New York's Mexican restaurant scene is slowly but surely catching up with our West Coast rivals. 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: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC
Mexican concepts we love so much that we welcomed them into Time Out Market
Alta Calidad melds Mexican and Indian flavors with a global influence that we can't get enough of when digging into chef Akhtar Nawab's food, so naturally, we invited it to hold court at Time Out Market New York. Learn how our market curation works here, but basically we tasted its food, reviewed the restaurant and had no hesitation in recommending Alta Calidad for a spot at the market. Here’s why: One of our favorite parts of the New York food scene is how food cultures evolve and blend in this deliciously diverse city. Chef-owner Akhtar Nawab felt distinct similarities between the cuisines of Mexico and India—his parents’ native country. Having grown up learning to cook with his mother as his culinary inspiration, for Alta Calidad he created a marriage of the two cuisines with exciting flavors and satisfying standout dishes. Located in Prospect Heights, the bright and airy space is ideal for both lunches and brunches, only to transform into a dimly-lit intimate neighborhood locale at night. On a recent Wednesday night, every seat at every wooden table and the petit bar was full as diners clinked their mezcal cocktails. Before we dive too deep into the food, we obviously have to talk about the guac. Whole fried corn tortillas are served with a bowl of perfectly spicy guacamole and a rusty smoky salsa that will force you to order more chips to make sure you take down every last drop. Past starters including the predictably delicious queso fundido (a cast iron of melted
With BKLYN Wild at Time Out Market, Ivy Stark is embracing a healthy plant-based menu that focuses on local ingredients that are actually local—as in, Brooklyn. This way, everyone can dig in, no matter their dietary restrictions.
If there is an Iron Throne of New York’s Mexican cuisine, this Stark has a claim to it. In this city we adore our taquerias and Mexican food trucks, though, for many of us, the first time we picked up a refined taco off elegant dishware was at an Ivy Stark restaurant.
Best Mexican restaurants in NYC
This Cosme spinoff from the same team is more casual than that Flatiron megahit and spotlights healthy Mexican and Central American fare: white ayocote hummus, an arctic char tostada and meatballs made with farro and quail eggs. There’s also a strong emphasis on drinks—diners can begin the day with café con leche and end with agave-leaning cocktails by beverage director Yana Volfson. Taking cues from the all-day restaurants of Mexico City, the 60-seat space features sleek black and oakwood furniture, a white terrazzo tiled bar and verdant vegetation lining the walls.
Oaxacan plates are served in a sunny back patio in Gowanus, with tortillas made in-house.
The chef behind pizza-pushing Speedy Romeo is using his same wood-fired tactics in this follow-up restaurant. The Greenpoint Mexican spot serves inventive small plates, entrées, and elevated tacos filled with pork-cheek carnitas, vegan beet “chorizo” and masa tempura softshell crab.
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.
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.
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.
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 tacos are unfussy, served on paper plates with sides that come in takeout containers. 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.
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.
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.
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.
The team behind Colonie pivots from farm-to-table American to regional Mexican cuisine with this 60-seat canteen in Dumbo. The team 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.
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.
Treat yourself to homestyle Mexicano food at this affordable neighborhood restaurant serving dishes like a poblano pepper, corn and Manchego omelette or a breaded pork loin with roasted tomato salsa and zucchini succotash. Wines are cheap too, with many bottles, including some from Mexico, for less than $40.
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 that's turned into a city-wide chain 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.
This rustic Mexican eatery and tequila bar offers a menu of freshly made standards like Mexico City–style tacos, fajitas and burritos.