30 best tacos: Mexican street eats in New York City

Whether you’re looking for dirt-cheap classics or new-school riffs, here's where to find NYC’s 30 best tacos.

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New York is home to an impressive amount of Mexican restaurants, including some top taquerias. So put down the overpriced margarita and skip the noisy Cinco de Mayo parties this year. Instead, go on a citywide tasting of tortilla-wrapped bites from Tortilleria Nixtamal, Empellón Taqueria and more with TONY’s guide to NYC's best tacos.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Beef taquito at Taquitoria

    Rolled tacos are the focus of this graffiti-tagged snack shack. The twice-fried cigars give way to succulent meat fillings: The top-notch beef variety—a moist blend of Creekstone Farms eye of round and short rib—finds delicious foils in salty cotija and chili-garlic sauce. 168 Ludlow St between E Houston and Stanton Sts (212-780-0121, taquitoria.com). Three for $5.

  • Photograph: Jessica Lin

    Chicharróns taco at Country Boys

    The brick-and-mortar offshoot of the Vendy Award–winning Red Hook antojito truck, this South Slope restaurant puts forth a supreme chicharróns taco, packed with fried-yet-fatty rinds that butt against creamy guac and crisp lettuce shreds on a hand-pressed, griddle-warmed masa round. 568 Fourth Ave at 16th St, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-452-6079, countryboysfood.weebly.com). Two for $7.

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Adobada taco at Los Tacos No. 1

    Small, from-scratch corn tortillas puff up on the grill like blowfish at this West Coaster–approved Chelsea Market taco counter, easing down before they’re piled with superbly juicy adobada pork: The red-chili–marinated pig is trimmed shawarma-style from a glistening spit, its natural sweetness jacked up with shards of pineapple and a squirt of lime. Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave between 15th and 16th Sts (212-256-0343, lostacos1.com). $3.

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Al pastor taco at Taqueria Diana

    At this narrow East Village takeout taqueria, owner Matthew La Rue (the Meatball Shop) shaves off quivering, yielding bites of blistered, spit-roasted pork for his al pastor taco, stacked high on house-pressed corn tortillas with chopped onions and optional dollops of smooth guacamole and morita-chili salsa. 129 Second Ave between St. Marks Pl and E 7th St (646-422-7871, taqueriadiana.com). $3.

  • Photograph: Michael Rudin

    Fish taco at El Diablito Taqueria

    The battered, Baja-fresh fish taco is the star of the menu at this Crayola-bright Mexican canteen. The tempura-fried crust shatters around flaky tilapia, with lime-infused crema adding richness and red cabbage echoing the batter’s crunch. 60 E 3rd St between First and Second Aves (646-692-9268). $2.95.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Fish taco at Pinche Taqueria

    This spin-off of a Tijuana, Mexico, taqueria channels the Baja original with fresh fish tacos. Golden fried fingers of beer-battered mahi-mahi line a single tortilla and are dressed with crunchy shreds of green cabbage, onions and an herbaceous streak of cilantro-mayo. 333 Lafayette St between Bleecker and E Houston Sts (212-343-9977). $3.95.

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Birria de res taco at Taqueria Coatzingo

    At this top-notch taqueria, beef simmers with dried guajillo peppers and avocado leaf for three hours, until the meat is tender and infused with aromatics. The saucy, spicy stew is finished with a sprinkling of cilantro, onion and guacamole on a double layer of corn tortillas, which can barely contain the filling's savory juices. 76-05 Roosevelt Ave between 76th and 77th Sts, Jackson Heights, Queens (718-424-1977). $2.50.

  • Photograph: Ilenia Martini

    Cecina taco at Mexico Lindo y ¡Que rico! Deli

    Beef is grilled to order at this divey gem. The salty, tender strips are stuffed into two corn tortillas and spruced up with a dicing of fresh tomato, radish, onion and cilantro. Crack a cold Negra Modelo from one of the refrigerators while you wait. 497 Coney Island Ave between Albemarle Rd and Turner Pl, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn (718-941-3267). $2.50.

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Al Pastor taco at Tortilleria Nixtamal

    Some of the best Mexican restaurants in town use the tortillas made at this factory. Go straight to the source everyday, when Nixtamal's small caf offers tacos al pastor: marinated pork butt roasted on an outdoor spit. The juicy slices are topped with pineapple and cilantro and folded into a house-made tortilla. 104-05 47th Ave between 104th and 108th Sts, Corona, Queens (718-699-2434). $3.

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Pescado A Las Brasas taco at La Esquina

    La Esquina's sit-down caf and takeout taqueria offer a number of dependable bites, but we particularly like their straightforward treatment of fish---a hunk of grilled mahi-mahi, speared with a skewer and brightened with shredded cabbage and salsa verde. 114 Kenmare St at Lafayette St (646-613-7100). Taqueria: $3.95 each. Caf: two for $10.

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Al pastor taco at Taco Mix

    This East Harlem hole-in-the-wall may serve the city's best al pastor tacos, sliced to order off a rotating spit crowned with a hunk of grilled pineapple. The tortilla-to-meat ratio is perfectly balanced. 234 E 116th St between Second and Third Aves (347-664-3002). $2.75.

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Cabeza taco at Taco Matamoros

    Soft chunks of rich, pungent cow's-head meat are spread on a pair of griddled corn tortillas with salsa verde at this Sunset Park stalwart. 4508 Fifth Ave between 45th and 46th Sts, Sunset Park, Brooklyn (718-871-7627). $1.50–$2.50.

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Seared-pork taco at Kimchi Taco

    These Asian-spiked tacos get a double dose of kimchi: The fiery fermented-cabbage slaw is seared with the pork-shoulder filling, and the final product is finished with a fresh scoop of the stuff. For locations, visit kimchitacotruck.com. Three for $7, four for $9.

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Langosta taco at Toloache

    Inspired by tacos he tasted in Veracruz, Mexico, chef Julian Medina sauts buttery hunks of poached lobster with a chile de arbol--based morita salsa. The decadent mix is finished with a dice of creamy avocado and a drizzle of chipotle mayo. 251 W 50th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave (212-581-1818). Two for $17.

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Shredded-beef mini taco at Sueños

    Sue Torres spins memories of her family's taco night into a chefly bar snack at her Chelsea mainstay. Six deep-fried tortillas cradle shredded boiled beef melded with a sweet-and-smoky BBQ sauce, and topped with a fine shower of serrano-spiked pico de gallo and queso fresco. 311 W 17th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-243-1333). Six for $13.

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Chilorio brisket taco at Brooklyn Taco Company

    Taco slingers Jesse Kramer and Erica Molina braise brisket for four hours with ancho chili, garlic and a mix of spices for their beefy riff on a traditional pork dish, which is finished with pineapple, red onion, cilantro, cotija, crema and hot sauce. Essex Street Market, 130 Essex Street, Building Bbetween Rivington and Stanton (646-820-8226); $4.

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Barbacoa taco at El Aguila

    This outpost of a New Jersey tortilleria slow-cooks its incendiary goat special in huge pots, then heaps the tender meat generously onto supremely fresh tortillas. The gratis-condiment station offers vats of lively salsas and other toppings. 137 E 116th St at Lexington Ave (212-410-2450). $2.50.

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Suadero taco at Tacos Morelos

    Late-snacking hipsters can offset whiskey binges at these Williamsburg and East Village trucks, which are satellite operations of a Jackson Heights taqueria. The suadero is cheap and satisfying: Chewy, steamed slices of brisket are pepped up with a mix of onion, cilantro and guacamole. 94-13 37th Ave between 94th and 95th Sts, Jackson Heights, Queens • North 7th St at Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn • 2nd St at Ave A • (347-772-5216). $2.50

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Carne Asada tacos at Taco el Gallo Giro

    Twenty-three-year-old Miguel Gallardo dishes out some of the city's best carne asada specimens from this cart, 12 hours a day (6pm--6am). He deftly chops well-seasoned beef, piles on homemade salsa and toppings (onions! cilantro! guacamole!) and wraps the whole thing into a perfectly portable tortilla cone. Roosevelt Ave between 74th and 75th Sts, Jackson Heights, Queens (no phone). $2.

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Beer-braised tongue taco at Empellón

    Chef-owner Alex Stupak slowly cooks brined pork tongue with bacon, chorizo, onions and a slug of Negra Modelo. The meat is coated with the reduced braising liquid and drizzled with a fiery chile de arbol salsa, while slivers of raw onion, roasted fingerling potatoes and queso fresco balance the protein's rich, spicy flavors. 230 W 4th St at 10th St (212-367-0999). Two for $12, three for $18.

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Veggie taco at Country Boys

    This stand got its start at the Red Hook Ball Fields, before it was recruited by the Brooklyn Flea. We like the veggie combo: garlicky mushrooms, zucchini and wilted spinach. 568 Fourth Ave between Prospect Ave and 16th St, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-452-6079). One for $3.50, two for $7.

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Taco Arabes at Ricos Tacos

    Named for its Arabic origins, this Lebanese-Mexican roll-up combines spiced spit-roasted pork with sweet strings of caramelized onion in a pitalike, flour-based flatbread. 505 51st St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, Sunset Park, Brooklyn (718-633-4816). $3.

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Camarón taco at Pampano Taqueria

    The tacos at Richard Sandoval's lunch-only outpost of upscale Mexican cantina Pampano may cost a buck more than street-cart varieties, but the killer camarón—sweet and succulent adobo-sautéed shrimp in a supple flour tacoand indoor seating options justify the extra green. Crystal Pavilion Food Court, 805 Third Ave between 49th and 50th Sts (212-751-5257). $3.25.

  • Photograph: Ilenia Martini

    Papas y rajas taco at Tacombi NYC

    Don't let the gimmicky ordering system (pick up tickets at one counter and redeem them at another) deter you from chowing down at this restaurant housed in a Nolita warehouse. The vegetarian combination of soft, guajillo-dusted potatoes tangled with sautéed poblano pepper, brightened by both red and green salsa, is surprisingly addictive. 267 Elizabeth St between E Houston and Prince Sts (917-727-0179). $4.

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Chorizo taco at la Tortillería Mexicana Los Hermanos

    The chorizo at this Bushwick tortilla factory is some of the city's best; ground bits of sausage are sautéed with a few pieces of potato, coating the spuds with cinnamon, chili and pork fat. The spicy mess is deposited on top of two freshly made tortillas, along with cilantro and a squirt of crema. 271 Starr St between St. Nicholas and Wyckoff Aves, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-456-3422). $2.25.

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Carne asada taco at Dos Toros

    Tender cubes of rich flap steak, seasoned with a secret spice blend and grilled to a gorgeously pink medium-rare, would be good enough to eat alone. But we like them even better cradled in corn tortillas lined with Jack cheese and pimped out with fresh pico, a squirt of fiery habanero sauce and bright guac for an extra 92 cents. 137 Fourth Ave between 13th and 14th Sts (212-677-7300). $4.13.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Taco de pollo at Zaragoza Mexican Deli

    In-the-know night owls fuel up at this tiny deli, where the tacos are prepared behind the checkout counter with a rotating cast of homemade meats, including vibrant chipotle chicken. Snag a table by the fridges in the back. 215 Ave A between 13th and 14th Sts (212-780-9204). Large $3.50, small $3.

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Lengua taco at El Rey del Sabor

    This midtown favorite drew lines even before it made it to the Vendy Award finals in 2010. It dishes out solid standards like carne asada and al pastor, but the soft tongue, which is simmered for four hours and tucked into two warm griddled corn tortillas, offers bold lunchers a quick midday adventure in offal. 43rd St at Sixth Ave • Park Ave at 49th St • 60th St at Third Ave • (347-612-2426). $2.50.

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Nopales taco at Chavela's

    The meat-averse should appreciate this simple vegetarian-friendly nosh. Piquant slices of sautéed cactus are folded with bright pico de gallo, buttery avocado and salty queso fresco in a thick corn tortilla. 736 Franklin Ave at Sterling Pl, Crown Heights, Brooklyn (718-622-3100). $3.

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Enchilada taco at Tulcingo Restaurant

    The tacos here are wrapped in a paper cone and served with a pretty flourish of grilled spring onions, crisp radish quarters and a whole jalapeño. Opt for the ones made with the guajillo-based enchilada sauce: Moist pieces of spicy, saucy pork are covered in a blanket of cilantro, chopped onion and velvety guacamole. 5520 Fifth Ave between 55th and 56th Sts, Sunset Park, Brooklyn (718-439-2896). $2.25.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Beef taquito at Taquitoria

Rolled tacos are the focus of this graffiti-tagged snack shack. The twice-fried cigars give way to succulent meat fillings: The top-notch beef variety—a moist blend of Creekstone Farms eye of round and short rib—finds delicious foils in salty cotija and chili-garlic sauce. 168 Ludlow St between E Houston and Stanton Sts (212-780-0121, taquitoria.com). Three for $5.


Users say

10 comments
Gustavo Astiazarán
Gustavo Astiazarán

You need to add "Los Tacos no 1", a taco stand inside Cheksea's Market, they have great beef and chcken tacos and pork adobada or al pastor tacos. Three young guys from Northern Mexcio are partnering in this NY venture. I met Christian and Jroge, manning the stand today Sat Oct 19th. Great place, great Tacos! Outstanding

Russell Ruggiero
Russell Ruggiero

Say what you want, but this little place in Queens delivers. My wife and I happened to grab lunch there while at the Maker Faire and each and every dish was excellent. It was far better than any Mexican restaurant we have visited in Manhattan. As a matter of fact it was as good as any of the better places in Texas or Arizona. The lamb was perfect as were the tamales. Not cheap, but the food was fresh and honest.

robyn
robyn

Hi dear friends, there is an awesome website that I would like to recommend: www.mealtango.com. Go to www.mealtango.com for cuisines of all kinds wherever you travel to! At MealTango, there are loads of hosts who are willing to offer their best food specialities at home. On top of that, you get to know the local people and their cultures - what more to ask for when you are travelling? Check it out for yourself at www.mealtango.com and choose the food you love the most!

ALEX
ALEX

WHERE IS TACO MIX???

ron
ron

why is there only one?????

ron
ron

why is there only one?????

Matt
Matt

This is a great picture and I've heard great things about Brooklyn Taco Company, but are we supposed to be impressed that they braise the brisket for 4 hours? Braise it for 12 hours or 18 hours like a real cook would and then we can talk.

Art Vandelay
Art Vandelay

I went here on the recommendation of this write-up and I was pretty disappointed. I got 2 tacos and chips. The tacos are very small (photo is totally misleading) and very expensive. The chips were very stale- they tasted like chips that were left out for days. I agree with the comment below, this place was dirty- I sat down and the person in charge moved me to another table because he noticed it was dirty, but never cleaned it the whole time. It was also annoying to eat here because he would inappropriately call female customers "Sweetie" or "Sugar". They also need to establish whether they should have a runner or not. It was confusing how it worked- the person in charge just hung out near the counter and yelled out your order. He yelled out the order because the music was so loud. I hardly ever write about a place, even if I dislike the place, but this write-up misrepresents this place. I wouldn't recommend it.

dfhjsdfujm hv
dfhjsdfujm hv

soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! gud

belen
belen

this is NOT the best taco place in east harlem. this place is dirty and unsanitary. I was born and raised in east harlem and i am completely unimpressed with the service, ordering process and overall cleanliness. You should visit Aguila on 103rd in Lex or even the location at 116th in Lex. They have standards.

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