You’ve probably heard there’s no good Mexican in NYC. But that’s just a myth perpetuated by Californians who envy our public transportation system and wealth of good pizza. If you look for it, you can find some truly great Mexican food here. Some of it’s fancy, and some of it costs less than $2. Here are the best sit-down spots. Copy, paste, and forward to your Californian friends.
Casa Enrique is our favorite Mexican restaurant in NYC. Everything, from the guacamole to the chile relleno served in a little pool of mildly sweet sauce, is reliably excellent, and their tres leches cake is how you’ll want to end every meal going forward. Plus, somehow, you can still just walk in and get a table here most nights. This place is perfect for anything from an impressive date that doesn’t feel too formal to a casual dinner with a couple of friends who appreciate good crab tostadas, and you should stop by as often as possible.
La Morada has a huge menu, and, much like Donald Glover and most decathletes, it’s good at pretty much everything. The tacos are excellent, the tamales are like warm little pillows made of chicken and corn, and we’d gladly eat an entire meal consisting of the crunchy gorditas. But the real reason you come here is the mole. They serve six different kinds, including a mild white one made with pine nuts - but our favorite is the mole oaxaqueno. It’s a deep red color, and it’s rich, spicy, and possibly more complex than any equation currently being worked on by mathematicians and/or Nobel laureates. Plan a casual weeknight meal at this Mott Haven restaurant, and bring as many people as you can.
La Contenta is a tiny place on the Lower East Side, and it’s perfect for when you want to have a fun night out in the neighborhood and also eat some food that happens to be exceptional. This place has great fish tacos and guacamole, and the queso with goat cheese and hanger steak served with a twice-baked potato are good options, too. It’s relatively casual, and pretty much everything costs less than $25. So add a few cocktails to your order and/or stop by for Happy Hour.
It says something about Cosme that you can get a $98 plate of duck carnitas here, and not regret spending $98 on a plate of duck carnitas. It’s half a roasted duck in a cast-iron pan, and it comes with a side of housemade tortillas. As you probably guessed, this is a fairly upscale option, and you’ll spend a significant amount of money here. But it’s worth it for something special. Stop by the next time you earn a degree, have a birthday to celebrate, or decide to spend the rest of your life with someone.
The food at Claro is Oaxacan-inspired, which means that you can come here and get a memela (a large tostada, essentially) topped with chorizo and queso fresco, as well as some of the best mole we’ve had. When you stop by, it might be on the menu with something like veal cheeks or goat, and you should get it no matter what. The aguachile is also reliably excellent, and eating one in Claro’s backyard during the summertime is one of the better ways to enjoy life in NYC.
A burrito at Taqueria Tlaxcalli in Parkchester is roughly the size of a 12-day-old kitten. But that’s not even the most exciting thing about it, which is how good it tastes. Each burrito comes with stripes of white, green, and purple sauces on top, and cheesy rice inside (along with whatever filling you choose - we like the steak). Aside from the burritos, Taqueria Tlaxcalli serves great grilled fish tacos, fajitas, and plates of pork chops with rice and beans. It’s very casual, and just a short walk from the 6 train. If you’ve ever participated in a serious conversation about burritos in New York City, a trip here is required.
Some things at Oxomoco are optional. Starting out with a giant frozen margarita or paloma is not. And neither is ordering the tlayuda - our favorite tortilla dish at a restaurant with many good tortilla dishes (which probably has something to do with the fact that they make their own). OK, we’re done giving you rules for this spot, so now you can start figuring out when to come here for a fun date night, group dinner, or taco-eating competition against yourself. All are worthy reasons to come to Greenpoint so you can eat here.
Amaranto is another great Mexican spot in Bushwick, and it’s significantly more low-key than Guadalupe Inn. It’s just a little space on a relatively quiet corner a few blocks from the DeKalb L stop, and you can have a very impressive meal here. Get a few tacos stuffed with steak and mushrooms, or try the big, juicy pork chop that comes in mole made with peanuts. This place is worth a trip, and it gets a bonus points for not being that hard to get into.
Gran Electrica is in the top percentile of attractive date spots in the city. Partly because it has one of the best back patios you can sit on during the summertime, and partly because the upscale food is really good. Get a spicy cocktail, some fish tacos, and don’t you dare skip the queso fundido. You can always walk around Brooklyn Bridge Park if you have to wait for a table - that’s part of the magic.
At Calaca, one person acts as bartender, server, and busboy. So you may spend a fair amount of time with nothing to occupy your attention besides whoever else is at your table and The Clash playing loudly on the speakers. But as long as you come with the right people, you won’t mind, because the small, dark space is a really comfortable spot to hang out. And once the food does arrive, you’ll forget about the wait, since the tacos are served on delicious made-to-order tortillas, and the crunchy tostadas are topped with big piles of various tasty ceviches we want to eat all the time.
The menu at Tacos El Bronco has almost as many potential moves as a game of chess, but if you do this cash-only spot in Sunset Park the right way, you don’t even need a menu. Stick to tacos - the smaller ones, specifically, which are all $1.50 or $1.75, and involve double tortillas with onions, cilantro, and your choice of meat. The al pastor is a must-order, but the best option is the campechanos, which includes salty beef, pork sausage, and crispy pork skin. You also can’t go wrong with the chiles rellenos.
This is a Sunset Park institution, and while we slightly prefer the food at Tacos El Bronco, Tacos Matamoros is the more enjoyable place to hang out. The loud dining room tends to be packed with groups and families sharing platters of tacos and big plates of mole poblano, and unlike Tacos El Bronco, Matamoros serves alcohol. Get a paloma or margarita and some double tortilla tacos, like the carnitas or lengua, and at least one order of the queso fundido with chorizo.
Food is only half of the experience at La Esquina. To get here, you walk through a door at the back of a ground-floor taqueria and then head down a set of stairs that leads to a dungeon-like dining room. It’s essentially a speakeasy filled with people who are sometimes famous, and it also happens to serve some very good Mexican dishes. Order the queso that comes topped with a little bit of agave, and be sure to get the braised pork as well. It falls right off the bone, and it comes with a side of housemade tortillas you can use to make your own DIY tacos. Bring a date when you want a not-boring night out, or plan your next birthday here.
The waits at this walk-in-only spot on Franklin Avenue can be pretty long. But they’re worth it, because once your group gets a table in what feels like someone’s very large and charming apartment, you’re going to want to hang out for the rest of the night. Start with the really good queso fundido with chorizo, and then fill your table with tacos and share plates like the chicken in a pool of mole, or the chile relleno. No matter what you get to eat, make sure to order some draft margaritas, too - they’re discounted during Happy Hour (weekdays until 7pm).
A few years back - right around when the Lower East Side started becoming The Coolest Place To Be - the only way you were getting into Barrio Chino was if you got there at 5pm. And even then, it wasn’t a guarantee. These days, it’s easier to get in, but the Mexican food is without a doubt still some of the best around. The Enchiladas Verdes is one of our favorite plates of food in the city, and the margaritas are good and strong. Our only real issue with it? They charge you for extra chips.
This restaurant used to be inside of a bodega, and then it moved to its own space next door, complete with string lights, friendly service, and almost as many margarita pitchers as there are people eating. Come here with friends, and get a chimichanga and some fajitas piled so high you’ll need several napkins for your face and hands. For the money, this little spot beneath the BQE does some of the best Mexican food you can find.
La Superior is a Williamsburg institution, and it’s the perfect place to get some food when it’s 11pm and you’ve been out drinking since 8pm. It’s a little space with a couple of tables (and a bar where you can sit) near the Williamsburg Bridge, and it has a straightforward menu of tacos, flautas, enchiladas, and a few other things. We always get the queso to start, and we also typically order one or several margaritas. Just be aware that it’s cash-only.