The 16 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
Tlayuda con chapulines at The Black Ant
Photograph: Filip Wolak
By Dan Q Dao, Christina Izzo and Time Out contributors |
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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: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

Best Mexican restaurants in NYC

1
COSME duck tacos for two
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Mexican

Cosme

icon-location-pin Flatiron

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.

2
Bar AwardsEmpellonCrab Nachos
Restaurants, Mexican

Empellón

icon-location-pin Midtown East

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. 

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3
casa enrique
Restaurants, Mexican

Casa Enrique

icon-location-pin Long Island City

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.

4
Adobada taco at Los Tacos No 1
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Restaurants, Mexican

Los Tacos No.1

icon-location-pin Chelsea

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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5
Oxomoco
Photograph: Courtesy Oxomoco
Restaurants, Mexican

Oxomoco

icon-location-pin Greenpoint

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.

6
Al Pastor taco at Tortilleria NixtamalSome of the best Mexican restaurants in town use the tortillas made at this factory. Go straight to the source...
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Restaurants, Mexican

Tortilleria Nixtamal

icon-location-pin Long Island City

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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7
Restaurants, Mexican

Mesa Coyoacan

icon-location-pin Williamsburg

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.

8
Black Ant
Restaurants, Mexican

The Black Ant

icon-location-pin East Village

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.

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9
Barbacoa de Cabra at Claro
Photograph: Courtesy Claro
Restaurants, Mexican

Claro

icon-location-pin Gowanus

Oaxacan plates are served in a sunny back patio in Gowanus, with tortillas made in-house. 

10
Al pastor tacos at Taco Mix
Photograph: Alex Strada
Restaurants, Mexican

Taco Mix

icon-location-pin East Harlem

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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