East Village Happy Hour: Sembrado's Tacos and Mezcal
There are many places to get tacos in the East Village, but few that have a tricked-out mezcal bar that pours from uncommon bottles by the ounce. If you're interested in such a pairing, there's now Sembrado on 13th Street, where Hecho en Dumbo's Danny Mena does a menu of tacos and other snacks. During normal hours, the small tacos are priced closer to Empellon than Tacos Morelos, and the cocktails rest at the now-standard price of $13, but a daily happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. offers an enticing deal.
Then you can get tequila or mezcal margaritas for eight bucks and tacos al pastor—the house specialty—for a very reasonable $2.50 each; two make a nice snack. The tortillas, made at the restaurant, are great—soft to the point of creamy with strong, fresh currents of corn—and they hold up well to flavorful shavings of pork, which, despite its deeply spiced chili rub, boasts the naturally sweet flavor of pig. You may notice that each taco comes wrapped with just one tortilla. Don't complain before trying—it's a smart move for this size of taco that makes for a more balanced bite.
The happy hour mezcal margarita special is a good drink; lime tames the spirit's billowing smoke and all the dilution draws out mezcal's own subtle sweetness. But I'm even more partial to the El Caifan ($13), a negroni-like sipper of mezcal Peloton infused with smoky lapsang souchong stirred with Campari and Carpano Antica. It has layers of smoke, resounding bitterness, and delicate notes of citrus and agave, the kind of drink worth savoring as a night cap, but hey, the night's still young.