New York’s Mexican restaurant scene has undergone significant change in the past three decades. Formerly, Mexican dishes, if you could even find any, were typically limited to fajitas, cheese enchiladas, and other basics.
Oh, how times have changed! Today, NYC rivals Los Angeles in terms of sheer Mexican food diversity. Chefs have arrived from throughout Mexico and surrounding areas to set up shop in the Big Apple, and they’ve brought along local, authentic flavors and creative, contemporary styles. With a city so large, where do you even start? My recommendations for Mexican food in NYC cover a wide range of eateries, from local spots where you can grab a quick bite to sophisticated and contemporary restaurants perfect for a night out on the town. Ready to check out my list of the best Mexican restaurants in NYC? Vamonos!
372 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012
The philosophy at Atla is that life is a celebration, and the best way to celebrate is with food. They focus on the core elements of cooking, such as fresh ingredients and a roaring fire. You’ll find contemporary Mexican food on the menu here, with many dishes containing seafood. Some of their more popular options include the Cheese Quesadilla, Shrimp Tacos, and Lobster Burrito. The cocktails are similarly Mexican-inspired. My personal favorite is El Diablo, with tequila, ginger, and lime. Atla is located in Greenwich Village, just a few blocks from NYU, along Lafayette Street between Great Jones Street and Bond Street.
284 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Claro is helmed by world-renowned chef TJ Steele, who has crafted a menu that combines cuisine from New York and the Mexican state of Oaxaca, where he lived for many years.Authenticity is the name of the game at Claro. Everything is made by hand, including the cheeses and mole. Even the decorations are authentic – the look of the restaurant was created by Oaxacan artists Francisco Toledo and Dr. Lakra.They serve a variety of Oaxaca dishes, including Tacos de Tinga, Garnachas, and, my favorite, the Mole Verde. Also, their Mezcal list is one of the best in the city.You’ll find Claro’s Brooklyn location one block northwest from the Brooklyn Zen Center, along 3rd Avenue between Carroll Street and President Street.
35 E 21st St, New York, NY 10010
Cosme combines contemporary Mexican cuisine with local ingredients from the Hudson Valley. The result is a seasonal menu that’s fresh, original, and delicious. You’ll find an ever-changing medley of fresh vegetables, seafood, and Mexican favorites.If you’re looking for a place for a private party, this is a place I definitely recommend. They have a stylish, private back room that can accommodate up to 14 people. Food is served family-style, so everyone can find a dish they enjoy.You should have no problems finding Cosme. It’s located along East 21st Street, about two blocks south of Madison Square Park and two blocks northwest of Gramercy Park.
Los Tacos No. 1
Los Tacos No. 1 started when three friends from Mexico and California decided the East Coast needed some West-Coast-inspired Mexican cuisine. You’ll find simple, fresh favorites such as Carne Asada tacos, Pollo Asado quesadillas, and even Nopal (Grilled Cactus). Dining is fast, easy, and affordable It’s a great spot for a quick lunch or casual dinner. It’s also a great place to take picky eaters because most of the menu items are fairly simple (but delicious). No matter where you are in NYC, you’re likely close to a Los Tacos No. 1. They have four locations in the city: 9th Avenue, Times Square, Grand Central, and Tribeca.
Tacos El Bronco
Tacos El Bronco keeps the menu appealingly simple. They offer cold drinks, a few simple sides, and tacos — lots and lots of tacos. Fillings range from chicken to steak to fried pork and much more. Each is served with onions and cilantro. The place is also one of the most affordable New York City Mexican restaurants. All tacos are just $2.75 apiece, and cans of Coke are only a buck. They’re incredibly popular among New Yorkers with an impressive five locations throughout the city. You’ll find four spots in Brooklyn with another in The Bronx. Not too bad for what originally began as a food cart.
Taco Mix got its start in 1991 as an NYC-based food cart. But the big taste of these tacos couldn’t be contained by a mere cart, and soon Taco Mix moved into a brick-and-mortar store. Today, you’ll find them throughout the city, with locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Delancey, and East Harlem. Menu selections differ slightly based on location, but you’ll always find plenty of options for tacos, burritos, and more. Customization is highly encouraged, allowing you to make your plate exactly as you wish. The restaurant is still helmed by founder Jorge Sanchez, now assisted by his son Alejo and daughter Joana. It’s a comfortable, casual experience perfect for family and friends.
The Empellion serves upscale, contemporary Mexican and American cuisine. They have several locations in the city, with their flagship restaurant in Midtown on Madison Avenue and West 53rd Street, just one block from the Microsoft Experience Center. It’s a great place for a date night, birthday celebrations, or other special occasions. The fun, elegant ambiance and delicious foods make the experience a night to remember. The menu changes frequently, but you’ll always find a blend of Mexican and American tastes. Some dishes I’ve enjoyed here in the past include the Chicken Wing Tacos with Blue Cheese Crema and their famous Avocado Dessert.
128 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Named after the Aztec goddess of the night, Oxomoco is contemporary and cozy. On a sunny day, their outdoor seating is perfect for couples and small groups, and the airy, bright interior is welcoming all year long. The menu combines authentic tastes with modern flavors to create delicious, layered dishes such as Delicata Squash Tacos and the Beef Tartare Tostada. They also offer some of the best Mexican-inspired brunch items in NYC, including my personal favorite, the Beet Chorizo. Oxomoco is along Greenpoint Avenue between Franklin Street and Manhattan Avenue. They’re near Oxomoco, the Karczma Polish Restaurant, and the Black Rabbit.
5-48 49th Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101
The Mexican dishes at Casa Enrique are artistic, adventurous, and award-winning. Menu selections include seafood, tacos, enchiladas, and specialty entrees. Be sure and try one of their margaritas. The Aguachile Margarita is my personal fave – it features Agave Rey tequila, cucumber, and fresh lime juice. Casa Enrique is helmed by Cosme Aguilar, a native of Chiapas, Mexico. As a boy, he learned to cook traditional Chiapas dishes from his mother, aunts, and sisters. Today, this multiple Michelin winner is committed to bringing the authentic flavors of his childhood to the people of NYC. To dine at Casa Enrique, head to the intersection of 49th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard. They’re located across the street from the Chocolate Factory Theater and the Vernon Grille.
Jajaja Plantas Mexicana
Food so good you’ll laugh with joy, Jajaja Plantas Mexicana adds East Side flair to traditional Mexican ingredients to create fun, accessible dishes with a style all their own. Some of their specialties (and my favorites) include the Enchiladas Mole, Azteca Chile Relleno, and the Chorizo Burrito. Jajaja first opened on May 5, 2017. They’re part of the Raise Hospitality Group, owned and operated by Koorosh Bakhtiar and Nima Garos. New York City is home to four Jajaja locations. You’ll find them in the Lower East Side, West Village, Hudson Yards, and Williamsburg. Each spot has the same menu.
77-99 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY 11372
Birria-Landia is a food truck, so they don’t have a set location. Instead, you’ll find their flagship truck in Queens along Roosevelt Avenue between the 77 and 99 address blocks. They have a second truck located at the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn. But don’t let that discourage you! They’re easy to find, and worth tracking down. The menu keeps it simple with tacos, tostadas, and cheese quesadillas. Prices are kept low, but the quality is high.Birria-Landia is owned and operated by brothers Jose and Jesus Moreno. They originated their business in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens before quickly gaining a city-wide following.
Sometimes, I don’t just get a craving for enchiladas, but for enchiladas from La Contenta specifically. Their Enchiladas Suizas and Enchiladas de Cameron have flavors I just can’t get enough of! Of course, the rest of their food and drinks are pretty great, too. Their menu consists of traditional Mexican dishes with a twist of French cooking, plus a drink menu with cocktails and micheladas. The original La Contenta is found in the heart of the Lower East Side, along Norfolk Street near the Asian American Arts Center and Nightmare New York Haunted House. La Contenta Oeste is in Greenwich Village.
308 Willis Ave, Bronx, NY 10454
Experience authentic, indigenous Oaxacan cuisine at La Morada. They’re owned and operated by an undocumented family from Oaxaca, Mexico. Aside from food, the restaurant also showcases local culture, arts, and community initiatives. They offer a huge spread of different Mexican classics, including tacos, burritos, and sopapillas. You can choose a variety of meats such as chicken, steak, and spicy pork. All meals aren’t just delicious, they’re also affordable, because the restaurant is a Mutual+Aid operation. They’re located in the heart of the South Bronx in Mott Haven. You’ll find them on Willis Avenue between East 141st Street and East 139th Street.
Mesa Coyoacan Brooklyn
372 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Mesa Coyoacan is the creation of Chef Ivan Garcia, a native of Mexico City who learned to cook from his family. After receiving a Culinary Arts degree, he spent years working for notable Mexican restaurants before setting out on his own. The menu here is a bit different from what you’ll find in many other NYC Mexican places. Chef Garcia believes in respect for tradition over personalization. Instead of contemporary or fusion-style dishes, you’ll find truly authentic cooking in both approach and ingredients – it’s like stepping into a different time and place. They’re on the same block as the Saint Frances of Paola Elementary School, near the intersection of Graham Avenue and Conselyea Street. You’ll find them right between Okozushi and the Variety Café.
Nene’s Deli Taqueria
14 Starr St, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Along Starr Street and across from the Enrico Fermi Intermediate School, you’ll find Nene’s Deli Taqueria. It’s small, easy-to-miss and, when I went there, had a sign out front advertising smartphone repair. But it’s worth finding because the food is authentic, flavorful, and downright decadent. They serve up Mexican food, and lots of it, with a menu that includes a massive $11 burrito, quesadillas, tacos, empanadas, and more. Many dishes feature birria, a traditional, slow-cooked stew. Keep in mind that seating is limited. It’s a small space with only a few tables inside and out. If you don’t have reservations, you might have to wait for an open table, especially during the lunch and dinner rush.
Paloma’s Mexican Cuisine
435 Menahan St, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Paloma’s is a great casual dining spot located along Cypress Avenue and Menahan Street. They’re just a few blocks north of the Food Bazaar and a block south of Milo’s Yard. They serve contemporary Mexican food such as burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and chimichangas. My personal favorite is the Tacos al Pastor, which features four tacos filled with marinated pork and pineapple then topped with pico de gallo. One thing I like about Paloma’s is how they don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they use fresh, quality ingredients to craft comforting, delicious Mexican food served in large portions.
Ruta Oaxaca Mexican Cuisine
35-03 Broadway, Queens, NY 11106
Ruta Oaxaca is my favorite Mexican restaurant in Astoria. They serve traditional Mexican food with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and market fish. Some of the dishes that really make my mouth water are the Steak Tacos with homemade corn tortillas and the Enchilada Huatulco with mixed seafood. If you want to sit outside, but the weather isn’t cooperating, you’ll love Ruta Oaxaca’s heated outdoor seating area. It even manages to retain the colorful charm of the restaurant’s interior. You’ll find Ruta Oaxaca along Broadway near 35th Street. They’re right across from the Broadway/35th subway stop.
7605 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY 11372
Taqueria is loads of fun, with a casual atmosphere and friendly staff. It’s where my friends and I go when we want to eat, drink, and hit the town. Plus, they’re open until 1 am every night of the week, making them perfect for a nightcap or a meal before heading home. They serve Mexican dishes with an emphasis on seafood and meats. They also have salsa and guacamole dips and plenty of drinks, if you want to hang out without eating a big meal. Taqueria Coatzingo is easy to find. They’re in Jackson Heights, off Broadway just before 76th Street, one block west from Stanley’s Home Furnishings.
The Black Ant
60 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003
The Black Ant is a modern Mexican restaurant with an upscale vibe and detailed, layered dishes. Their tacos are especially famous around the neighborhood. They offer four types – fish, pancita, fennel, and enchapulinas. It’s hard to say which one I love the most! The pedigrees behind The Black Ant are impressive. Founder Jorge Guzman is a well-known international restaurateur, backed by Chef de Cuisine Iliana Sermeno and Beverage Director Joey Smith. Every aspect of the restaurant, from design to cuisine, is comfortable, cool, and memorable. You’ll find the Black Ant between Washington Square Village and the East Village. They’re along 2nd Avenue between East 4th Street and East 3rd Street.
Tulcingo Del Valle
665 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036
In 2001, a young couple arrived in NYC with dreams of introducing the city to traditional Mexican cuisine, eventually naming their first restaurant after their hometown. Today, Tulcingo del Valle is one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen, located near the corner of 10th Avenue and West 47th Street. They’re less than a half-mile from Times Square, right next to the Westside Animal Hospital and Erik’s Barbershop. Their food emphasizes natural ingredients and authentic tastes. Personally, I love the Al Pastor (roast pork) and the Tripa (beef trip). They’re perfect for sharing with a date or a friend!
905 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Xilonen, named after the Aztec Goddess of Young Corn, is a vegan and vegetarian Mexican restaurant. Their dishes aim to introduce diners to the delicious role plants and veggies play in both traditional and contemporary Mexican food. I’m not even vegan, but my favorite item on the menu is the vegan Fajitas Quesadilla, which is made with sweet peppers, bullhorn peppers, and pulla salsa. Other popular fare includes the vegan Escabeche, the vegetarian Crunchy Taco, and the vegan Farmer’s Market Salad. This vegan resto is right across the street from the northernmost point of McCarren Park, near the intersection of Lorimer Street and Nassau Avenue. They’re directly across Nassau Avenue from the Lorimer/Nassau subway stop.
1191 1st Ave, New York, NY 10065
Maya NYC is one of the best Mexican restaurants in NYC for the culinary adventurous. Their menu starts with traditional Mexican foods before adding inventive and contemporary twists. I recommend the Lobster Tacos or the Adobo Chicken, along with a side of Mexican Street Corn or Roasted Heirloom Carrots. Also, their happy house is one of the best in the city – and I’m not the only one who thinks that. Eater New York designated Maya as one of the Best Happy Hour Spots in NYC, and Margarita Rumble declared they had the Best Margarita in NYC for 2018. The restaurant is located in Sutton Place, just southwest of Public School 183 along 1st Avenue, between East 64th Street and East 65th Street. They’re right across the street from Oaxaca Taqueria and Apple Bank.
If you’re a big-time fan of Tequilas and Mezcals, check out Anejo, which boasts one of the most eclectic selections in all of NYC. Even better, the expert staff knows how to pair each meal with the perfect drink. Tacos are the most popular menu item here. They offer Short Rib Tacos, Crispy Cauliflower Tacos, Pork Carnitas, and more. Aside from tacos, you can also choose between several meat, vegetable, and seafood dishes. Their Hell’s Kitchen location is at the corner of West 47th Street and 10th Avenue. They’re about two blocks down 10th from the Skyline Hotel NYC.
Eating at Toloache is a comfortable, elegant experience. In their large 50th Street location, the walls are adorned with elaborate tile artwork depicting Mexican culture, while the 82 Street spot offers more private dining. They have a large menu featuring brick-oven Quesadillas, Carne Asada Tacos, Salmon de Verano, and other authentic, accessible dishes. I recommend the Pollo Toloache, made with Chipotle-marinated chicken, crispy Mexican cheese, and sweet corn pico de gallo. Toloache is the creation of chef-owner Julian Medina, who named his restaurants after a Mexican plant used in love potions. His goal is to deliver the same type of intoxicating flavors as the mythical love potions of his birthplace.
La Esquina NYC
114 Kenmare St, New York, NY 10012
The party is hopping at La Esquina, a fun and laid-back bar/restaurant at the corner of Kenmare Street and Cleveland Place. They’re just a few blocks west of Sara Delano Roosevelt Park. The food is bold, fresh, and tactile. Some of my favorites include the spicy Grilled Pollo Adobado and the crunchy Pork Belly Chicharron. They also serve up some truly terrific margaritas, including the Pepino Diablo, made with Tequila, cucumber, jalapeno, and lime. Keep in mind the joint is usually jumping. You might have to wait for a table to open up, even if you have a reservation. Also, when the place is especially busy, the staff will likely ask you to limit your dining time to about an hour.
Rosa Mexicano is where I often end up when entertaining friends from out of town. Their Lincoln Center location is perfect for dinner and drinks either before or after a show. It’s a fun, lively locale with a professional, sociable staff. They call their cuisine “elevated fiesta.” It’s a stylish take on traditional dishes such as Enchilada de Calabasa al Carbon and Whole Fried Tilapia Veracruzana. They also offer a Tour de Mexico, a three-course meal featuring seasonal dishes. Rosa Mexicano has three NY locations: Lincoln Center, Union Square, and 2nd Avenue. Note that menu items can vary slightly between locales. For instance, their 2nd Avenue location currently doesn’t have a liquor license, so they don’t serve alcoholic beverages.
El Centro – NYC
824 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019
El Centro is a laid back, festive restaurant found at the corner of West 54th Street and 9th Avenue. They’re in Hell’s Kitchen between Times Square and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The menu features a bevy of traditional, accessible Mexican dishes. They have 15 different types of tacos, along with an enticing selection of quesadillas, enchiladas, and fajitas. Plus, they’re open for brunch from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It’s a great place to bring the whole family, including any picky eaters. Many dishes are large enough to eat family-style, such as the nacho plates. I recommend it for groups looking for a sit-down restaurant while out and about in the city.