22 Essential Mexican Restaurants in NYC
From plant-forward options to family-run favorites.
New York City’s Mexican food game has come a long way over the last half decade, growing more expansive as different regions of Mexico are increasingly represented around the city. From new plant-forward eateries driven by industry veterans, to the many taquerias, bodegas, and restaurants located throughout the city, take a transportive trip to Oaxaca by ordering La Morada’s mole, or Mexico City via Taco Mix’s al pastor.
With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, you may have Mexican cuisine on the brain which is a perfect excuse to check some of these spots off your list. Whether you plan to celebrate or not, here are 22 of NYC’s top Mexican spots to enjoy.
Named as an homage to their beloved 83-year-old grandmother, Carmen “Titita” Ramirez Degollado, the “matriarch of Mexican flavor” and owner of legendary El Bajío in Mexico City, Casa Carmen in Tribeca is a new restaurant from the brother duo and co-owners, Santiago and Sebastian Ramirez Degollado. With two head chefs and a team of “mayoras” (esteemed elder women) overseeing the menu, its traditional Mexican food centers around recipes learned from and perfected by Titita. Go for signatures like the dishes like the Tostada de Pato en Escabeche (pickled duck tostada with refried beans and lettuce); Empanadas de Plátano con Frijol (plantain empanadas with charred chipotle salsa); and Pescado a la Veracruzana (rotating selection of fish, güero peppers, olives, capers, tomato salsa).
Nina's Great Burrito Bar
After relocating from their former Amsterdam Avenue space of more than 25 years, Nina’s Great Burrito Bar debuted their Columbus Avenue storefront earlier this year. The family-run restaurant specializes in homestyle Mexican cuisine and diners can expect to see founder Nina Flores and kin running the shop while serving recipes inspired by Nina’s childhood in Oaxaca. Signature items include the Pulpo Tostada, Huarache, Sopecitos, Enchiladas De Mole, and Suizas, Conchinita Pibil, Picadillo Tacos, and Birra Tacos.
A romantic time out at Aldama begins even before entering its doors, thanks to the gorgeous views of the Williamsburg Bridge on its picturesque Brooklyn street. The contemporary Mexican restaurant is helmed by partner/cocktail expert Christopher Reyes (Cosme, Employees Only) and chef Gerardo Alcaraz (Black Ant, Martín Berasategui in San Sebastián, Spain), and focuses on street food of Central Mexico in addition to offering regional specialties like Pescado Zarandeado and Carne Cecina. The space is separated into small sections with plenty of intimate seating and features an overall modern approach that’s evident from design touches and plateware, to the food and cocktails.
This more casual venture from renowned Mexican chef, Enrique Olvera, is his second NYC eatery and touts itself as Cosme’s “little sister.” At Atla, expect an all-day menu brimming with elegant dishes that are both striking in aesthetics and flavor. Beef Birria made with slow braised and boneless beef short rib; Carrot Salad with grapefruit and pine nuts; Suadero, Eggplant, or Shrimp Tacos; and the signature Tres Leches Cake with toasted coconut are just a few of the offerings. Drinks include agua frescas, a dedication section of margaritas, and classic cocktails like a Paloma or Mezcal Negroni.
Snagging a reservation here a couple of years ago was almost impossible, especially after the Obamas stopped by for a date night. While the frenzy has abated, chef Enrique Olvera’s first NYC restaurant and highly-lauded contemporary Mexican spot with an inventive approach continues to remain electric. The restaurant’s signature dish is the Duck Carnitas, which is cured for days with spices and Mexican Coke before served family style with blue corn tortillas made in-house. Finish your meal with the popular (and very Instagrammable) Cornhusk Meringue with corn mousse for dessert.
As Casa Pública approaches its fifth birthday, the restaurant’s dedication to regional Mexican home cooking continues to transport diners to Mexico City (art deco-inspired interior design and all). Within its concise menu, toast with frozen margaritas in flavors like Prickly Pear, Pineapple Chipotle, and Cucumber Jalapeño, in addition to all the usual suspects like Guacamole and Carnitas Tacos. Entree selections include the Enchiladas Suizas with three cheeses and Mexican crema; and Pollo en Mole Casero with roasted organic chicken crusted in nuts.
This Franklin Avenue mainstay from Mexico City native, chef Arturo Leonar, has long been a local favorite since it relocated to its current (and larger spot) more than a decade ago. Here, brunch is an all-week draw that’s available daily and includes items like Chilaquiles (simmered in a choice salsa verde or mole) and Huevos Rancheros alongside drinks like a Bloody Maria, Sangria, or Margaritas. The expansive dinner menu includes everything from Tamales to quesadillas handmade with corn masa and plenty of large plates like Pastel Azteca with tortillas layered with roasted poblano peppers and squash blossoms; and the Costillas with braised pork short ribs.
Claro is a little slice of Oaxaca on the Gowanus Canal from chef T.J. Steele (Tia Pol, Union Square Cafe). Like the restaurant’s tiles and ceramic dishes, most of the ingredients here are imported from Mexico for a four-course dinner from a seasonal menu priced at $72 per person (with an additional Mezcal Flight option at $54). As you choose your starter, second, and main courses, keep in mind that housemade masa, cheese, and sausage are key to the menu’s success, and the melt-in-your-mouth pecking duck Mole Negro with spring onions and potatoes is a must-try.
Alex Stupak’s burgeoning contemporary Mexican food empire includes the Midtown flagship restaurant, Empellón Al Pastor in the East Village, Empellón Taqueria in the West Village, and the recently opened Empellón Taqueria at Waterline Square in the Upper West Side. At the Midtown spot, choose from taco varieties like Fish Tempura, Pastrami, and Lobster, alongside mains like Pumpkin Seed Cappelletti and fajitas with proteins like Jumbo Tiger Prawns or Surf and Turf. The margarita menu includes Spicy Cucumber or Saffron for a total of seven to choose from
While Fonda’s East Village location permanently shuttered during the pandemic, its Chelsea and Park Slope spots—along with a new Tribeca location—continue to serve Mexican fare from chef and cookbook author Roberto Santibañez. With both a classic and contemporary approach inspired by Santibañez’s Mexico City roots, the menu includes the Filete Tacos with beef tenderloin, bacon, and poblano peppers; Tostadas de Carne topped with habanero spiked shredded beef; and Pollo Norteño tossed with melted Chihuahua cheese and served in a skillet topped with chilies serranos toreados.
This beloved Long Island City Central Mexican staple relocated to Bushwick in 2020, quickly earning a fresh following for dishes like Oaxacan mole and chef Rayna Morales’ take on a burrito, called a Burrita, that are made Central Mexican-style (devoid of rice) and available in six options like braised pork butt (aka the Carnitas), or the El Presidente with tiger shrimp. Bookend your meal with the El Chapo, a signature bacon wrapped hot dog served with homemade crema and pico de gallo before finishing it all off with Churros dipped in cajeta and chocolate sauce.
At La Conenta’s Lower East Side and Greenwich Village locations, chef Luis Arce Mota showcases his Mexican roots and French culinary training. Here, the beloved La Contenta Nachos—heaped with black beans, pico de gallo, pepper jack and cheddar, and decorated with avocado sauce and sour cream—are a must try. There’s a range of dishes and proteins to choose from, but if you’re in the mood for seafood, go for the Crab Taquitos Ahogados with sweet crab meat.
With four locations (Lower East Side, West Village, Hudson Yards, Williamsburg) throughout NYC, this hip plant-based powerhouse offers an animal-free take on Mexican classics. Operated by Raise Hospitality Group, Jajaja’s signature Instagram filter-like brand aesthetic matches the menu items, with offerings like Jackfruit Tamales; Paleo Caveman tacos made with a coconut and arrowroot tortilla; and the popular Nachos with turmeric queso fundido. In addition to an all-day brunch menu with items like Kale Pancakes, a curated tequila and mezcal program alongside signature cocktails and Mexican beers on tap are also available.
Open since 20019, this casual and unfussy Bronx-based Oaxacan staple is known for both their food and social activism. In 2020, La Morada received a James Beard nomination for Outstanding Restaurant and was also designated a Thrillist Hero for its continued work of championing social causes during the pandemic. Here, go for the restaurant’s claim-to-fame: the Mole chicken with dark meat blanketed in Oaxaca’s most famous sauce. Or choose from other rustic plates like the Molcajete with red or green sauce, chorizo, cheese, cactus, and a choice of two proteins.
La Palapa Cocina Mexicana
Since debuting her Mexico City-inspired street food eatery in the East Village a full two decades ago, chef Barbara Sibley’s empire has grown to include a more casual taco-focused spinoff, La Palapa Taco Bar (within Gotham West Market); and a kiosk in the Urbanspace Vanderbilt. At her flagship downtown restaurant, go for regional Mexican plates like the Cochinita Pibil with Yucatán pork; Barbacoa de Cordero Catalina with ancho-grilled lamb braised and avocado leaves; and the house favorite, Pato al Mole Negro Oaxaqueño with duck breast in Oaxacan black mole.
Los Tacos No. 1
Los Tacos No. 1 is the brainchild of two friends from Southern California and another from Tijuana, Mexico. With locations in Chelsea Market, Times Square, Tribeca, Grand Central, and the recent addition of NoHo, this taqueria and literal taco stand (seating is at waist-level booths only) offers some of the best Carne Asada, Adobada, and Pollo Asado Tacos in town.
At Mesa Coyoacan, chef Ivan Garcia’s product-driven and regional Mexican haunt, organic ingredients and grass-fed proteins are weaved into classic dishes inspired from his Mexico City upbringing. Rustic plates span from Chiles en Nogada and Carnitas Tacos to Enchiladas Verdes and Esquites. The drink selection includes plenty of margaritas options like Watermelon, Mango, Hibiscus, and Grapefruit.
The wood-fired Mexican fare designed originally by chef Justin Bazdarich (Speedy Romeo) is what helped the Greenpoint spot earn one Michelin star after opening in 2018. The stunning interior features high ceilings, a white-washed aesthetic, plants hanging from a skylit ceiling, and woven chairs. The scene at Oxomoco is a total vibe, like you just walked into the coolest restaurant in CDMX. Don’t skip the Escabeche, any of the tostadas, the Beet “Chorizo” Tacos, or a variety of tequila and mezcal-focused cocktails.
Here, street tacos here are the name of the game, decked out with a mix of traditional adornments. Jorge Sanchez’s acclaimed Al Pastor Tacos are a favorite, alongside Oreja (pig ear), Buche (pork stomach), Tripa (beef tripe), and Chorizo. Since launching his first cart about thirty years ago, Taco Mix—now counting three locations in Harlem, Industry City, and the Lower East Side—continues to be one of the best taco options in the city.
With eleven locations across Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, this Mexican chainlet’s famed Al Pastor Tacos—known for its thinly sliced Mexico City-style heritage pork dressed pineapple—are very accessible to New Yorkers. For more of Tacombi’s regionally inspired tacos, go for the Pollo Yucateco with Yucatán-spiked recado rojo (spicy-citrusy achiote sauce) chicken or the beer-battered Baja Crispy Fish. Pair everything the Margarita available in a pitcher.
Tacos El Bronco
If you’ve stopped by the ever-mobbed food truck near the bowling alley Melody Lanes, you owe it to yourself to try the brick-and-mortar restaurant on Fourth Avenue to work your way through the 19-item taco menu. Choose from fillings both familiar (Carnitas, Pollo, Pastor) and less familiar (Tongue, Pork Stomach)—all heaped on yellow corn tortillas and topped with cucumbers, radishes, grilled green onions, and a spritz of lime.
Known for serving up some of the most sought-after tacos in the borough is CDMX-style Taqueria Ramirez. Run by Tania Apolinar and Giovanni Cervantes, the eatery sports a concise six-item menu of Tacos de Pastor; Suadero; Longaniza; Campechano; Tripa; and Nopales. All meats are cooked in the choricera (a large stainless steel pot) or trompo (rotating spit)—which are then served in grilled corn tortillas. With no takeout or delivery, these beauties are meant to be devoured onsite within the restaurant, which features much sought-after 16 stools. For drinks there’s two options to accompany your bites: Mexican Coke or Topo Chico.
Kat Odell is a contributor for Thrillist.
Amy Schulman is a contributor for Thrillist.