“I'm an outsider, a white boy from Massachusetts,” he adds. The food he cooks is inspired by Mexico, but he doesn’t call it Mexican -- “it’s not in my interest to copy.” His menu of tacos made with chicken wings, pastrami, and lamb tartare have helped him build an Empellon empire. After opening the taqueria, Stupak opened the more upscale Empellón Cocina in 2012, and Empellón Al Pastor, a laid-back bar/taqueria near Tompkins Square Park in 2013. Last month, he opened a Midtown flagship, Empellón, which, at 8,000sqft and 150 seats, is his biggest and most ambitious project yet. There he’s serving more inventive dishes, like a falafel taco with grasshopper hummus and Wagyu fajitas with peppercorn mole.
At Cosme, Olvera churns out 2,500 tortillas a day from masa made with imported single-source landrace corn by the ancient Mexican process of nixtamalization. “Tortillas are vital,” Olvera says. “With a good tortilla you can make a wonderful taco just with a piece of avocado and a pinch of salt.” However, Olvera’s creations are rarely so simple. His menu may be “Mexican-inspired,” but he also uses local ingredients from the Hudson Valley and stuffs his tortillas with flavors from around the world, like black garlic-rubbed NY strip steak and fried shishito peppers.