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It’s possible you’ve heard someone say New York City doesn’t have any good Mexican food. That’s a myth perpetuated by Californians who envy our public transportation system and wealth of good bread products. The truth is that you can find some truly great Mexican food all over the city, whether it’s a sopping birria taco from a truck underneath an above-ground Subway track or at a tasting menu restaurant where you’ll encounter some of the best duck and corn of your entire life.
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Almost everything at this Greenpoint taqueria is modeled after Mexico City’s legendary spots, complete with colorful plastic plates, as well as a choricera and comal custom made in CDMX. Their tacos—which all cost $4—range from shredded suadero and al pastor, to longaniza with bright porky juices. The suadero stews for long enough, around three hours, so the lower belly cut of beef can break down. But our favorite taco remains the tripa, which has such little chewy toughness it might be unidentifiable as a cow’s stomach lining save for the iron-forward taste. The restaurant’s space only holds about ten people, so plan on finding a spot to stand outside, while you already scheme the best possible time to come back for more tacos.
Casa Carmen is the only place outside of Mexico where you can try some signature dishes from chef Carmen Ramirez Degollado’s El Bajío restaurant empire. This upscale spot in Tribeca focuses on traditional Mexican food that can be found all over Veracruz, Puebla, and Oaxaca, all of which is served in a room with earthy decor that makes you think you’re at a hacienda-like resort. Order the refreshing ceviche with just the right amount of acid, the tostadas topped with shredded duck, and the chicken drenched in pleasantly bitter and sweet mole de Xico that’s made with only 37 ingredients. On your way out, you’ll see a big communal table that looks like it could host a council of supervillains (or, you know, a birthday party), so think of this place the next time you need to host a big group dinner.
Raw seafood and summer are a perfect match. And you’ll find some exciting raw fish options at Tacos Güey in Flatiron. Sit at the busy bar and eat tuna crudo topped with dollops of avocado crema and sliced serranos, scallop aguachile in a shallow pool of cucumber and finger lime sauce, and their best mariscos dish: the sea bass ceviche. Served in a clamshell with crunchy chips on the side, the combination of gooseberries, chile oil, and diced sea bass is tingly and sweet, and pairs well with one of their frozen cocktails (like the tart “That Güey”). Order this spread of raw things, and a larger main like the salsa verde-lathered pork ribs that fall off the bone, for a satisfying meal.
Mariscos El Submarino has several great raw seafood options, but a meal at this Mexican restaurant in Jackson Heights isn’t complete without an order of ceviche mixto. This massive bowl of jalapeño-covered prawns, fresh white fish, and tender octopus gets marinated in a creamy house sauce and then topped with several perfect slices of avocado. And it’ll transport you to a chill beachside seafood shack in Puerto Escondido. While you’re here, don’t miss their aguachile negro. The smoky seafood dish gets its color (and name) from a blend of charred green and red chiles that you’ll see flecked in the loose water-and-lime-based sauce. Both dishes come with a side of crunchy, flat tortillas so you can build your own tostada with acidic tilapia, shrimp, octopus, and creamy avocado slices.
Chalupas Poblanas El Tlecuile is an elusive, cash-only chalupa stand in Jackson Heights that typically only operates from 6-11pm on Friday-Sunday, and it’s worth planning your entire weekend around a stack of these street chalupas. The tortillas are cooked on a charcoal-fired comal in pork lard, and then get doused with both salsa rojo and verde, shredded pork, and onions. When stacked into a tower for consumption, these make a perfect meal for $10. They’re significantly less crispy than chalupas we’ve had in the past, but that’s not a bad thing – the tortillas are heavily sauced, browned on the bottom, and each bite tastes wildly porky from the lard. Take a friend here and show them one of NYC’s best Mexican dishes.
This tiny basement bar in Williamsburg serves copitas full of sweet-smokey mezcal and has a food menu of grilled head-on shrimp, crispy tacos filled with smoked tuna and refried beans, chunky guacamole topped with salsa macha, and other dishes that make us feel closer to Mexico City than we geographically are. Come here for a nightcap or Happy Hour as soon as possible. It’s not quite a bar, it’s not quite a full restaurant, but Aldama is entirely worth your time. Especially for a sultry-adjacent date night or a friend catch-up where you both look hot (and know it).
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Kuxé is a great place to meet up with a friend, spend some time in an outdoor hut, and share some guacamole and a few margaritas. The Greenwich Village spot also highlights the staff member who came up with the recipe for each dish, along with a short blurb about their inspiration. While scanning the menu, you’ll learn that the large chicken milanesa cemita with stringy quesillo cheese was head chef Juan Velazco’s favorite birthday meal growing up. In addition to these stories inspiring your own celebratory plans, it’s nice to see a restaurant so transparently give credit on a dish-by-dish basis. Plus, some of the descriptions might even provide you with some conversation material that’s not just rehashing what you think of Nicole Kidman’s latest “breathtaking” performance.
La Morada has a huge menu, and, much like Donald Glover and most decathletes, it’s good at pretty much everything. The tacos are excellent, the tamales are like warm little pillows made of chicken and corn, and we’d gladly eat an entire meal consisting of the crunchy gorditas. But the real reason you come here is the mole. They serve six different kinds, including a mild white one made with pine nuts – but our favorite is the mole oaxaqueño. It’s a deep red color, and it’s rich, spicy, and possibly more complex than any equation currently being worked on by mathematicians and/or Nobel laureates. Plan a casual weeknight meal at this Mott Haven restaurant, and bring as many people as you can.
If you’ve ever walked across Houston Street and thought to yourself, “I wish there was a good Mexican restaurant around here that wasn’t Dos Caminos,” Bar Tulix is for you. In the space on Houston and Greene that was home to Burger & Barrel for about a decade, you’ll now find this seafood-heavy Mexican restaurant with food from the chef behind Oxomoco and Speedy Romeo. The menu isn’t traditional—there’s an aguachile turned black with squid ink and a riff on a Caesar salad—but all of the food is tasty. Standout dishes include the masa-encrusted fish, the shrimp cocktail tostada, and the roast duck with mole poblano. Come here for a fun Saturday night involving probably too much mezcal, or for a drink and snack at the bar the next time you’re in Soho.
Birria-Landia makes the city’s best birria. This Tijuana-style spot is a New York City landmark, like the Statue of Liberty, except it’s a truck under a set of subway tracks in Jackson Heights, and it’s actually worth visiting (they also opened a truck in Williamsburg in 2020). Each of the four items on their menu (tacos, mulitas, tostadas, and consomme), are bolstered by the tangy, mildly spicy, and mysteriously deep stew. First, you’ll taste lime, then tender meat, then adobo, then dripping fat, with everything melting together in your unworthy mouth. Make sure to take your crunchy-soft tortilla filled with beef and dip it in your cup of consomme. What happens is a sea change. The word “delicious” seems somehow inadequate. Bring at least $13 cash, and get one of each item on the menu.
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For All Things Good runs on masa, but you won’t find any tacos on the menu. The restaurant focuses on Oaxacan dishes like giant memelas topped with avocado and a fried egg, tetelas filled with everything from hibiscus flower to black bean, and tlayudas covered in a ridiculous amount of mushrooms. This Bed-Stuy spot makes some of the best tortillas we’ve had anywhere in NYC, and you can pick up a dozen of these colorful heirloom corn creations for $7. Stop by for a casual breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and read all about the different corn varietals they keep in rotation here.
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This all-day Mexican restaurant in Noho is from the team behind Cosme, and it’s where you can eat the best chicken soup of your life and a taco made with shrimp cooked in chili oil, bitter hoja santa, creamy guacamole, and crunchy fried cheese. During the day, Alta has a breezy West Coast cafe feel with food that’s better than anything else you can get at 3pm for several miles. At night, the restaurant feels slightly more formal, and it’s an equally great option for a date featuring some phenomenal margaritas, and the aforementioned shrimp taco. Yes, on a list with excellent tacos priced below $3, know that Atla’s taco is worth $15.
Cosme is from the same people behind Atla, but instead of a bright all-day cafe, this dark Flatiron restaurant is best reserved for special occasions. They serve things like a tlayuda covered in mushrooms, an abalone tostada, and a plate of fish prepared al-pastor style. But if there’s one thing you order here, make it the excellent $98 plate of duck carnitas. The massive dish involves half of a juicy roasted duck served in a cast-iron pan and paired with warm tortillas so you can make your own tender taco feast. Stop by and share it with a few friends the next time you earn a degree, have a birthday to celebrate, or decide to spend the rest of your life with someone.
Everything, from the ceviche to the chile relleno served in a little pool of mildly sweet sauce, is reliably excellent at this Long Island City favorite of ours. And their tres leches cake is how you’ll want to end every meal going forward. Rely on Casa Enrique for anything from an impressive date that doesn’t feel too formal to a casual dinner with a couple of friends who appreciate good crab tostadas.
Stick your head out the window and shout that you’re looking for Poblano-style food in Manhattan, and you’ll (sadly) receive nothing but your neighbor’s confusion. The answer you’re really looking for is Tuclingo del Valle. This Hell’s Kitchen spot makes excellent cemitas, mole, and juicy pork ribs in pools of salsa verde. The next time someone says there’s no good Mexican food near midtown, reroute your night here.
You should, of course, order the al pastor tacos at Taqueria Al Pastor in Bushwick. They come piled with strips of crispy pork and cubes of pineapple, and a single hefty taco constitutes a very respectable snack. But the carne asada is even better. Cut into chunks the size of seven-carat diamonds, the beef is garlicky, well-seasoned, and as bountiful as snowflakes in a snowstorm. The guacamole also has some nice kick, and the housemade corn tortillas are sturdy with the right amount of chewy. On one occasion they ran out of corn tortillas and made our tacos with flour ones instead. The result? An equally outstanding handheld meal.
On any given night, you can find us closing our eyes and pretending we’re sitting at Claro’s outdoor bar, underneath some twinkly lights, with a mezcal cocktail in hand, watching our tortillas being made on an open flame in front of us. When you stop by, get a memela topped with chorizo and queso fresco, as well as some of the best mole we’ve had. That said, this Oaxacan restaurant in Gowanus is also open for brunch, with dishes like chilaquiles with short rib and masa pancakes with agave nectar.
A burrito at Taqueria Tlaxcalli in Parkchester is roughly the size of a 12-day-old kitten. But that’s not even the most exciting thing about it, which is how good it tastes. Each burrito comes with stripes of white, green, and purple sauces on top, and cheesy rice inside (along with whatever filling you choose – we like the steak). Aside from the burritos, Taqueria Tlaxcalli serves great grilled fish tacos, fajitas, and plates of pork chops with rice and beans. It’s very casual, and just a short walk from the 6 train. If you’ve ever participated in a serious conversation about burritos in New York City, a trip here is required.
If you look in the window of Taqueria Coatzingo on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, you can see flames coming off the grill. And when you walk inside, the dining room might even be a little smoky. Take this as a very good sign. Whenever we eat here, we order their tacos stuffed to the gills, huaraches, and enchiladas, or even a big plate of pork chops with rice and beans. If you’re looking for some of the city’s best birria tacos, Taqueria Coatzingo’s version are held together with soft, white corn tortillas. Inside each one, you’ll also find beef birria, creamy guacamole, onions, and cilantro, plus you can add cheese for an extra dollar. Taqueria Coatzingo also has plenty of tables in the big back dining room, where you can simultaneously listen to music and soccer announcers on TV.
From the excellent mole selection to mezcal flights, Ruta Oaxaca takes the maximalist approach at every turn. And that’s exactly why we love this Mexican restaurant in Astoria. With the electric pink patio structure to the rich mole-covered enchiladas, you’ll feel like you’re in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reboot without any of the terror. If you need another reason to make this Oaxacan spot a priority, know that Ruta offers a 2-for-1 cocktail special during brunch service on weekends – all tables are first come, first served until 4pm.
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Some things at Oxomoco are optional. Starting out with a giant frozen margarita or paloma is not. And neither is ordering the tlayuda – our favorite tortilla dish at a restaurant with many good tortilla dishes (which probably has something to do with the fact that they make their own). OK, we’re done giving you rules for this spot, so now you can start figuring out when to come here for a fun date night, group dinner, or taco-eating competition against yourself. All are worthy reasons to come to Greenpoint so you can eat here.
This Long Island City truck only opened at the end of 2020, but they already make some of the most tender, sopping wet birria we’ve ever had in NYC. The tacos, mulitas, and consomme at Chinelos all taste deliciously cilantro forward, with heavy hints of warming spices like clove, star anise, and cinnamon. All that is to say the stew is more herbaceous here than what’s happening at adobo-forward birria spots like Birria-Landia or Tacos El Bronco. If you want something beyond the three for $10 birria tacos, get a $4 mulita, which has crispy cheese layered between the nixtamal corn tortillas, plus a bunch of cotija sprinkled on top.
If you live in Bushwick, you might already know of a casual Mexican place called Paloma’s on the border of Ridgewood. This is the second, much larger location from the same people that’s taken over the former Guadalupe Inn space. They specialize in seafood options like fresh fish tacos, ceviche, and aguachile scallops, and all of their handmade gluten-free tortillas taste like thick, spongy corn cakes. It’s the kind of fun sit-down spot you can rely on for a solid Mexican dinner on a weeknight. But on Saturdays and Sundays, they usually host fun events like drag brunches and live music shows on the stage in the back.
Amaranto is a little space on a relatively quiet corner a few blocks from the DeKalb L stop in Bushwick, and you can have a very impressive meal here. Get a few tacos stuffed with steak and mushrooms, or try the big, juicy pork chop that comes in mole made with peanuts. This place is worth a trip from anywhere in the city, and it gets a bonus points for not being that hard to get into.
This Tijuana-style taco shop started in Chelsea Market in 2013, and you’ll still consistently find lines there any time you go. But now they also have locations all around Manhattan – including a very useful spot near Grand Central and one near Times Square. Whenever we eat here, we opt for carne asada, adobada, or nopal tacos with all the fixings, and we’d encourage you to expand beyond tacos to try some of their cheese-layered mulas.
Tacos El Bronco operates two trucks and a brick-and-mortar location in Sunset Park. At each spot, the menu has almost as many potential moves as a game of chess, but if you do this cash-only spot in Sunset Park the right way, you don’t even need a menu. Stick to tacos – the smaller ones, specifically, which are all $1.50 or $1.75, and involve double tortillas with onions, cilantro, and your choice of meat. The al pastor is a must-order, but the best option is the campechanos, which includes salty beef, pork sausage, and crispy pork skin. You also can’t go wrong with the chiles rellenos.
The name of the game at Nene’s Deli in Bushwick is quesabirria – a crispy-gooey, cheese-infiltrated birria dish that was hard to find in NYC until 2020. No matter if you want a birria burrito, quesadilla, taco, or mulita, you’ll get one served amongst a layer of melted white cheese. As you might be able to imagine, the union of meat-soaked orange tortillas, stewy adobo beef, and caramelized cheese is one we all should be grateful for – even as you sit on a bench in nearby Maria Hernandez Park ruining your pants with orange meat juice stains that no napkin stands a chance against.
La Contenta serves some of our favorite fish tacos in the city, and the tiny Lower East Side location is perfect for when you want to have a fun night out in the neighborhood. Along with your massive, lightly-battered fish tacos, order queso with goat cheese and hanger steak served with a twice-baked potato. It’s relatively casual, and everything costs less than $25. If you’re closer to the West Village, La Contenta has a second location on 6th Avenue with significantly more tables than the original spot.
This is a Sunset Park institution, and while we slightly prefer the food at Tacos El Bronco, Tacos Matamoros is the more enjoyable place to hang out. The loud dining room tends to be packed with groups and families sharing platters of tacos and big plates of mole poblano, and unlike Tacos El Bronco, Matamoros serves alcohol. Get a paloma or margarita and some double tortilla tacos, like the carnitas or lengua, and at least one order of the queso fundido with chorizo.