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The best Mexican restaurants in NYC

From tacos to Tex-Mex, satisfy your South of the Border cravings at the best Mexican restaurants NYC has to offer

Photograph: Filip Wolak

Prevailing wisdom says that Mexican restaurants in NYC can’t compare to the stuff they’re serving out West. Consider this list of the city’s best taco-, burrito- and guacamole-slinging establishments to be our convincing retort. From trumped-up South of the Border imports to homegrown cheap eats joints, these are the best Mexican restaurants NYC has to offer.

RECOMMENDED: Find more of the best restaurants in NYC

Best Mexican restaurants in NYC

1

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
2

Casa Enrique

The owners of Bar Henry branch out to Queens with this 40-seat Mexican eatery, specializing in the regional cuisine of Cintalapa, Chiapas. Brothers Cosme and Luis Aguilar, the chef and GM respectively, pay homage to their late mother with traditional plates, including some based on her recipes, such as chicken mole and cochinito chiapaneco (guajillo-marinated baby pork ribs). The white-painted spot features a garden and works from Queens artists.

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Long Island City
3

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.

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Chelsea
4

El Atoradero

Denisse Lina Chavez, known around these parts at the Queen of Carnitas, moved her cramped bodega–cum–taqueria from the south Bronx to central Brooklyn with this 32-seat Prospect Heights successor. Inside the cheery space–decorated with bright-green stools and pineapple-painted walls–find the central Mexican specialties that Chavez built her reputation on: The chef nixtamalizes blue corn via a Jalisco-imported custom masa machine to make tortillas, which hug everything from chicken tinga to chorizo to, yes, those juicy, immensely porky carnitas.

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5

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
6

Tortilleria Nixtamal

Mexican eateries are ubiquitous in Corona, but unlike most, this sunny family-run tortilleria painstakingly grinds corn into fresh masa for many of its dishes. This means that the tamales are delicate and fluffy, and profoundly corny tortillas envelop fillings such as fried skate in the first-rate fish tacos.

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Long Island City
7

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
8

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
9

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.

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East Village
10

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
11

Gran Electrica

The team behind Colonie pivots from farm-to-table American to regional Mexican cuisine with this 60-seat canteen in Dumbo. Chef Rob Stauning turns out market-driven South of the Border fare, bolstered by from-scratch ingredients, like homemade chorizo and hand-pressed tortillas made with heirloom corn. Diners can dig into plates like quesadillas filled with charred ramps and kale, fluke ceviche with orange and chayote, and Amish lamb meatballs with stewed tomato and morita chile.

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Brooklyn Heights
12

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
13

Ofrenda

Chef-owner Luis Arce Mota (Café Condesa) cooks homestyle Mexicano food at this affordable neighborhood restaurant. All dishes—whether a breakfast item such as the poblano pepper, corn and Manchego omelette; or dinner mains like the breaded pork loin with roasted tomato salsa and zucchini succotash—are priced under $20. Wines are cheap too, with 20 bottles, including some from Mexico, for less than $40. Cocktails, meanwhile, focus on mescal- and tequila-spiked drinks like the Verde (mescal, Patrón Silver, cucumber, agave syrup, cilantro).

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West Village
14

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

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Comments

13 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. 

Harvey W
Harvey W

@Mariana X @Callie F  The subheading of the article promised "From tacos to Tex-Mex", so Callie is justified in asking where the Tex-Mex is.  I'm not a Mexican-food aficionado, so I offer no opinion on whether her conclusion is justified.

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.