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The best Mexican restaurants in New York

From tacos to Tex-Mex, we've got your South of the Border cravings covered

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Carnitas taco at Tijuana Picnic

Prevailing wisdom says that New York Mexican restaurants can’t compare to the stuff they’re slinging out West. Consider this list of NYC’s best tacos, burritos, tamales, guacamole and more to be our convincing retort. We’ve braved the spiciest salsas (and plenty of trips to the outer boroughs) to compile this roundup of the best Mexican food in New York. Order one of the city's best margaritas, then eat and drink your way through our list. 

RECOMMENDED: See all of the best restaurants in NYC

Mexican restaurants in New York

The Black Ant

This low-lit East Village cantina from Ofrenda amigos Jorge Guzman and Mario Hernandez busts out of the tortilla-wrapped norm, spotlighting tribal delicacies like grasshoppers, worms and, yes, the namesake ant. Hailing from the Dominican Republic and Cuernavaca, Mexico, respectively, the pair sources those creepy crawlers and the modern Mayan decor straight from their home states. Brave bugged-out snacks like the tlayuda con chapulines or try pest-free plates like punchy papaya ceviche de jurel with yellowtail tuna, blanched sea beans and minced serrano peppers, or hearty enchiladas de conejo.

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East Village

Cosme

Enrique Olvera’s elegant high-gear small plates—pristine, pricey and market-fresh—more than fills that gap in New York dining. It steamrolls right over it. Tacos make a solitary appearance on the menu, in an atypically generous portion of duck carnitas. But Olvera’s single-corn tortillas pop up frequently, from a complimentary starter of crackly blue-corn tortillas with chile-kicked pumpkin-seed butter to dense, crispy tostadas dabbed with bone-marrow salsa and creamy tongues of uni.

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Flatiron

Dos Toros

Siblings Leo and Oliver Kremer left the Bay Area to teach New Yorkers a thing or two about Cal-Mex cuisine. Their tiny East Village storefront specializes in San Francisco–style burritos—California’s perversely swollen, pico de gallo–drenched wonders. Try one stuffed with rice and beans, along with your choice of protein: carne asada (meaty grilled flap steak), locally raised, brined and grilled chicken, or porky slow-cooked carnitas. Though the burrito is the star, other menu items make for worthy detours: The griddled quesadilla is a crisp, compact parcel of meat, melted Jack cheese and vibrant guacamole.

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Downtown

Empellón Cocina

Some chefs are like gastronomic Margaret Meads, quick studies in replicating the food of cultures far from their own. Alex Stupak, a notorious tinkerer, is much more original. Everything here is designed for sharing, and a table cluttered with his most impressionistic fare feels Mexican only in the most cosmopolitan sense. Plus the bar has one of the most comprehensive selections of mescal in New York.

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East Village

Empellón al Pastor

Inside the boisterous graffiti-tagged room—clinging to the grit of its ’80s incarnation, punk haunt Alcatraz—servers move tacos from the ordering counter to the self-seat tables with a speed that would impress a track-and-field coach. Alex Stupak's $4 tacos are unfussy, served on paper plates with sides that come in takeout containers (like a great burnt-end-beans riff fortified with hunks of al pastor pork). The tortillas—made from Indiana corn that’s nixtamalized (the grains are cooked in limewater and hulled) and pressed in-house daily—are thin and springy, with a delicate maize sweetness.

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East Village

La Lucha NYC

Depending on your tolerance for kitsch, you’ll find this tiny East Village taqueria either charming or trashy. Mexican wrestling is the theme: Lucha libre movies are projected on the wall and wrestling imagery appears everywhere, including the menu (rendering it almost impossible to read). Squint your way through it and you’ll find a lineup of unexpectedly authentic—if slightly junky—Mexican tacos. Try the sweet soft-braised carnitas and the “el santo,” made with salted steak, fried pork and chorizo.

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East Village

Mesa Coyoacan

Chef Ivan Garcia (Mercadito) explores his Mexico City roots at this eatery, named for the neighborhood where he grew up. The food echoes the multiregional snacks you might find on the capital city’s streets: A trio of tamales presents versions from Oaxaqueño (chicken and mole), Chiapaneco (pork, fruit and nuts) and Veracruzano (tilapia with guajillo salsa). Other preparations come straight from the chef’s family, including a secret-recipe ceviche.

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Williamsburg

Taco Mix

This East Harlem hole-in-the-wall may serve the city’s best al pastor tacos, sliced to order from a rotating spit crowned with a hunk of grilled pineapple. The tortilla-to-meat ratio is perfectly balanced.

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East Harlem

Taqueria Coatzingo

Fresh, meaty tacos—think al pastor, steamed tongue and salted beed—give Coatzingo an edge over the other tempting holes-in-the-wall under the 7 train track. We like the birria de res taco, made with beef simmered for three hours with dried guajillo peppers and avocado leaf. The 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.

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Queens

Tehuitzingo

You won’t need Spanish skills to gobble down $6 carnitas (pork seasoned with garlic, thyme and oregano and cooked in lard) and garlicky beef tacos at this tiny fast-paced Mexican bodega. Just repeat the following—“Quiero una carnita y un taco de carne”—and get out of the way. If you’re feeling ritzy, the pricier version—lengua—comes in at $7.

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Hell's Kitchen
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Comments

11 comments
Callie F
Callie F

I am sorry but none of this is Tex Mex. See, in Texas they fill your plate. These are overpriced tacos. Yes, they're cute. However, this is nothing like the way they do it back home.  If you want to post an article about Tex Mex, make sure the photos of the plates you show are full.


People aren't googling the best tex mex in nyc to have a taco. They are here to find where they can eat a ton of beans, rice, fajita meat, queso and guac and most importantly a well made cheap margarita. 



Mariana X
Mariana X

@Callie F Some people are looking for REAL mexican food and ok, it's more expensive, but this article is about MEXICAN FOOD. If you want Tex mex, you just go to Taco Bell or Chipotle. 

Doug B
Doug B

la slowteria in Carrol Gardens is amazing it should really be on this list


Trevor S
Trevor S

I lived in Mexico City for a couple of years, so I am pretty picky about my Mexican food. I am really glad that I'm living in New York City now. I can't wait to try out some of these places. The best part about Mexican food is that you don't have to spend a lot to get a lot of delicious food. http://www.elmolinitos.com

paloms
paloms

Casa Enrique!!! Best authentic Mexican cuisine! They are located in Long Island city, Queens. Just ONE stop away from Grand Central Station on the 7 train. Their food and cocktails are amazing! A must try if you haven't yet!

5-48 49th Ave. Long Island City // Phone number (347) 448-6040

http://henrinyc.com/casa-enrique.html

Tara
Tara

If you're looking for Tex mex, Rodeo Bar is where it's at. Delicious and juicy burritos. great enchiladas too, although you have to go with the green sauce (the spicier one) to get the full experience.

Tara
Tara

If you're looking for tex mex, Rodeo Bar has the best and most consistent tex mex in the city. Their burritos are saucy, juicy and delicious. Enchiladas are great too, especially with the green sauce (the spicier one).

Henry
Henry

La Gringa has killrt burritos with plantains in them..

Vicente Fernandez
Vicente Fernandez

Having eaten at all but 2 of the above, unfortunately for New Yorkers prevailing wisdom still prevails. Although this list does provide some of the best that New York has to offer with Coatzingo and Mesa Coyoacan being my favorites out of the 10 for totally different reasons, both would be the expected average of it's type in Los Angeles. Not to say that every Mexican place in LA is great its just a suprise if its bad and it is the exact opposite for New York. Anyhow if there is great Mexican Food out here in New York it would be a welcome surprise.