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 our 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. (Taco joints not included.) Copy, paste, and forward to your Californian friends.
All restaurants featured on The Infatuation are selected by our editorial team. This guide is presented by Don Julio Tequila.
The food at Casa Enrique is simple, traditional, and the best Mexican of its kind. The chile relleno, for example, is packed with Oaxacan cheese and served over a tomato sauce that is somehow one of the best things in the city. And, if they’re available, you should always get an order of steak tacos for the table. The guacamole is another must-order, and every meal here needs to end with the tres leches. This is our favorite Mexican restaurant in the city, but you can still just walk in and get a table most nights. Head over to LIC, and take advantage of this.
It says something about this place that you can get a $90 plate of duck carnitas here, and not regret spending $90 on a plate of duck carnitas. Cosme also makes an uni tostada with bone marrow, and this, too, should be on your table. As you probably guessed, this is a fairly upscale option, and you’ll spend a little bit of money here, but maybe just stop by the next time you earn a degree or have a birthday to celebrate.
Whether your remedy of choice after a night out is a plate of chilaquiles or you want a pambazo (chorizo) sandwich for lunch, great Mexican food should not be reserved for dinner. Fortunately, Atla is an all-day Mexican spot in Noho from the people behind Cosme. The bright space and light food are actually best enjoyed during the day, when you can still order almost anything on the evening menu. Atla serves arguably the best avocado toast in the city, and the fish Milanese should definitely be on your table if you’re looking for something a bit more substantial.
The food at Claro is Oaxacan-inspired, which means that you can come here and get a giant homemade tortilla filled with steak, cheese, and pickled chilis. This is called a tlayuda, and, if we were explaining it to a five-year-old, we might call it a Mexican pizza folded in half. There are tetelas (triangular tortilla pockets) and memelas (large tostadas, essentially), and the mole here is some of the best we’ve had. When you stop by, they might be serving it over something like veal cheeks or goat - and it should be on your table no matter what. The ceviches here are also reliably excellent, and eating one in the backyard in the summertime is one of the better ways to enjoy life in NYC.
If a Mexican place has chickpea guacamole and a vegan caesar salad, is it still a Mexican place? In the case of Lalito, we say yes. Sure, the chicharrones are vegan, but they’re also really good, and this is overall one of the more interesting restaurants in the city. The food is unique, you don’t need to spend a lot of money here, and this place feels like something you’d find several miles north of Downtown Los Angeles. Bring a friend and share some carnitas.
La Contenta should be your go-to spot for a night out with a friend who also thinks that Dos Caminos is lame. This is a tiny place on the Lower East Side, and they make some great fish tacos and guacamole in addition to some not-quite-traditional stuff like queso with goat cheese and a hanger steak with a twice-baked potato. So if you’re going out on the LES, eat here first. It’s casual enough that you can wear whatever, the cocktails are great, and you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune.
Bushwick is home to lots of casual Mexican restaurants, but if you want a nicer place with a menu that extends beyond tacos, burritos, and flautas, Guadalupe Inn is the best option. They serve modern Mexican things like corn masa patties with cactus salad and a big al pastor dish that you should get to share. There’s a big bar up front if you’re just here for a drink and some chips and guacamole, but we’d recommend sitting in the booths in the back, next to the stage where they have live music performances and burlesque.
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 good food and attractive people who are sometimes famous. Once here, eat a crab tostada and some grilled corn you won’t want to share. The small plates tend to be better, so stick to those while you drink tequila and try to eavesdrop on people.
At Gran Electrica you can get good, authentic Mexican in an atmosphere nice enough for a date or a fun night out with your friends. Just know that you might have to wait for a table. This restaurant is near Brooklyn Bridge Park, however, so you can always just put your name in and then go for a walk. When you get seated, have a few fish tacos, some ceviche, and something off the cocktail list. If the weather’s nice, find a spot on one of the best patios around, and enjoy some good, no-nonsense (and slightly upscale) food.
Miscelanea is the kind of place that you could live next to for years and not realize is there. It’s a very small, slightly subterranean takeout sandwich shop that also sells Mexican groceries, cool dish towels, cookbooks from restaurants in Tulum, and so on. It’d be a shame if you lived in the East Village and didn’t know about Miscelánea because their tortas are great and nothing is more than $9. We’re big fans of the sliced ham with Oaxaca cheese, and the chorizo and egg torta is one of the best breakfast sandwiches around.
Chavela’s is in the northwest corner of Crown Heights, and it’s the place you go for satisfying, straightforward Mexican food. Just find a seat and have a hot bowl of queso. This is a comfort food experience, and you should prepare yourself for a wait, because a lot of people want to be comforted at Chavela’s. At dinner, there are tacos, tortas, and larger plates like crab enchiladas and pork with grilled cactus - but you should also consider stopping by for brunch. Bring some friends, have a few margaritas, and eat some huevos.
If you like baseball, you go to Cooperstown - and if you’re a New Yorker who’s into Mexican food, you should head over to Sunset Park. This is where you’ll find a very high concentration of restaurants and bodegas serving very good Mexican food, and we especially like Tacos El Bronco. Stop by for a plate of grilled meat with rice and beans. You’ll want to start with a spread of small tacos ($1.50 each), and if the veal-head variety doesn’t appeal to you, just go with the salty beef.
You know a place is credible when it serves a burrito with crispy cow intestines. Matamoros has one, although you can always just eat some carnitas or carne asada here as well. This is another Sunset Park institution, and the sort of place where you eat good, inexpensive food with friends. Get a few tacos and chalupas with green sauce, and you’re set.
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.
In Texas or Arizona, restaurants like Mexico Lindo are probably all over the place. This is New York, however, but we still get a Mexico Lindo in Kips Bay. Is this place destination-worthy? That depends. If you want some excellent steak tacos and fajitas in a homey space, give this place a shot. These guys aren’t winning any awards for decor, but they should probably get something for making black beans and bananas taste good together in a soup.
If you don’t hate the G train, you should be a regular at Acapulco Deli. It’s a small, casual spot in Greenpoint, and they serve excellent nachos, giant tacos, and huevos rancheros (our go-to order before 11am). The place is no frills, and it feels sort of like a diner - but the vibes are good, the food is affordable, and when you find Mexican food like this, you go after it.
Amaranto isn’t satisfied with just making good tacos. And their tamale isn’t just any tamale - it comes in a mildly spicy broth with chorizo and scallops. The food at this family-run spot in Bushwick is bright and fresh, and there’s stuff here you won’t find at the average Mexican place. Try the crab tostadas or the spicy guacamole. For something heavier, do the short ribs with green beans and mole verde. This is a casual, feel-good spot that’s good for a dinner date or a brunch with friends.
You expect the food in prime Williamsburg to cost more than it should, but that isn’t the case here. Tacos are a reasonable $2.50, but you should spend a little extra and spring for the flautas. Have a gordita or two if you’re feeling extra hungry, and if you’d like a serving of melted cheese get the queso. La Superior is a Williamsburg institution, and it’s an appropriate choice for inexpensive late-night food.
There are white tablecloths at Mexico 2000, but it’s far from fancy here - and you should do your best to not eat the free chips and salsa. That’s not the show you bought tickets for. Get some $3 tostadas piled so high you’ll get crema on your face, and have a chimichanga that’s better than your average burrito because it’s deep-fried. For the money, this little spot beneath the BQE does some the best Mexican you can find.