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Rosie's Tacos
Photograph: Courtesy Sasithon Pooviriyakul

The 26 best tacos in NYC

The best tacos NYC has to offer include tried-and-true al pastor fold-ups and an off the menu deep-fried creation

By Christina Izzo and Rheanna O’Neil Bellomo

Los Angelenos may snub their noses at any Mexican-food scene that’s not their own, but the best tacos in NYC are here to prove them wrong. Whether you’re trying out one of the city’s best Mexican restaurants or looking for some cheap eats at one of New York’s most beloved food courts, these are the best tacos NYC has to offer.

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Best tacos in NYC, ranked

Adobada taco at Los Tacos No 1
Photograph: Filip Wolak

1. Adobada taco at Los Tacos No.1

Restaurants Mexican 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.

Photograph: Liz Clayman

2. Duck carnitas taco at Cosme

Restaurants Mexican Flatiron

Olvera’s elegant, high-gear small plates—pristine, pricey and as market-fresh as anything coming out of Thomas Keller’s kitchen—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, cooked to the sinful midpoint of unctuous fat and seared flesh.


3. Crispy tempura shrimp tacos at Alta Calidad

Restaurants Mexican Prospect Heights

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. These crispy shrimp tempura show just that, showcasing the perfect combo of textures with plump shrimp in a crispy batter and along chewy chorizo all packed in housemade tortillas. 

Beer-braised tongue tacos at Empellón Taqueria
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

4. Beer-braised tongue taco at Empellón Taqueria

Restaurants Mexican West Village

Chef-owner Alex Stupak slowly cooks brined pork tongue with bacon, chorizo, onions and a slug of Negra Modelo. The meat is coated with the reduced braising liquid and drizzled with a fiery chile de arbol salsa, while slivers of raw onion, roasted fingerling potatoes and queso fresco balance the protein's rich, spicy flavors.

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

5. Fish taco at Tacoway Beach

Attractions Rockaways

Despite the kitschy delight of eating takeaway tacos off a knee-balanced plate at Rockaway Taco, the sit-down setup at this offshoot, housed inside the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, is a much-welcome upgrade. Just like at that OG taco shack, chef Andrew Field is fueling off-duty surfers and beach-bound locals with exemplary beer-battered fish tacos ($3.50) and watermelon juices ($4), but Tacoway boasts one major feature its forebear was missing: alcohol.

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

6. Al Pastor taco at Tortilleria Nixtamal

Restaurants Mexican Queens

Some of the best Mexican restaurants in town use the tortillas made at this factory. Go straight to the source everyday, when Nixtamal's small café offers al pastor tacos: marinated pork butt roasted on an outdoor spit. The juicy slices are topped with pineapple and cilantro and folded into a house-made tortilla.

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Photograph: Courtesy El Atoradero Brooklyn

7. Carnitas taco at El Atoradero

Restaurants Mexican Prospect Heights

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.

Pescado A Las Brasas taco at La EsquinaLa Esquina's sit-down caf and takeout taqueria offer a number of dependable bites, but we particularly like...
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

8. Pescado a las brasas taco at La Esquina

Restaurants Mexican Nolita

La Esquina's sit-down café and takeout taqueria offer a number of dependable bites, but we particularly like its straightforward treatment of fish—a hunk of grilled mahi-mahi, speared with a skewer and brightened with shredded cabbage and salsa verde.

Al Pastor Taco at Taqueria Diana
Photograph: Filip Wolak

9. Al pastor taco at Taqueria Diana

Restaurants East Village

At this narrow East Village takeout taqueria, owner Matthew La Rue (the Meatball Shop) shaves off quivering, yielding bites of blistered, spit-roasted pork for his al pastor taco, stacked high on house-pressed corn tortillas with chopped onions and optional dollops of smooth guacamole and morita-chili salsa.

10. Gorgon at Otto's Tacos

Restaurants Mexican East Village

California native Otto Cedeno doles out pitch-perfect tacos at this 13-seat joint lined with rustic wooden panels and white subway tiles. During slower daytime hours, insiders can request this off-menu, battered monstrosity (it's named after a monster from Greek mythology). One house masa tortilla is pressed and then deep-fried before receiving a generous filling of boisterous carne asada, guacamole, spiced crema, onions and cilantro.

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