The Best Mexican Restaurants In NYC

You don’t have to fly to Mexico (or California or Texas) to find great tacos, aguachile, and mole.
A spread of dishes at Ensenada.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

At this point, we hope the statement that New York City has no good Mexican food feels outdated to you. It’s a myth, perpetuated by Californians who wish they could take a subway to eat mole tonight, and who know that the statement about NYC having better bagels still holds true.

We’ve got a few great taquerias on this list (check out our taco guide if you need more), but we can also direct you to a fruit shop with “real grandmas” cooking in the back, a massive bowl of jalapeño-covered prawns, and a restaurant with six different kinds of mole. Here’s where you should take the NYC Mexican food doubters:


photo credit: David A. Lee



$$$$Perfect For:Dining SoloFirst/Early in the Game DatesImpressing Out of TownersKids
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Almost everything at this Greenpoint taqueria is modeled after Mexico City’s legendary eateries, complete with colorful plastic plates and a comal custom-made in CDMX. Their tacos range from shredded suadero and al pastor, to longaniza with bright orange porky juices. The tripa (our favorite) is technically stuffed with blowtorched cow’s stomach lining, but some bites are so creamy, we’d swear there’s bone marrow in there. This taqueria barely has room to stand in, so snag a spot on a bench outside or just eat on the sidewalk—possibly while you get back in line for another round.

This Tijuana-style spot is a New York City landmark, like the Statue of Liberty, except it’s a truck under the subway track in Jackson Heights. Birria-Landia now has locations in Williamsburg, LES, and the Bronx, and they still make the city’s best birria. Everything on the menu (tacos, mulitas, tostadas, and consomé) is bolstered by tangy, mildly spicy stew. Take your crunchy-soft tortilla filled with beef and dip it in some consomé. What happens is a sea change. The word delicious seems somehow inadequate.

We love all the seafood at this restaurant in Jackson Heights, but a meal here is incomplete without an order of Submarino ceviche. This massive bowl of jalapeño-covered prawns, fresh white fish, and tender octopus will mentally transport you to a chill beachside seafood shack in Puerto Escondido, when in fact you’re in a space that has the look of a fluorescent lunch counter with cartoons on the walls. And once you try their aguachile negro, made with a blend of charred green and red chiles, you won’t know or care where you are at all.

Filled with jet black accents and dim spotlights above each table, this upscale Flatiron restaurant works best for special occasions. Cosme serves things like a tlayuda covered in mushrooms, and a plate of lobster prepared al pastor-style. If you get just one thing, make it the duck carnitas, a massive, juicy roast duck paired with warm tortillas. Share this feast with a few friends the next time you earn a degree, have a birthday, or decide to spend the rest of your life with someone. For a more casual occasion, check out Atla, their all-day cafe in Noho, where you can eat the best chicken soup of your life during the day, and drink margaritas at night.

photo credit: David A. Lee

$$$$Perfect For:Quick Eats

You should, of course, order the al pastor tacos at Taqueria Al Pastor, a counter-service spot in Bushwick with a couple of stools but no tables. They come piled with strips of crispy pork and cubes of pineapple. But the carne asada taco is even better. The chunks of garlicky beef are stuffed into sturdy, pleasantly chewy house-made corn tortillas with spicy guac. On one occasion they ran out of corn tortillas, and made our tacos with flour ones instead. The result? An equally outstanding handheld meal.

For All Things Good runs on masa, but you won’t find any tacos at this minimalist Bed-Stuy spot that looks like a coffee shop. The focus here is on Oaxacan dishes, like giant memelas topped with avocado and a fried egg, tetelas filled with everything from hibiscus flower to black bean, and tlayudas covered in a ridiculous amount of mushrooms. They make some of the best tortillas we’ve had anywhere in NYC, and you can get a package of these colorful heirloom corn creations to go.

La Morada in Mott Haven is in one lavender room with the lighting scheme of a dental office. Plain decor aside, much like Donald Glover, the kitchen is good at pretty much everything. The tamales are like warm little pillows made of chicken and corn, and we’d gladly eat an entire meal of the crunchy gorditas. But the real reason you come here is the mole. Get the mole oaxaqueño. It’s a deep red color, and it’s possibly more complex than any equation currently being worked on by Nobel laureates.

On any given night, you may find us closing our eyes and pretending we’re sitting at Claro’s outdoor bar underneath some twinkly lights, with a mezcal cocktail in hand, watching our tortillas being made on an open flame in front of us. At this Oaxacan restaurant in Gowanus you can either order a la carte, or try the $90 four-course prix-fixe menu—either way, get the memela topped with wild mushrooms and goat cheese crema, and definitely something with one of their moles. Claro is also open for brunch, with dishes like chilaquiles with short rib, and masa pancakes with agave nectar.

This Tijuana-style taco shop started in Chelsea Market in 2013, and you’ll still consistently find lines there any time you go. But now they also have a handful of outposts around Manhattan—including useful locations near Grand Central, Penn Station, and Times Square. There’s nowhere to sit, but there are counters where you can stand and eat asada, adobada, or nopal tacos with all the fixings, and we encourage you to expand beyond tacos to try some of their cheese-layered mulas.

Everything at Ensenada is good, and we don’t make that statement lightly. This beachy seafood spot in Williamsburg makes buttery tuna tostadas, saucy shrimp tacos, and three types of aguachile, and they have a daily Happy Hour from 5:30-7pm, when you can drink $10 margaritas and $5 tiny pescaditos fritos with chipotle aioli. But once Happy Hour ends, the real party starts, when the pescado del dia “al pastor” lands on your table. The charred whole fish is covered in tiny cubes of pineapple, and served with warm corn tortillas, and a salty-sweet pineapple butter.

This Long Island City restaurant made waves when it first opened in 2012, and everything from the ceviche to the chile relleno served in a little pool of mildly sweet sauce is still excellent there. Nowadays we find Casa Enrique more reliable than groundbreaking, but you can definitely count on this art gallery-like space for anything from an impressive date that doesn’t feel too formal, to a casual dinner at an outside table, with a couple of friends who appreciate good crab tostadas and ending a meal with tres leches cake.

If you’ve been searching for a Mexican restaurant in Park Slope that you can get excited about, you can stop. This Oaxacan spot has outstanding fried cod tacos and perfectly seasoned carne asada with a sauce that’s so good we would pour it on pretty much anything (edible or not). The dark, candle-lit room has huge booths with tall partitions that make you feel like there’s no one else in the restaurant, which makes Casa Azul an ideal spot for a casual date night.

Tacos El Bronco operates two trucks and a brick-and-mortar location in Sunset Park with a long dining room with a mural of (you guessed it) broncos. At each location, the menu has almost as many potential moves as a game of chess, but if you do this cash-only spot the right way, you don’t even need a menu. Stick to tacos—specifically the smaller ones, which are all around $3, and involve double tortillas with your choice of meat. The al pastor and campechanos are must-orders, and you also can’t go wrong with the chiles rellenos.

Everything’s made fresh to order at this tiny eatery tucked in the back of a Bushwick fruit shop. There’s a handwritten sign proclaiming the presence of “real Mexican grandmas” in the kitchen, and it’s likely you’ll see them there, mashing avocados for guac while freshly pressed tortillas bubble up on the griddle. The tacos here are so chock full of fillings, they’re almost a fork-and-knife job, and they also do quesadillas, burritos, tortas and more. Get the tinga con todo in your preferred format, and grab an outdoor table in the backyard.



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From the daily brunch to mezcal flights, Ruta Oaxaca takes the maximalist approach at every turn. And that’s exactly why we love this Mexican restaurant in Astoria. Eating rich, mole-covered enchiladas under the electric pink patio structure will make you feel like you’re in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reboot without any of the terror. If you need another reason to make this Oaxacan spot a priority, know that Ruta offers 2-for-1 cocktails and sangria during weekend brunch.

Some things at Oxomoco in Greenpoint are optional. Starting out with a spicy mango margarita or giant frozen nopalito cocktail 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). We’re done giving you rules for this spot—now just figure out when to come here for a fun date night, a group dinner, or a taco-eating competition against yourself.

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