How do you improve the glorious taco? You fry it, baby. For this off-the-menu, off-hours special, chef Joe LoNigro deep-fries a huge fresh-masa tortilla until it’s flaky enough to rival French viennoiserie. That crispy shell is then jam-packed with a mountain of spice-laden carne asada, red salsa, globs of guacamole and drizzles of serrano-chile crema. $8.
At this bugged-out Mexican cocina from the Ofrenda crew, the highlight is, incidentally, a pest-free plate. For his hearty enchiladas de conejo, La Esquina alum Mario Hernandez blankets braised rabbit in a velvety, tomato-chile sauce before tucking it into pillowy corn tortillas and—similar to the traditional Spanish stew—showering them with lime-splashed figs and crispy fried onions. $23.
The latest addition to his Empellon mini empire may be zoomed in on Mexico City’s pineapple-and-pork al pastor taco, but it’s Alex Stupak’s humble chicken fold-up that really wows. Cradled inside a single house-made tortilla—a delicately corny thing, made from non-GMO Indiana corn that’s ground and nixtamalized on premises—juicy, stewed pulls of chipotle-kicked chicken come showered simply in bright cilantro and minced onion. Take that, Taco Bell. $4.
The San Francisco-inspired bundles at Danny Bowien’s Mexican hot spot are more sophisticated than their beachy brethren, but this is New York—what d’ya expect? Wrapped in a pliant, barely-browned flour tortilla, the riceless parcel gives extra real estate to brothy pinto beans, hearty chunks of guacamole, tart salsa verde and meat options like gamey lamb and porky, orange-kissed carnitas. It’s enough to make a Califnorian seethe in jealousy. $13.
The nachos at this pocket-sized cantina are so contrastingly huge, they need to be doled out on a baking sheet. The gloriously greasy mountain of fresh-from-the-fryer corn chips are smothered in queso fresco, sour cream, house-made salsa and choice of beans, meat and extras—commit to the mess with rich refried beans, globs of creamy guacamole and succulent spit-roasted pork. Warning: your pants button will likely pop but you won’t mind one bit. $7.58.