Empellon Cocina: Tastes Like Spring Break

Empellon Cocina Rating: 4.75

Food: 2.0

Atmosphere: 1.25

Service: 1.5

Empellon Cocina (not to be confused with Empellon Taqueria in the West Village) was not an fab experience but not a horrible one either. We went for a group dinner on a Saturday night and really enjoyed the meal, minus the food. It’s definitely a good group spot, but don’t expect it to be the best dinner of your life or a quick one by any means. And do expect to need copious amounts of gum afterward.

The cuisine is sort of Spanish/Mexican, and our biggest complaints about the menu were 1) that there was no corn dish, and 2) there weren’t enough vegetable sides. Good luck trying to be a vegetarian at Empellon.

The crowd

Young professional but not too young, aka not right out of college. Like 30s-ish. Unnecessarily specific. 

The Atmosphere

King of loud, and the music made everything louder. Like I couldn’t hear myself think over Rack City and other sounds of 2012. The decor is very Spanish Catholic, fully equipped with a Virgin Mary in the corner to watch over you and your besties.

The service

We had a good waiter, but it was generally slow and a long dinner. It was fine though, definitely not going down on my list of most miserable group meals ever. They made up for the fact that they made us wait to be seated like 40 minutes after our whole party arrived with free tequila shots and salsa dips on the house. And they also apologized like, kind of genuinely which we appreciated.

Is there a chance you’ll run into a celebrity? No fucking way. 

Is it instagram friendly? No. Good luck taking any sort of photo without having a professional photog come and set up their lighting tableside.

Shoe situation: You should probably wear heels here only because they try to give a trendy vibe but if you wore flats your life would be unchanged.

Good for: Dinner with friends, date night if all you get are margs and guac

Neighborhood: East Village

Price: $$

The Food

Masa chips and guac – The masa chips were so fucking good and the waiter gave us a whole spiel about how they’re made of corn aka gluten free, and they’re healthy because they’re thin and not fried. I guess we looked like the type of girls who want to hear those kinds of details. As for the guac, it was perf, loved the pistachios.

Salsas – They all taste kind of similar, but either way you should obviously try them all because why else are you at a Mexican restaurant? We didn’t like the chipotle but did like the salsa de arbol, sikil pak, and smoked cashew. There's a guide on the menu, we figured that out after. 

Black beans and hummus – This was really good and we wished it was a bigger dish. Because after this the food started to go downhill.

Melted tetilla cheese (lobster and cheese) – This was okay because the cheese was good and it tasted kind of like lobster fondue, but there was in no way a proportional amount of lobster and cheese. Skip this dish unless lobster and cheese are like your thing which like, cool thing bro. 

Carnitas tacos – Loved this, the perfect mix of sweet and savory.


Tetilla cheese left, carnitas right

Cooked carrots – A little bland, not a great dish. The carrots were mushy and kind of tragic. Also had it been worth eating, it should’ve been a side dish and not an appetizer.

Achiote rice – Kind of boring, not seasoned enough. You just want the meal to be better than it is and it’s like, so annoying.

Toasted vermicelli noodles – These were good upon first bite, not too heavy, and the clams and chorizo were an interesting combo. However once you had more than 3-4 bites it started to feel like they should have given more detail for this dish something like… side effects: heart burn.


Bone marrow and brisket – The brisket was extremely fatty. This dish had an interesting presentation, in that it looked like a graveyard at the table. 


So they charge you extra money for vodka sodas, for a reason we were too drunk to seriously inquire about, but apparently they also give you more vodka. Not a criticism, just letting you know before you go trying to like, understand the bill.

Hibiscus and rose margarita – Decent drink, has a rose petal in it, for that girl.

Grapefruit marmalade margarita – Betch 2 wouldn’t stop raving about this one. It was refreshing and not too sweet, she reminded us several times.

Restaurant Info

Empellon Cocina

105 1st Avenue,
New York, NY 10003

Phone: 212-780-0999

Website: www.empellon.com/cocina

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