Oy. My love affair with Mexican cusine has been a long and passionate one. I could literally eat enchiladas every night, and since my favorite foods are all variations on cheese and bread, I am never disappointed by Mexican food in New York.
Contrary to popular opinion, I think New York’s Mexican restaurants are on par with those of Los Angeles (my favorite LA Mexican, by the way, is Guelaguetza). Maybe that’s because I’ve eaten at virtually every Mexican restaurant in the City (not true, as usual I’m being hyperbolic but I’ve eaten a LOT of Mexican food in NYC over the past seven years) and generally think everything is better in New York. There’s a ton of variety as far as Mexican reataurants in the City—from more authentic, summer-year-round taquerias to cheese covered, pub style nachos and queso. I love it all. But I love these ten most of all…
Taco Mix: This super chill counter-service taco shop in East Harlem is widely acknowledged as having some of the best tacos in New York. Non-taco menu items are almost as good, and you can customize everything, Chipotle style…but it’s better than Chipotle, and I say that as someone who goes to Chipotle on a weekly basis.
Chavela’s: This little Mexican cafe is super quaint and reasonably priced—last time I went, I got three tacos, chips and salsa, a quesadilla, and a small side of guacamole for $20 with tip. It just feels like comfort food. They have a great brunch, huge drinks, and fast, friendly service. Literally no complaints.
Rosa Mexicana: This was my first favorite—many locations around the City (my favorite is at Lincoln Center). They’re slightly more fancy but not terribly expensive, with great drinks and apps…pretty much everything is fabulous here, and they strike a good balance between authentic and picky-eater-friendly. Great tableside fresh guac cart really delicious family-sized sides. Randomly, they also have an amazing Mexican-Jewish fusion Seder during Passover.
Caliente Cab Company: Right on the border between Greenwich Village and the West Village, CCC does a lot of things very, very well—fresh outdoor dining in the summer, Sunday morning brunch to cure a hangover, warm and toasty classics in the colder months, and delivery that travels pretty well for Mexican food. Their queso is my favorite in the City. It is currently not on their condensed COVID menu, and believe me, last time I went I was quite upset about it (“Agh. I know it’s not your fault, but I am so fucking unhappy.” -me to the waiter). But they still have a good selection, and very, very cheesy nachos.
La Esquina: Fresh, authentic Mexican with a few locations around the City—one flagship in Soho with a more extensive menu, three other taquerias. Nice little breakfast menu (especially the huevos rancheros). Great street corn…and obviously, pretty dank tacos. The flagship feels cool and kind of secret—a semi-hidden underground basement brasserie. I also appreciate the big portions. Quite filling.
Empellon al Pastor: Another East Village favorite—it’s also got a very downtown, dive bar vibe, and the tacos are some of my favorite in the City. They’re big and stuffed full—you get a lot of bang for your buck, and everything is perfectly cooked, with each type of taco accented by just the right sauce or veggie…or pineapple, with the pork tacos.
Taqueria St Marks: This is me and my friends’ go-to quick sit-down dinner before a night out, or after when one thing leads to another and drunchies / munchies push us out for a second dinner before last call. I love their enchiladas, the divey atmosphere, and the salsa (thin, super fresh, restaurant style). They also have an extra wide variety of tacos, with classics like chorizo and fish in addition to more adventurous options like tongue and pork stomach. They’re also really festive at Christmas and one of my favorite places to go during the holidays.
Tacombi: Another one with multiple locations, and their own line of salsa, homemade tortillas…homemade everything, basically. Some of the best service I’ve had in the City, and always super fresh. It’s especially great in the warmer months, very open and good for social distancing. Cozy if a little drafy in the winter. Just wear a sweatshirt. I can’t go more than a month without stopping for a few tacos or an app. Usually the sweet corn and some guac.
Dos Caminos: Classic Mexican cantina, slightly elevated. It’s a bit pricy but nothing terrible for New York, the service and atmosphere is great, drinks are strong, appetizers are great…also really good salads, and I generally do not eat salad.
Casa Enrique: One of the only places I frequented when I worked in Long Island City—a Michelin Starred cantina known for their margaritas, mole, and brunch. It’s a little different than a lot of Mexican restaurants in NYC because they specialize in cuisine from chef Cosme Aguilar’s homestate of Chiapas. There’s a distinctive (and hard to describe) flavor and so many menu options it’s difficult to characterize the food…but there are lot of corn based dishes, mole, pork, and seafood. None of my favorites as far as Mexican cuisine goes, but I keep coming back. It’s just that good.