Welcome to Ask Eater, a column from Eater New York where the site’s editors, reporters, and critics answer specific or baffling restaurant requests from readers and friends. A new question and answer will run every Thursday. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form.
I’m meeting up with some girl friends, and we want to have a fun night in the West Village, since we need to be near the Path and the 1. We want it to be sort of sceney but also not-too-basic. We definitely want somewhere to catch up, so sit-down service only, and one diner is vegetarian — but the biggest requirement is that we don’t want to spend more than $30 per person. Any cuisine works, though (this might make it particularly hard) I personally am not feeling pasta or pizza. Also, my friends will go nuts if we have to wait more than 20 minutes. Please help!
Girls’ Night Out
Hi Girls’ Night Out,
Story of my life. The West Village is seemingly packed with restaurants that should fit into this, but many entrees creep up into the $25-and-higher territory, or don’t take reservations if they’re more affordable.
The one place that never fails me in this situation is Empellón Taqueria (230 West Fourth Street). It’s the most casual full service restaurant from chef Alex Stupak, who has gone from lauded pastry chef to masa master in recent years. While his new Midtown masterpiece and East Village spinoff — which is imminently closing, though may resurrect elsewhere — can be pricier, Taqueria manages to keep prices pretty low.
Depending on how hungry you are, you can probably get in and out with two tacos and unlimited chips with salsa for under $25, total. Even better if you have a friend or three to go in on an order with, so you can taste more types of tacos. Cocktails aren’t cheap, but then again, they never are. If money is on your mind, perhaps opt for one of the $11 glasses of wine or $5 beers instead — or if you can get there early, happy hour ends at 6:30 p.m., but includes a taco and a beer for $9.
Perhaps what makes Empellón Taqueria such an old reliable the most, though, is the fact that it’s not hard to get in. Whether you book last minute through OpenTable, or just walk in, the lively Mexican restaurant can usually accommodate you in one of its two dining rooms or at the long bar.