My first summer living in the city (this was before I graduated from college) I used to spend every single Saturday and Sunday having brunch with friends. It was also understandable because summer weekends in the city seem to make Manhattan feel pretty much like a ghost town — so a 3+ hour-long brunch is a great way to pass the time. The humidity spikes, thousands flee for the beach, and anyone else who gets in on a great last minute Fire Island beach house deal is considered one of the lucky ones. But I had spent plenty of summers on Fire Island and I was ready to take full advantage of all-you-can-drink mimosas! Forget about the temperature — my girlfriends and I would treat our West Village cafes the same way every Saturday morning: we insisted on sitting outside where we could casually [and appropriately] sunbathe, people watch and drink mimosa after mimosa (or in some situations Bloody Mary after Bloody Mary). It’s normal in a European cafe to park yourself in a petite chair at a busy establishment and not move for hours on end — it’s not exactly like that at Manhattan restaurants. But, for some reason summer brunch sessions tend to break all New York City restaurant etiquette.
My weekends — summer, fall, winter or spring — sure have changed! It’s rare for me to go out for brunch and spend hours gossiping, people watching and getting tipsy by 11 a.m. Sadly, I just don’t have the time to make that happen on a weekly, or even monthly, basis. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t have time to get out for a sober brunch with good friends!
My fabulous friend Stef (who is also officially a chef by the way) scouted out Empellon Taqueria in the West Village. The online menu made us both thrilled to try out this joint for brunch this past weekend.
Naturally, we eyed down the guacamole and massive list of salsas. Even though the restaurant had fantastic main course dishes, in today’s post I am going to tell you all about the salsas because there is just so much to cover!
We ordered the guacamole with the sampling of 7 salsas — these came in several small bowls with little spoons that came in handy when the chips were too large to dunk. When arranged on the table, they were set out from mild to spicy. My first tasting was right in the middle, something medium-spiced and exceptionally smokey. But then I tried Sikil Pak that had a very interesting texture that was also flavored with some interesting ingredients. Made out of pumpkin seeds, tomato, onion, garlic, cinnamon, epazote, sour orange juice and serrano — the Sikil Pak had a consistency similar to hummus that isn’t as creamy as it can be. The texture is what made me wonder if I would even categorize this as a salsa.
My personal favorites were the Smoked Cashew salsa and the Salsa Verde. I feel like it’s a mind game for me when I eat salsa verde — it looks like I am about to eat a chip full of pesto but the flavors are completely different than one another! Fresh and flavorful, this Salsa Verde makes me fall in love with cilantro all over again! The Smoked Cashew did not have an overwhelming nutty flavor and was light in consistency.
The guacamole was perfect. Yes, I just said perfect! Freshly made, the guacamole was my savior after sampling some of the spiciest salsas. The creamy cooling sensation of the avocados helped expedite the end to the sincerely spicy Salsa Habanera.
What is it with spicy foods? I hate the feeling of the spice on my tongue, but I love the taste! I have yet to experience a spicy tasting food that I didn’t think was flavorful. The only “spicy” food I hate is wasabi — I think it tastes foul, as if it has mold on it.
Overall the restaurant was a fantastic spot to meet up at for brunch. Upon arriving at noon it was practically empty — a few families occupied some tables but they were heading out. By the time we left around 1:30/2 p.m. the place was packed and nearly every table was full! A major bonus: the restaurant is in such a prime location it is easy to get to by walking or subway.