A Taco Tour of NYC
It’s a dilemma all New Yorkers face: where is that good Mexican food? The kind that is gloriously greasy with spicy enchiladas that carry the kind of kick only a frozen margarita can satisfy. And most importantly, the kind of food served in a spot that makes you feel right at home. Because, let’s face it, as much as a $30 flauta plate may satisfy your taste buds just fine, that authentic, mouth-watering Mexican food you crave shouldn’t be enjoyed in an upscale, Michelin-starred restaurant, especially if you’re dining with friends. We’re looking for those places with flavor in every sense of the word, spots that combine the authentic New York experience with delicious food made from la corazón.
I’m no West Coast transplant here to brag about California’s abundant array of cheap taco trucks. Hailing from the great state of Texas—ever heard of Tex-Mex?—and raised by a Mexican mother with a passion for cooking, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing South of the Border specialties firsthand, through my taste buds.
Though few and far between, we’ve rounded up our must-visit Mexican restaurants in Manhattan, all of which meet firmly in the middle between great taste and exciting atmosphere.
Right in the heart of SoHo, and just a short stroll away from the West Village, Lupe’s East LA Kitchen combines Mexican comfort food with a prime NYC location and is sure to satiate any Southern transplant’s homesickness. Just walking by the low-key joint will make you want to dine here—its worn, pastel exterior (neon sign included) is inviting if you’re looking to wind down and indulge in happy hour, but then comes the kicker: the stunning view of One World Trade Center. Whether you choose to dine inside or outside, the staff are friendly and engaging (a rarity in the city). The food? Delicious and fairly cheap. And don’t forget about the full organic fair-trade espresso bar. All things considered, Lupe’s is the most well-rounded spot on this list.
110 6th Ave. at Watts St., New York, NY 10013: T. (212) 966-1326
Atla is for when you want to splurge and get that bougie, upscale Mexican brunch experience in the city. Not just that—but with a full breakfast/brunch menu (we recommend the pan dulce basket paired with a supreme toasted sesame horchata agua fresca), as well as dinner after 5pm, the modern NoHo location is a contemporary take on traditional Mexican dining that will give your taste buds the ride of their lives. The chic and artsy dining area is sure to make for your next great Instagram photo, and with a range of out-of-the-box takes on classic Mexican plates (flaxseed chilaquiles, anyone?), you’ll be blown away by the sheer inventiveness of it all.
372 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012
If you’re doing a SoHo day, chances are you’re not going to want a sit-down lunch. Cue La Esquina Corner Deli. Now with multiple locations throughout the city, the grab-and-go flagship has some of the most authentic food on our list. Get a hearty elote for $3 and some savory carnitas to eat in Petrosino Square, before heading over to Broadway to do some shopping. For Mexican lovers, La Esquina is the ultimate pick me up.
114 Kenmare St, New York, NY 10012; T. (646) 613-7100
In true New York fashion, Lower East Side gem Barrio Chino comes at you with a twist. Right on the border of Chinatown and donned in Asian decor, the hole-in-the-wall spot is always lively and relatively cheap for the area—that is if you don’t get addicted to their watermelon margarita and order five more. Have a drink while you wait for a table, or rub some elbows with fellow Mexican food fiends at the restaurant’s communal table. It’s the perfect pre-meal before diving into all LES has to offer, or maybe dinner will be the night out.
253 Broome St, New York, NY 10002; T. (212) 228-6710
Located inside Chelsea Market, Los Tacos No. 1 is a destination in and of itself. The restaurant was created by three friends hailing from Tijuana, Mexico, and Brawley, California with one goal in mind: bring the authentic Mexican taco to the East Coast, and do it right. There’s no seating at Los Tacos, but that almost makes the experience even more real. Take some tacos and an agua fresca to go like you would from a Los Angeles taco truck, and explore all Chelsea Market has to offer with a satisfied, and full, belly.
75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011: T. (212) 256-0343
Words Ivan Gruzman