Cosme Restaurant
Credit: Araceli Paz

New York City may not share Los Angeles' reputation for tacos (though don’t scoff at the vendors selling tamales by the subway), but exceptional Mexican cuisine can be found throughout the boroughs — if you know where to look. From contemporary Mexican for date nights to traditional street food and no frills rice and beans for a to-go desk lunch, these are seven of the Mexican restaurants New Yorkers love most.


Contemporary Mexican cuisine from Chef Enrique Olvera melds upscale ingredients with classic flavors and innovative presentations. Expect vibrant dishes like an arctic char tostada accented with elderberries, yuzu, and avocado, and vegetarian tamales topped with goat ricotta. For dessert, the husk meringue with corn mousse is one of the highlights on the menu.

El Mague y La Tuna

Colorful tablecloths and twinkling lights add a fiesta atmosphere to this casual Mexican spot on East Houston. Expect Mexican classics just like your abuela would make them, including a homemade mole sauce created from a passed-down family recipe, chorizo made in-house, and a particularly sentimental dish of enchiladas al maguey, served with homemade corn tortillas.


Head to either Midtown location of this taqueria if you’re seeking an affordable, casual meal. Over a dozen types of tacos are on the menu, featuring traditional meats ranging from barbacoa (goat) to al pastor (spicy slow-roasted pork with pineapple). There are also quesadillas, burritos, and countless tortas (Mexican sandwiches) for the grab-and-go crowd, while early risers will be pleased with the ample breakfast options (chilaquiles, huevos rancheros).

Empellón Taqueria NYC
Credit: Evan Sung

Empellón Taqueria

Chef Alex Stupak (who literally wrote a book on tacos), maintains a small empire of upscale Mexican restaurants in Manhattan. Visit his Greenwich Village taqueria for New York-inspired taco creations like pastrami with pickled cabbage and mustard seed salsa and a riff on the BLT: thick cut bacon, lettuce, and green tomato. Start with a duo of salsas, including the addictive smoked-cashew salsa and tomatillo-chipotle.

Tortilleria Nixtamal

A destination for New Yorkers from all corners of the city, this brightly decorated restaurant in Queens is renowned for its homemade corn tortillas, which are sold to restaurants across the five boroughs. At Nixtamal, it’s all about the tacos, served on their own or DIY-style, where fillings like carne asada and sautéed shrimp sizzle in a molcajete and come with ample sides like roasted nopales and jalapeños.

El Tenampa Deli Grocery

Boasting the best tacos in Brooklyn (and many would agree), this unsuspecting grocery store deli, run by chef-owner Vincente Neri, does indeed sling out exceptional Mexican food in Sunset Park. The menu is surprisingly robust. There are tacos with a mix of traditional and more complex fillings (pastor, pollo asado, lengua, huevos con chorizo) also available as tortas, cemitas, or burritos, and a full list of entrees and sopas. Order a cup of horchata with your meal.


This recently-expanded Mexican restaurant on Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn sells margaritas by the pitcher and is especially popular with the brunch crowd. Arrive early to get a table for the unbeatable $14 Saturday and Sunday morning specials, which include Mexican sweet bread and coffee, juice, or tea. Try the calabacitas or the tres leches French toast.