Taco master Alex Stupak grows his Empellon empire with a new Al Pastor opening in Murray Hill next Friday.
The chill East Village taco and cocktail bar will replace Salvation Taco in the Pod 39 Hotel — 145 East 39th St., between Lexington and Third avenues — which Stupak took over in May. Former partners Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield opened Salvation in 2012, turning it into a Murray Hill destination but gave up the restaurant to the hotel following explosive allegations of sexual misconduct against Friedman in 2017. Pod 39 then brought in Stupak to run the show.
At the time, Stupak announced he would be temporarily keeping the name Salvation Taco before eventually flipping the restaurant into something similar to his East Village taco and cocktail hit Empellon Al Pastor. He’s been slowly introducing Al Pastor menu items ever since, though with the flip, more than 20 new menu items will arrive.
The menu is still being finalized, but a rep for the restaurant notes that it will combine Mexican cuisine with American bar food, including dishes like broiled oysters with the Mexican herb hija santa and bacon, Chihuahua cheese sticks with tomato-chipotle sauce, and corn masa ice bars for dessert. The official switch goes down next Friday following a brief closure at the start of next week, when Stupak will finalize renovations for the space.
Stupak kicked off his solo empire with the opening of Empellon Taqueria in West Village in 2011 following stints as the pastry chef at Chicago restaurant Alinea and the now-closed Wd-50. After Empellon Taqueria debuted to strong reviews, he turned the brand into an NYC mini-empire, opening the now-closed Cocina and the original Al Pastor. In 2017, he opened the much larger, more upscale Empellon Midtown. Separate from this Al Pastor expansion, Stupak is also working on a Taqueria expansion.
The new Al Pastor will take a bar-centric approach to the more casual line of Empellon offerings, serving margaritas, beers, shots, and new tiki-inspired cocktails alongside bar bites. The opening is slated for January 18.