Beef taquito at Taquitoria
Rolled tacos are the focus of this graffiti-tagged snack shack. The twice-fried cigars give way to succulent meat fillings: The top-notch beef variety—a moist blend of Creekstone Farms eye of round and short rib—finds delicious foils in salty cotija and chili-garlic sauce. 168 Ludlow St between E Houston and Stanton Sts (212-780-0121, taquitoria.com). Three for $5.
Chicharróns taco at Country Boys
The brick-and-mortar offshoot of the Vendy Award–winning Red Hook antojito truck, this South Slope restaurant puts forth a supreme chicharróns taco, packed with fried-yet-fatty rinds that butt against creamy guac and crisp lettuce shreds on a hand-pressed, griddle-warmed masa round. 568 Fourth Ave at 16th St, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-452-6079, countryboysfood.weebly.com). Two for $7.
Adobada taco at 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. Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave between 15th and 16th Sts (212-256-0343, lostacos1.com). $3.
Al pastor taco at Taqueria Diana
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. 129 Second Ave between St. Marks Pl and E 7th St (646-422-7871, taqueriadiana.com). $3.
Fish taco at El Diablito Taqueria
The battered, Baja-fresh fish taco is the star of the menu at this Crayola-bright Mexican canteen. The tempura-fried crust shatters around flaky tilapia, with lime-infused crema adding richness and red cabbage echoing the batter’s crunch. 60 E 3rd St between First and Second Aves (646-692-9268). $2.95.
Fish taco at Pinche Taqueria
This spin-off of a Tijuana, Mexico, taqueria channels the Baja original with fresh fish tacos. Golden fried fingers of beer-battered mahi-mahi line a single tortilla and are dressed with crunchy shreds of green cabbage, onions and an herbaceous streak of cilantro-mayo. 333 Lafayette St between Bleecker and E Houston Sts (212-343-9977). $3.95.
Birria de res taco at Taqueria Coatzingo
At this top-notch taqueria, beef simmers with dried guajillo peppers and avocado leaf for three hours, until the meat is tender and infused with aromatics. The saucy, spicy stew is finished with a sprinkling of cilantro, onion and guacamole on a double layer of corn tortillas, which can barely contain the filling's savory juices. 76-05 Roosevelt Ave between 76th and 77th Sts, Jackson Heights, Queens (718-424-1977). $2.50.
Cecina taco at Mexico Lindo y ¡Que rico! Deli
Beef is grilled to order at this divey gem. The salty, tender strips are stuffed into two corn tortillas and spruced up with a dicing of fresh tomato, radish, onion and cilantro. Crack a cold Negra Modelo from one of the refrigerators while you wait. 497 Coney Island Ave between Albemarle Rd and Turner Pl, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn (718-941-3267). $2.50.
Al Pastor taco at Tortilleria Nixtamal
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 caf offers tacos al pastor: marinated pork butt roasted on an outdoor spit. The juicy slices are topped with pineapple and cilantro and folded into a house-made tortilla. 104-05 47th Ave between 104th and 108th Sts, Corona, Queens (718-699-2434). $3.
Pescado A Las Brasas taco at La Esquina
La Esquina's sit-down caf and takeout taqueria offer a number of dependable bites, but we particularly like their straightforward treatment of fish---a hunk of grilled mahi-mahi, speared with a skewer and brightened with shredded cabbage and salsa verde. 114 Kenmare St at Lafayette St (646-613-7100). Taqueria: $3.95 each. Caf: two for $10.
Al pastor taco at Taco Mix
This East Harlem hole-in-the-wall may serve the city's best al pastor tacos, sliced to order off a rotating spit crowned with a hunk of grilled pineapple. The tortilla-to-meat ratio is perfectly balanced. 234 E 116th St between Second and Third Aves (347-664-3002). $2.75.
Cabeza taco at Taco Matamoros
Soft chunks of rich, pungent cow's-head meat are spread on a pair of griddled corn tortillas with salsa verde at this Sunset Park stalwart. 4508 Fifth Ave between 45th and 46th Sts, Sunset Park, Brooklyn (718-871-7627). $1.50–$2.50.
Langosta taco at Toloache
Inspired by tacos he tasted in Veracruz, Mexico, chef Julian Medina sauts buttery hunks of poached lobster with a chile de arbol--based morita salsa. The decadent mix is finished with a dice of creamy avocado and a drizzle of chipotle mayo. 251 W 50th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave (212-581-1818). Two for $17.
Shredded-beef mini taco at Sueños
Sue Torres spins memories of her family's taco night into a chefly bar snack at her Chelsea mainstay. Six deep-fried tortillas cradle shredded boiled beef melded with a sweet-and-smoky BBQ sauce, and topped with a fine shower of serrano-spiked pico de gallo and queso fresco. 311 W 17th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-243-1333). Six for $13.
Chilorio brisket taco at Brooklyn Taco Company
Taco slingers Jesse Kramer and Erica Molina braise brisket for four hours with ancho chili, garlic and a mix of spices for their beefy riff on a traditional pork dish, which is finished with pineapple, red onion, cilantro, cotija, crema and hot sauce. Essex Street Market, 130 Essex Street, Building Bbetween Rivington and Stanton (646-820-8226); $4.
Barbacoa taco at El Aguila
This outpost of a New Jersey tortilleria slow-cooks its incendiary goat special in huge pots, then heaps the tender meat generously onto supremely fresh tortillas. The gratis-condiment station offers vats of lively salsas and other toppings. 137 E 116th St at Lexington Ave (212-410-2450). $2.50.
Suadero taco at Tacos Morelos
Late-snacking hipsters can offset whiskey binges at these Williamsburg and East Village trucks, which are satellite operations of a Jackson Heights taqueria. The suadero is cheap and satisfying: Chewy, steamed slices of brisket are pepped up with a mix of onion, cilantro and guacamole. 94-13 37th Ave between 94th and 95th Sts, Jackson Heights, Queens • North 7th St at Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn • 2nd St at Ave A • (347-772-5216). $2.50
Carne Asada tacos at Taco el Gallo Giro
Twenty-three-year-old Miguel Gallardo dishes out some of the city's best carne asada specimens from this cart, 12 hours a day (6pm--6am). He deftly chops well-seasoned beef, piles on homemade salsa and toppings (onions! cilantro! guacamole!) and wraps the whole thing into a perfectly portable tortilla cone. Roosevelt Ave between 74th and 75th Sts, Jackson Heights, Queens (no phone). $2.
Beer-braised tongue taco at Empellón
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. 230 W 4th St at 10th St (212-367-0999). Two for $12, three for $18.
Veggie taco at Country Boys
This stand got its start at the Red Hook Ball Fields, before it was recruited by the Brooklyn Flea. We like the veggie combo: garlicky mushrooms, zucchini and wilted spinach. 568 Fourth Ave between Prospect Ave and 16th St, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-452-6079). One for $3.50, two for $7.
Taco Arabes at Ricos Tacos
Named for its Arabic origins, this Lebanese-Mexican roll-up combines spiced spit-roasted pork with sweet strings of caramelized onion in a pitalike, flour-based flatbread. 505 51st St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, Sunset Park, Brooklyn (718-633-4816). $3.
Camarón taco at Pampano Taqueria
The tacos at Richard Sandoval's lunch-only outpost of upscale Mexican cantina Pampano may cost a buck more than street-cart varieties, but the killer camarón—sweet and succulent adobo-sautéed shrimp in a supple flour taco—and indoor seating options justify the extra green. Crystal Pavilion Food Court, 805 Third Ave between 49th and 50th Sts (212-751-5257). $3.25.
Papas y rajas taco at Tacombi NYC
Don't let the gimmicky ordering system (pick up tickets at one counter and redeem them at another) deter you from chowing down at this restaurant housed in a Nolita warehouse. The vegetarian combination of soft, guajillo-dusted potatoes tangled with sautéed poblano pepper, brightened by both red and green salsa, is surprisingly addictive. 267 Elizabeth St between E Houston and Prince Sts (917-727-0179). $4.
Chorizo taco at la Tortillería Mexicana Los Hermanos
The chorizo at this Bushwick tortilla factory is some of the city's best; ground bits of sausage are sautéed with a few pieces of potato, coating the spuds with cinnamon, chili and pork fat. The spicy mess is deposited on top of two freshly made tortillas, along with cilantro and a squirt of crema. 271 Starr St between St. Nicholas and Wyckoff Aves, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-456-3422). $2.25.
Carne asada taco at Dos Toros
Tender cubes of rich flap steak, seasoned with a secret spice blend and grilled to a gorgeously pink medium-rare, would be good enough to eat alone. But we like them even better cradled in corn tortillas lined with Jack cheese and pimped out with fresh pico, a squirt of fiery habanero sauce and bright guac for an extra 92 cents. 137 Fourth Ave between 13th and 14th Sts (212-677-7300). $4.13.
Taco de pollo at Zaragoza Mexican Deli
In-the-know night owls fuel up at this tiny deli, where the tacos are prepared behind the checkout counter with a rotating cast of homemade meats, including vibrant chipotle chicken. Snag a table by the fridges in the back. 215 Ave A between 13th and 14th Sts (212-780-9204). Large $3.50, small $3.
Lengua taco at El Rey del Sabor
This midtown favorite drew lines even before it made it to the Vendy Award finals in 2010. It dishes out solid standards like carne asada and al pastor, but the soft tongue, which is simmered for four hours and tucked into two warm griddled corn tortillas, offers bold lunchers a quick midday adventure in offal. 43rd St at Sixth Ave • Park Ave at 49th St • 60th St at Third Ave • (347-612-2426). $2.50.
Nopales taco at Chavela's
The meat-averse should appreciate this simple vegetarian-friendly nosh. Piquant slices of sautéed cactus are folded with bright pico de gallo, buttery avocado and salty queso fresco in a thick corn tortilla. 736 Franklin Ave at Sterling Pl, Crown Heights, Brooklyn (718-622-3100). $3.
Enchilada taco at Tulcingo Restaurant
The tacos here are wrapped in a paper cone and served with a pretty flourish of grilled spring onions, crisp radish quarters and a whole jalapeño. Opt for the ones made with the guajillo-based enchilada sauce: Moist pieces of spicy, saucy pork are covered in a blanket of cilantro, chopped onion and velvety guacamole. 5520 Fifth Ave between 55th and 56th Sts, Sunset Park, Brooklyn (718-439-2896). $2.25.
New York is home to an impressive amount of Mexican restaurants, including some top taquerias. So put down the overpriced margarita and skip the noisy Cinco de Mayo parties this year. Instead, go on a citywide tasting of tortilla-wrapped bites from Tortilleria Nixtamal, Empellón Taqueria and more with TONY’s guide to NYC's best tacos.