There’s already a ton of great Mexican restaurants in NYC. If somebody tries to tell you otherwise, reject this lie perpetuated by Californians who envy our public transportation system, and show them our guide to the best spots. But over the past couple of months, we’ve noticed that a bunch of new excellent places have popped all over the city. We’re highlighting our favorites below, including a birria truck in the Bronx, raw fish specialists in Flatiron, an exciting destination for vegan and vegetarians, and more.
Chalupas Poblanas El Tlecuile is an elusive, cash-only chalupa stand in Jackson Heights that typically only operates from 6-11pm on Friday-Sunday, and it’s worth planning your entire weekend around a stack of these street chalupas. The tortillas are cooked on a charcoal-fired comal in pork lard, and then get doused with both salsa rojo and verde, shredded pork, and onions. When stacked into a tower for consumption, these make a perfect meal for $10. They’re significantly less crispy than chalupas we’ve had in the past, but that’s not a bad thing - the tortillas are heavily sauced, browned on the bottom, and each bite tastes wildly porky from the lard. Add this to your weekend dinner immediately if you live nearby. And if you live elsewhere in the borough or city, hop on the 7 train with your best friend and show them one of NYC’s best Mexican dishes.
This Greenpoint taqueria is selling NYC’s best new tacos. Almost everything about Taqueria Ramirez is modeled after Mexico City’s legendary spots, complete with colorful plastic plates, as well as a choricera and comal custom made in CDMX. Their tacos - which all cost $4 - range from shredded suadero and al pastor, to longaniza with bright porky juices. The suadero stews for long enough, around three hours, so the lower belly cut of beef can break down. But our favorite taco remains the tripa, which has such little chewy toughness it might be unidentifiable as a cow’s stomach lining save for the iron-forward taste. The restaurant’s space only holds about ten people, most of whom will get to watch the action in the open kitchen from courtside seats at the counter. Otherwise plan on finding a spot to stand outside, while you already scheme the best possible time to come back for more tacos.
Mariscos El Submarino has several great raw seafood options, but a meal at this Mexican restaurant in Jackson Heights isn’t complete without an order of ceviche mixto. This massive bowl of jalapeño-covered prawns, fresh white fish, and tender octopus gets marinated in a creamy house sauce and then topped with several perfect slices of avocado. And it’ll transport you to a chill beachside seafood shack in Puerto Escondido. While you’re here, don’t miss their aguachile negro. The smoky seafood dish gets its color (and name) from a blend of charred green and red chiles that you’ll see flecked in the loose water-and-lime-based sauce. Both dishes come with a side of crunchy, flat tortillas so you can build your own tostada with acidic tilapia, shrimp, octopus, and creamy avocado slices.
Chinelos Birria Tacos
In addition to operating a truck right next to the East River in Long Island City, this birria-focused spot now has an additional location by the Fordham Metro-North train station in the Bronx. They’re selling tacos, mulitas, and consomme most days from noon to midnight, which all taste deliciously cilantro forward, with heavy hints of warming spices like clove, star anise, and cinnamon. If you want something beyond the 3 for $10 birria tacos, get a $4 mulita, which has crispy cheese layered between the nixtamal corn tortillas, plus a bunch of cotija sprinkled on top.
We first went to this new late-night Mexican spot in Williamsburg for (several) copitas full of sweet-smoky mezcal. That experience was recommendable - albeit hazy - in itself. But now this tiny basement bar is serving a menu of grilled head-on shrimp, crispy tacos filled with smoked tuna and refried beans, chunky guacamole topped with salsa macha, and other dishes that make us feel closer to Mexico City than we geographically are. Come here for a nightcap or Happy Hour as soon as possible. It’s not quite a bar, it’s not quite a full restaurant, but Aldama is entirely worth your time. Especially for a sultry-adjacent date night or a friend catch-up where you both look hot (and know it).
If you’re looking for somewhere serving heirloom corn tortillas, you should know about For All Things Good. This Oaxacan spot in Bed-Stuy uses native Mexican corn to make all of its giant memelas that come topped with avocado and a fried egg, tetelas filled with everything from hibiscus flowers to black beans, and tlayudas covered in a ridiculous amount of mushrooms. They also serve mezcal cocktails, natural wine, and horchata on their first-come, first-served sidewalk patio. Stop by for breakfast with friends on a weekend morning or for a quiet weeknight dinner alone, and be sure to pick up a pack of their fresh tortillas to bring home.
Just like you go to a bakery for bread and a therapist to process your existential dread, you should go to Ruta for mole. This fun Astoria restaurant serves various versions of this creamy, thick sauce on top of enchiladas, short ribs, and chicken dishes. The portions here are massive, and much like the mole, the Patrón flows like tap water. Keep Ruta in mind for your next group outing in Queens, or dinner with a date who’s interested in splitting some gooey chori queso with warm corn tortillas. If you need another reason to make this Oaxacan spot a priority, know that Ruta offers a 2-for-1 cocktail special during brunch service on weekends - all tables are first come, first served until 4pm.
Xilonen is one of the most exciting new restaurants not just in Greenpoint, but in NYC. This all-day cafe (from the same team behind Oxomoco), looks right out onto McCarren Park, and serves an entirely vegan and vegetarian menu of inventive Mexican dishes like a purple potato taco with griddled cheese, or a scrambled egg tostada with salsa macha. It’s a fantastic place for a midweek lunch, casual dinner, or brunch that feels special without being too expensive - nothing costs more than $14.
Raw seafood and summer are a perfect match. And you’ll find some exciting new raw fish options at Tacos Güey in Flatiron. Sit at the busy bar and eat tuna crudo topped with dollops of avocado crema and sliced serranos, scallop aguachile in a shallow pool of cucumber and finger lime sauce, and their best mariscos dish: the sea bass ceviche. Served in a clamshell with crunchy chips on the side, the combination of gooseberries, chile oil, and diced sea bass is tingly and sweet, and pairs well with one of their frozen cocktails (like the tart “That Güey”). Order this spread of raw things, and a larger main like the salsa verde-lathered pork ribs that fall off the bone, for a satisfying meal.
We first experienced Kuxé in the spring, during the height of catch-up and resocialization season. And we discovered that it’s a great place to meet up with a friend, spend some time in an outdoor hut, and share some guacamole and a few margaritas. The Greenwich Village spot also highlights who on staff came up with the recipe for each dish, along with a short blurb about their inspiration. While scanning the menu, we learned that the large chicken milanesa cemita with stringy quesillo cheese was head chef Juan Velazco’s favorite birthday meal growing up. In addition to this fact already inspiring our own celebratory plans, we’re glad to see a restaurant so transparently give credit on a dish-by-dish basis. Plus, some of the descriptions might even provide you with some conversation material that’s not just rehashing what you think of Nicole Kidman’s latest “breathtaking” performance.
Sobre Masa combines two things we really like: hand-pressed corn tortillas and some big garage doors, which give this Williamsburg all-day Mexican cafe a pseudo-beachy feel when they’re open - especially after a paloma or three. You can swing through in the morning for coffee and some breakfast tacos, or stop by in the afternoon to work and have a paloma and some sopes. And make sure to grab a concha or palmier if you come through during the day.