19 Essential Mexican Restaurants in NYC

From new plant-forward options to reopened 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. And as the city continues to reopen as more New Yorkers get vaccinated, there are some exciting new options to try as you and your pod get more comfortable with dining out. 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 19 of NYC’s top Mexican spots to enjoy. And as always, please wear a mask, social distance responsibly, and tip generously when you can.

seeyamañana
seeyamañana | Photo by Rachel Vanni

This plant-forward Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar is from the team behind cocktail hot spot, Patent Pending, and takes inspiration from the chill vibes of Baja California. Helmed by executive chef Carlos Chavarria and influenced by his Mexican roots, the menu focuses on highlighting fruits, herbs, and vegetables, in addition to select free-grazed and pole-caught animal protein dishes. Signature items include a tostada with Brussels sprouts, black habanero salsa, and corn nuts; beet tacos with marinated, roasted beets, cilantro pesto, seeds and greens; and a selection of ceviches. Seeyamañana’s rotating cocktail menu focuses on mezcal and tequila drinks made with botanical ingredients sourced from the Baja California peninsula.
How to book: Walk-ins welcome. Reservations available only for pre-fixed menu via special form or by calling 917-374-1682.

Xilonen
Xilonen | Photo courtesy of Xilonen

Xilonen

Greenpoint

At the latest project from the crew behind Oxomoco, chef/owner Justin Bazdarich and chef de cuisine Alan Delgado have teamed up once again. Located at a bustling intersection at the northwest corner of McCarren Park, Xilonen’s plant-based offerings focus on regional Mexican fare and the restaurant’s strong commitment to sustainability is partly driven by Bazdarich’s recent studies on the subject. The menu is separated into daytime and nighttime offerings, with signature items like masa pancakes with deep mountain maple syrup and butter; green chorizo quesadilla with roasted oyster mushrooms and black bean avocado salsa; and charred cabbage tostada with coconut milk, sunflower salsa, and golden raisin.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Atla

NoHo

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; brussels sprouts with spicy peanut butter and avocado; lobster burritos; and the signature tres leches cake with black pepper meringue are just a few of the offerings to treat yourself to. Outdoor dining via The Outdoor Villages presented by American Express and Resy is also available.

Available for Reservations

Cosme

Flatiron District

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 continues to remain electric. After closing early on in the pandemic and since reopening, dishes like duck carnitas and husk meringue are still impressively creative.

Available for Reservations

Casa Pública

Williamsburg

As Casa Pública approaches its fourth birthday, the restaurant’s dedication to regional Mexican home cooking continues to transport diners to Mexico City (art deco-inspired interior design and all). Toast with frozen margaritas in flavors like prickly pear, pineapple chipotle, and cucumber jalapeño, in addition to all the usual suspects: chiles toreados, guacamole and chips, and carnitas tacos. Choose from two more cheffy entrees: enchiladas primavera with potato and spinach, salsa verde, and Mexican crema; and pollo en mole casero crusted in nuts and with mole negro and Mexican rice. 
How to order: Reservations are available via email at sean@casapublicabk.com. Order takeout and delivery via website.

Chavela's

Crown Heights

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) ten years 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 Bloody Marias, sangria, or margaritas. The dinner menu expands to include sopas, tacos, quesadillas, and larger plates. Pair everything with speciality cocktails and plenty of tequila and mezcal selections to choose from.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Claro

Gowanus

Claro is a little slice of Oaxaca on the canal. Like the restaurant’s tiles and ceramic dishes, most of the ingredients here are imported from Mexico. Housemade masa, cheese, and sausage are key to the menu’s success. Don’t miss the frijoles Oaxaqueño  with Benton’s bacon or the melt-in-your-mouth short rib mole negro, with spring onions and potatoes.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Empellón Taqueria

West Village

Alex Stupak’s burgeoning Mexican food empire includes the temporarily closed Midtown flagship restaurant, Empellón Al Pastor in the East Village, and Empellón Taqueria in the West Village. At the latter spot, choose from 10 taco varieties like brussels sprouts, lamb barbacoa, pastrami, and fish tempura—in addition to a new rotating weekly special that’s available every Tuesday. The margarita menu includes grapefruit or spicy cucumber for a total of six to choose from, which can also be ordered in a six pack with each signature flavor.
How to book: Sevenrooms

Fonda

Multiple locations

While Fonda’s East Village location permanently shuttered during the pandemic, its Chelsea and Park Slope spots 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 filete tacos with beef tenderloin, bacon, and poblano peppers; tostadas de carnes topped with habanero spiked shredded beef, cured red onions, and crema; and pollo norteño tossed with melted Chihuahua cheese and served in a skillet topped with chilies serranos toreados.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

This beloved Long Island City Central Mexican staple relocated to Bushwick last year, 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, chicken, or the El Presidente with tiger shrimp. Bookend your meal with the 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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

La Contenta

Multiple locations

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 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 or the braised branzino with Veracruz sauce.

Available for Reservations

JAJAJA

Multiple locations

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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

La Morada

The Bronx

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 shrimp sautéed with cactus, and a poblano pepper stuffed with cheese.
How to order: Uber Eats

Since debuting 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 that’s set to reopen on May 3. At her flagship downtown restaurant, go for regional Mexican plates like Yucatán pork cochinita pibil, ancho-grilled lamb braised with avocado leaves, and the house favorite, duck breast in Oaxacan black mole.

Available for Reservations

Los Tacos No. 1

Multiple locations

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, and Grand Central, 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. And if you’ve got an entire party to feed, go for the make-your-own-taco-bar option that can be assembled for up to ten people.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Mesa Coyoacán

Williamsburg

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 green enchiladas and esquites. The drink selection includes michelada, and plenty of margaritas options like watermelon, pineapple, hibiscus, and tamarind.
How to book: Seating is first come, first served or call 718-782-8171 for groups of 5+.

Taco Mix

Multiple locations

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 corn tortillas dressed with pig’s ear and beef tripe. Since launching his first cart nearly 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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Tacombi

Multiple locations

With two locations in Brooklyn and seven in Manhattan, an upcoming Long Island City spot means the Mexican chainlet’s famed al pastor tacos—thinly sliced Mexico City-style heritage pork dressed with roasted, shaved pineapple—will be even more accessible to New Yorkers. For more of Tacombi’s regionally inspired tacos, go for the Yucatán-spiked recado rojo (spicy-citrusy achiote sauce) chicken or the beer-battered Baja fish. Pair everything with bottled 8oz cocktails (good for two servings) like a margarita classic, mezcal mule, or rubio, in addition to a michelada or the Mexican lager, Monopolio, also available in a 6-pack.
How to order: Reservations available via website. Order takeout and delivery via website.

Tacos El Bronco
Tacos El Bronco | @tacoselbroncoii

Tacos El Bronco

Sunset Park

If you’ve stopped by the ever-mobbed food truck near 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.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Scarlett LindemanKat Odell, and Amy Schulman are contributors for Thrillist. 
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