St. Mark's Place has been shedding some of its semi-shabby college vibe in favor of quality food options, especially now that celebrated pastry chef turned Mexican food ambassador Alex Stupak has opened the latest addition to his Empellon empire. Over the weekend, the chef launched Empellon al Pastor, a taqueria boasting a tiny food menu, a big booze menu and a DIY attitude of counter service and paper plates inside the former Sushi Lounge space at Avenue A. Instead of 50% off maki, diners can now select from a menu of $4 food items of Mexican persuasion, including, of course, a rendition of the restaurant's namesake taco.

The slow-roasted, pineapple-flecked pork is the main attraction here, served simply with chopped onion and cilantro. Same goes for other taco options, including a chicken with chipotle, a potato-chorizo and two vegan options including a mushroom-pasilla chile and a rotating vegetable of the day. According to the menu, tacos are served with "the appropriate salsa," with crema available on request.

Other $4 "accoutrement" include chips and guac, spicy pickled cabbage and Drunken Black Beans fortified with the scraps and juices from the al pastor preparation; the only menu item over four bucks is the Shortrib Barbacoa ($20), which comes with six tortillas and a drunken salsa. Speaking of tortillas, Stupak and crew are crushing corn on site, making the masa and resulting tortillas completely from scratch.

The bar program's where the place really kicks it into high gear, offering speciality micheladas, margaritas and other spirits-based drinks. For the classic amped up beer drinks, Stupak has tapped a few of his chef friends for inspiration, like the Michelote Michelada with corn powder, malta Goya and Ponzu created by his former boss Wylie Dufresne and the El Chambovaca, a creation by Andrew Zimmern that spikes Tecate with chipotle tomato juice, beef broth and a reposado tequila.

Less out-there options include $5 cans of Tecate and Mexicali, plus more crafty offerings including 18 tap beers, cans of Shiner Oktoberfest ($7) and a fancy Blood of the Kings brew from Chicago that runs $15 a bottle. There are also dozens of tequilas and mezcals for sipping, all priced under a friendly $9 each.

132 Saint Marks Place at Avenue A, 212-367-0999; website

Al Pastor Menu