Empellón Taqueria

Situated on the corner of West 10th Street and the ever-confusing West 4th Street (why, exactly, does it run diagonal across other numbered streets?), Empellón Taqueria is a kind of Mexican cuisine oasis. Once you step inside, you’re transported to another place—one where graffiti on the wall behind the bar is the norm and the list of margaritas stretches on and on.

queso fundido at empellon taqueria

queso fundido

Don’t be fooled—Empellón Taqueria is a true taqueria, meaning that they primarily serve (and specialize in) tacos. You won’t find your overstuffed burrito or simpleton’s quesadilla here. Go somewhere else, like Chipotle, if this is what you seek.

My Lady Dining Partner (MLDP) and I began our meal with a box of tortilla chips and one of the salsas (tomatillo-chipotle). The salsa can only be described as smokey, and its consistent composition delighted and surprised me. Many salsas have chunks of vegetables mixed throughout, whereas Empellón Taqueria’s rendition (at least the one I had) was a smooth, thick sauce. MLDP ordered the classic margarita, which was tangy, and I got a standard Negra Modelo.

chicken tacos at empellon taqueria

chicken tacos

We moved on to the next must-have at this spot: queso fundido. For the uninitiated, queso fundido is a wonderful creation: a small, cast-iron pan is filled with melted Chihuahua cheese and served with warm tortillas. As anyone who’s ever had breakfast with me will attest, I love building little sandwiches out of anything in front of me. So, the prospect of lathering up a tortilla with a bit of cheese excited me. The queso fundido we chose had green (?) chorizo with spinach. Unlike other versions I’ve had in the past, this QF was rather meaty. Chunks of delicious chorizo covered the surface of the cheese. Spinach did make an appearance, though it was more of a cameo rather than a starring role. I loved it, and I highly recommend you try this dish.

For our entrees, we both ordered tacos (not that we had much of a choice!). The list of tacos is creative, to say the least, and I opted for possibly the most boring one: chicken. But! The tender chicken pieces came with black kale, crema and salsa verde, for a satisfying combination of flavors. I ordered two, but you’re welcome to order three, if you’re hungry. Pro tip: get the chips and QF like I did, and just order two tacos. MLDP tried the fish tacos, which were doused in tempura and looked quite good.

milk chocolate flan at empellon taqueria

milk chocolate flan

The helpful waitress came over to us once we were finished with our entrees and asked us about dessert. She rattled off a few options, and we landed on the milk chocolate flan, which came with densely cinnamon-flavored ice cream and crumbled (Oreo?) cookies. ‘Twas delish, but don’t count on having that when you go. It sounded like the desserts rotate.

Empellón Taqueria is definitely at the top of my list of New York City taco shops. I’ve been told that Salvation Taco is a must-try and I’ll definitely report back with an assessment once I go. For now, I urge you to go to Empellón Taqueria. You’ll need a reservation, most likely—even on a weeknight! So head to OpenTable now and get to this restaurant as soon as you can.

Empellón Taqueria

230 W. 4th St. (at W. 10th  Street)

West Village, New York

Take the 1 to Christopher Street, walk north one block and turn left onto West 4th Street.

Rosa Mexicano

I have been to Rosa Mexicano a number of times (three, to be precise). When I suggested it as a place for my father, my stepmother and MDP to go for dinner, my father asked, “Why haven’t you written about it on Taylor’s Ham?” So, here I am, writing about Rosa Mexicano.

rosa mexicano queso fundido

queso fundido

We chose the Union Square location because I thought it would be easier for them to get to from the Holland Tunnel. I had been to the Lincoln Center location for Restaurant Week one year, and found it to be lovely. The Union Square location is definitely trendier and much more hip. Loud music blares from speakers above. The brightly colored furniture sings under the dim lighting.

Lucky for us, we got a nice table for four in the rear of the restaurant. We took our time ordering, but started with the signature guacamole. A visit to Rosa Mexicano would not be complete without a visit from the guacamole man. With large chunks of avocado throughout, the guacamole was perfectly seasoned (“medium,” as I had requested) and creamy.

For appetizers–because we wanted to fully experience Rosa Mexicano–we got the special rock shrimp ceviche and queso fundido. As for the ceviche, you could taste the citrus fruit the shrimp had been marinated in, and it was quite delicious. Bits of mango dotted the dish, and it had a spicy kick at the end. The queso fundido, which came with chorizo (which, for some reason, the waitress defined for us–as though we were tourists), was extremely scrumptious. Nice, little tortillas accompanied it, and I dressed mine with some of the stupendous guacamole. Yum! It was perfect.

rosa mexicano pollo skillet style

pollo skillet style

I ordered the pollo skillet style for my entree, which came with grilled Mexican street corn and chorizo chili on the side. Tortillas also made an appearance for this dish, and if you know anything about me, you know I love to make my own little sandwiches/tacos/fajitas. I happily constructed delicious fajita-esque roll-ups, and scraped off some of the chihuahua cheese that was baked to the bottom of the skillet to top the chicken and vegetables.

MDP ordered the fish tacos, and I could tell he enjoyed them. My father and stepmother both ordered the tablones, which were slow-braised short ribs marinated in beer. They were outstanding! I highly recommend this dish. The meat was extremely tender and flavorful, and melted with the touch of the fork. Very good.

And we ordered dessert and coffees, as well. MDP and I tried the tres leches de zarzamoras, which was sour cream pound cake soaked in three milks with a blackberry-hibiscus glaze and toasted meringue on top. It was divine! Highly recommend. My father also ordered the ice cream sundae, which was made with several of the ice creams they serve such as Mexican chocolate with all kinds of goodies on top. Very good, but the tres leches was better.

So, Rosa Mexicano is definitely the place to go for high-end Mexican food. And when I say high end, I mean that your bill will cost at least $120 for two (with drinks–which are outstanding, by the way. You must try the pomegranate margarita).

Happy dining!

Rosa Mexicano

Multiple locations

New York, NY