A common misconception in NYC: “There’s no good Mexican food here”. “Skip tacos, concentrate on Pizza, bagels and hala”. “For Mexican you got to go south then west”. “Even the Mexican Soap Operas here suck”. Somehow 350,000 tortilla challenged Mexicans opted for the Northeast, while the rest went to Texas or California. Well, there’s no mistaken where the best Mexican food in the US is located, but that doesnt mean there are no decent options in NYC. As with any cuisine you just need to a little bit of homework, thats all. And in the past few years there appears to be a Mexican renaissance of sorts in NYC. And if you think the soap operas are bad, think again. Just like some of the taco joints I will highlight below, they are intense, colorful and will bring you to tears. Here’s one example that will no doubt change your mind. Now, lets get down to some of the best tacos the city has to offer…
Tehuitzingo – I’ve already written plenty about this gem in Hell’s Kitchen. For a while it was like one of those terrible soap operas (the other ones). Did they close? Oh no. Oh wait, they not only reopened, but they multiplied. Welcome baby Tehuitzingo on 9th and 41st. 6 pounds, 5 ounces. Thats how much Lengua they sell every hour. The original on 10th isnt the same bodega (deli) as it used to be, but the tacos are still the same no frills, no nonsense old tacos. Its all about the great tasting meats with just the right amount of condiments. Try the Al Pastor, beef tongue (Lengua), just beef, carnitas, or anything else you fancy. I havent had a bad one yet
Otto’s Tacos – One of the new kids on the block, this LA expat is gathering a lot of attention lately. Their Horchata makes every other Horchata I’ve had taste like 1% milk. I tried all the tacos here except the chicken, and shrimp (top) is my clear favorite. Coated with serrano cream sauce, with onions and cilantro, the Shrimp is perfectly seasoned and cooked just right. The rest of the lineup is not too shabby either and that includes a mushroom tacos that
both my vegetarian readers can appreciate
Empellon Taqueria and Empellon Al Pastor – The natural progression from the labs of Alinea and WD50 is obviously tacos. Alex Stupak is perhaps the biggest player in this tacos revolution we are experiencing at the moment, with Emplellon Cucina, Empellon Taqueria, and now Empellon Al Pastor. The latter is the cheap simpler tacos with the namesake Al Pastor, shaved off the spit Shawarma style, leading the pack. Taqueria on the other hand is the fancy, polished taco option. And if I would be drafting Tacos as part of a Fantasy Taco League, the beer braised pork tongue would most be my #1 pick
Mission Cantina – The Mission District in San Francisco has some of the best Mexican food in the country. Some in fact claim that this is where the Burrito was born. So not surprisingly, James Beard winner Danny Bowien of the famed Mission Chinese Food in Mission can make a nasty Burrito, although its take-out only these days. The wings here are great as well, and all these goodies will make you wonder about the low Yelp score. Crafty shmancy tacos rule the right side of the menu, with Veggie tacos firmly in charge. But one has to try the popular masa fish taco and the lamb belly while its still around.
Los Tacos #1 – Where I come from, when you see a line, you stand on it, then you ask questions. Same rule applies to Chelsea Market where three friends from Mexico and California are trying to introduce New Yorkers and tourists to Mexican street food. Many claim that these are the best tacos in NYC, and who am I to argue. Try any of them, doesnt matter. As long as you try the Adobada. Say it with me, A-D-O-B-A-D-A three times. Good, you ready. Now get out there and stand on line for those abodabas
Tacos Morelos – Another fairly new mom/pop/cousin joint in the suddenly taco heavy East Village. The store and restaurant is on 9th and Avenue A where the slow roasted porky Cochinita Pibil reigns supreme. But its the cart on 2nd and A, where the EV rockers get their fix after gigs at 2 am, and where my friend swears by the Al Pastor. Almost 24 hours (they take a break around 4 am) is 24 hours to me.