. Mission Cantina's wings  are a little bit more tolerable on the tongue. Fried to a crisp and devilishly good.

Tacos ($6.50 for 2) We ordered the Cummin Lamb Taco, smoked prune, herbed crema and The roasted pork - Al Pastor with pickled pineapple. On my two trips to Mission Cantina, I had a great tortilla stuffed with extremely dry meat. I can usually excuse dry meat for flavor, but the flavor just fell flat on it's ass. This was like eating Taco Bell but while sober in the daylight.

The Brisket Burrito ($12): Beans, avocado, crema, queso blanco, salsa fresca, chips and 2 salsas, with your choice of meat, fish or vegetable. Let me start off by saying "Holy Fuck!" The sheer weight alone made me realize that I would be in a food coma for the next 3 days. Everything from the fresh and extremely dense tortilla to the perfectly cooked brisket was one hundred percent on point. What threw me for a loop was that there was no rice in the burrito; Bowien packs the burrito with perfectly cooked beans instead. The text book definition of a good burrito to me is that every bite tastes the same and Mission Cantina nailed that aspect.

After a few drinks and the food, our bill came to a measly $110 before tip. The service was on point our bartender/server was excellent - we even had a 10 minute conversation about tacos. I will gladly admit that he has the burrito game on lock. As for his tacos, they need work. There are a lot of great tacos popping up in Manhattan, and in a very large spectrum. Anything from a quick casual taco at Los Taco No.1 in Chelsea, to the high end tacos being slung a few blocks away by Lord Taco, Alex Stupak. I'd hate to see someone as talented as Bowien left behind in the taco dust.

Mission Cantina 
172 Orchard Street, New York 

Manhattan's ever evolving burger scene has a new contender to add to it's roster, The BFB Highline. BFB which stands for "Best...

Manhattan's ever evolving burger scene has a new contender to add to it's roster, The BFB Highline. BFB which stands for "Best Fucking Burger" is a fast casual burger joint concept located in the heart of Manhattan's Meat Packing district at 55 Gansevoort Street.  At the helm of this new burger joint is Chef Chris Mitchell, whose culinary pedigree stems from iconic New York City eateries such as The Breslin, The Meatball Shop, and Hill Country. 

The burger menu has a tempting array of options. Their best seller is an 6 oz burger, topped with tomatoes, lettuce, house pickles, and special sauce and American cheese. If you're not in the mood for a burger you can try the Pescatarian Delight, a breaded deep fried tilapia, citrus crema, raw onion, pickled jalapeño, and house pickles. If you're an adventurous glutton, you can try the unique "Heisenburger," a 10 ounce, custom blend of dry aged ribeye and pork belly, with crystallized onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and your choice of Swiss, American or blue cheese. All of BFB's burgers are made with meat from Pat Lafrieda, along with produce picked up daily from the Union Square Market, and all burgers are topped with Sir Kensington's condiments. 

What's a burger without fries? BFB has three options for you. The Old School, a thin cut fry seasoned with salt and pepper, the VIP fry, seasoned with bacon salt, and also sweet potato fries. You can wash down all that goodness with a drink from the fully stocked bar, or with one of their signature cocktails. 

On the weekends only, BFB will also be serving up BBQ and Lobster Rolls. 

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, including the BFB's residency at it's current location which will be open for a limited time only. So get your ass over there before you get stuck having to go to the Upper East Side, or even worse, Queens. 

The Hiesenburger 

The Hiesenburger - Medium Rare
BBQ Brisket Sandwich. Weekends only. 
Bacon Salt Fries
Bourbon Iced Tea 

BFB Highline
55 Gansevroot Street 

One day while roaming around Chelsea Market, I don't know why. I'm not a French tourist, nor do I live in Manhattan, but I was hung...

One day while roaming around Chelsea Market, I don't know why. I'm not a French tourist, nor do I live in Manhattan, but I was hungry as fuck. As I roamed around, I noticed sign with a big red arrow that said "Tacos," and "Los Taco No. 1" beneath that. If ever I was waiting for a sign, this was it. I like signs that say "tacos," and I sure as fuck like Tacos. As I walked past a spice and candy stall, I found Los Taco No.1 tucked into the corner of the four stalls in the same room. As I ordered, I couldn't help noticing a short Mexican woman hand pressing fresh tacos behind the counter or the rotating meat, did I just walk up to the pearly gates of taco heaven?

After paying, I handed off my ticket to the gentlemen behind the counter. Beware, they have a two ticket system. This is what I got:

Adobada ($3.50) - A freshly pressed tortilla stuffed with pork, pico de gallo, and topped with light and creamy guacamole. It was fresh with the flavor of cilantro, and the salsa gives it a nice bit of heat. I usually only fuck with double tortilla tacos, but this tortilla was nice and dense. Super fresh, hints of corn that went nice with the spicy pork. The pork itself was juicy and had the right balance of fat to non-fat meat. 

Carne Asada ($3.50) - Another fresh pressed tortilla, packed with Carne Asada and topped with the same ingredients as the Abodada. The meat was tender and full of flavor with hints of smokey char flavor every few bites. 

Quesadilla Adobada ($4) - A slightly large tortilla topped with same ingredients as the tacos, but with queso and what I believe is cactus. Another banger! Maybe my favorite of all three. 

Some people dig for gold, but I dig for great unknown food joints. With Los Tacos No.1, I feel that I have struck gold. Who would think that a place like this would exist in an area that's a lot like the waiting room for tourist hell. There should be an app so you can find a place like this. Maybe an app like Tinder, but for tacos in your area you can eat. 

Los Taco No.1 
75 9th Avenue, New York, NY (inside Chelsea Market) 

One of the most highly anticipated restaurant projects of 2014, The Chalk Point Kitchen, is set to open its doors in the coming days in the...

One of the most highly anticipated restaurant projects of 2014, The Chalk Point Kitchen, is set to open its doors in the coming days in the old Dollaway space at 527 Broome Street in SoHo. The new project is a collaboration between Michelin-starred Chef Joe Isidori, and restaurateur Matt Levine. 

Chef Joe Isidori received his first Michelin Star working at Donald Trump's DJT in 2008, as well as being named StarChefs.com Las Vegas Rising Star Chef, and he has even battled against Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America. Isidori has manned the kitchens at Harbour in New York City, then opened SouthFork Kitchen in the Hamptons which focused on sustainable seafood and local produce from Long Island purveyors. Also in the kitchen will be Blue Hill and Mas farmhouse alum Chef Freddy Schoen-Kiewart handling things as Chef de Cuisine. Matt Levine, once a New York City nightlife mogul switched his hat to restaurateur in 2011 with the opening of Sons Of Essex. 

The 70 seat, Chien Dao designed space brings rustic farm house comfort from the white washed wood walls, and mixes it with a downtown vibe from the Basquiat renditions painted on the kitchen ceiling.  The Chalk Point Kitchen will focus on local New York State purveyors including Battenkill Valley Creamery, Statur Farms, Blue Marble Ice Cream, New York City local Grand Daisy Bakery, The Lobster Place, and more. The menu concept will be market-to-table, with inspiration coming from New York City's ethnic neighborhoods and the markets that surround it. Think Chinatown meets Union Square Market. 

Located directly below The Chalk Point Kitchen will be a vintage cocktail den and piano bar called The Handy Liquor Bar, named after Thomas Handy, the first known expert barmen in the US. The bar will be serving up vintage cocktails like Manhattans, Mint Juleps, and the Sazerac cocktail, which is said to America's first cocktail recipe to be recorded. The walls of the 150 seat space are decorated with original photographs by famed rock photographer Bob Gruen, alongside a baby grand piano and vintage jukebox. 

Here's a sneak peek at some of the dishes coming out of the Chalk Point Kitchen.  

Hudson Valley pan-chicken: House gravy and Chinese greens 
Chef Joe Isidori and Chef Freddy Schoen-Kiewart
Garden Beet Salad: Hudson Valley blue cheese, pistachio & organic buttermilk-dill
dinning room
La Quercia Farm Speck Americano: Age parmagiano, apple, lemon, sesame. 

Chalk Point Chowder: Local clams with market vegetables.

Rhode Island Mussels: Kimchi and house smoked bacon

Icelandic Artic Char: White miso and ruby red grapefruit 

Caramel Pudding: Vanilla ice cream popcorn & crisp 
The Full Menu

The Chalk Point Kitchen Opens April 2nd. 

The Chalk Point Kitchen 
527 Broome Street, NY 10013

My love for Chinatown stems from my father. He always said that Chinatown reminds him of Brighton Beach, except everyone was ...

My love for Chinatown stems from my father. He always said that Chinatown reminds him of Brighton Beach, except everyone was Chinese. When my parents needed a break from the Brighton Beach bullshit, they would pack my grandmother, brother, and I into the car and head over to Chinatown. We would spend the day walking from store to store looking for the cheapest fish and meat. Then from restaurant menu to restaurant menu looking for the weirdest and cheapest food my father could find. 

As I got older I kept finding myself in Chinatown. On a random summer days, my friend and I would skip the beach and go roam the streets of Manhattan. The first stop was always Chinatown. We would stop off for pork buns and sticky rice buns, then hit up Soho Down Under - a graffiti shop located on West Broadway for five-finger caps, and the possibility of catching ups in another graffiti writers blackbook. 

My love for Chinatown is deep, my love for the food in Chinatown is deeper. Here are 8 spots, old and new that I love eating at. 

Lam Zhou: A hand pulled noodle and dumpling place located on the outskirts of Chinatown. My friend Jeff, an OG resident of Chinatown had put me on to the place. When I asked Jeff what makes Lam Zhou dumplings better than anyone else, he said "just straight up love," and that's exactly what these dumplings were. For $2 you can get an order of 8. Don't forget to grab some to-go, 50 frozen dumplings are $8. The hand pulled noodles are dense, chewy, stretched and pounded right in front of you, and served in a broth filled with sliced brisket, the best $5.50 you'll ever spend 
144 East Broadway

Nom Wah Tea Parlor: The oldest dim sum parlor in Chinatown has serving up dim sum since the early 1920's. I love Nom Wah because they serve dim sum all day, everyday, 7 days a week. It's a great spot to get your dim sum fix on a rainy Wednesday night. Go with the shrimp with rice noodles, the sticky rice with Chinese sausage and the OG egg roll is a must! 

13 Doyer Street

69 Bayard: While all the food amateurs roll over to Wo Hop after a late night of drinking, make your way over to 69 Bayard. Open til 4am, you can get whiteboy dishes like Shrimp with Lobster Sauce and General Tso's Chicken, if you want something a little more authentic order the Snails in Black Bean Sauce. By the way, if you don't order their Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings, you will have lived an empty life. I am forever eternal 
69 Bayard Street 

M Star Cafe: Another spot my friend Jeff put me on to.  One of the most flavorful congees I've tasted in a while, with a perfect century egg at the bottom. The Pan Fried Rice Noodles topped with peanut sauce and hoisin will add 10 more years to your life. 
19 Division Street 

Great NY Noodletown: You aren't really a New Yorker unless you eat here regularly. Serving up a full menu of great dishes, go for their Chinatown style soups. I get mine with the shrimp dumplings & roast pork.
28 Bowery

Canal Best Restaurant:  When I was younger this was always our first stop to grab some pork, and sticky rice buns.  I've been grabbing dim sum from the counter at this place since the mid 90's but never sat down to actually have a meal here. To be continued...
266 Canal Street 

Xi'an Famous Foods: I can't begin to tell you how happy I was to hear that I would no longer have to trek to Flushing to grab some spicy stewed pork noodles and spicy cucumber salad. With a small cramped location expect long lines. Order anything off the menu, you won't go wrong. 
67 Bayard

Young Xinjiang BBQ Cart: The skewer lady a.k.a my boo. A roach coach located under the Manhattan bridge. I tend to stop at this cart mostly in the summer, as it located right off the bike lane exit off the Manhattan bridge. After riding my bicycle from Coney Island, I need some quick "energy." Varying from Chicken Skewers to fish ball Skewers, this will be the cheapest quick snack you'll ever come across in Manhattan. 
Forsyth Street - Under the Manhattan Bridge