Best Mexican restaurants in NYC
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.
Alex Stupak, the ambitious pastry chef (New York’s wd~50, Chicago’s Alinea) turned taco ambassador opened a midtown flagship, Empellón, the fourth, largest and most upscale of his restaurants under the Empellón name. The move uptown alone is a notable change for the largely downtown-focused restaurateur (Empellón’s siblings all reside in the East and West Villages), and the usual clientele of denim-jacketed michelada seekers has been swiftly replaced by Brooks Brothers regulars and blog-savvy tourists.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Oaxacan plates are served in a sunny back patio in Gowanus, with tortillas made in-house.
Chef-owner Akhtar Nawab felt distinct similarities between the cuisines of Mexico and India—his parents’ native countries. 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.