Food & Drink

The 12 Best Tacos in NYC

Updated On 04/04/2017 at 06:25PM EST Updated On 04/04/2017 at 06:25PM EST
Carne enchilada tacos from La Morada
Carne enchilada tacos from La Morada | Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Lengua (beef tongue) tacos

Casa Enrique

Address and Info

Long Island City

There aren’t many things that will get New Yorkers to trek out on the 7 train for an hour-long wait. Casa Enrique is one of the few. Chef Cosme Aguilar has garnered a cult-following for his simple and traditional Michelin-starred Mexican fare, like slightly sweet and nutty mole and zesty carne asada. But it’s the lengua (beef tongue) tacos that stand out the most. The slow-cooked beef tongue is aromatic and almost creamy in texture, balanced by chewy corn tortillas garnished with contrasting cilantro and crisp onion.

Flickr/Marian Zambrano

Adobada tacos

Los Tacos No. 1

Address and Info

Chelsea

The line for this Chelsea Market taco stand tends to snake around the room on weekdays, when hordes of nearby office workers line up for house-made tortillas. Your choice of either the corn or flour variety is used to encase fillings like tender carne asada and well-seasoned pollo or nopal (grilled cactus). But the must-try meat is the adobada: The pork is steeped in a slightly sweet, chile-scented marinade before taking a long, slow turn on a rotating spit. Once it’s ordered, the charred, crimson meat is sliced straight off and onto a warm tortilla bed, paired with slices of pineapple, salsa, and other traditional accoutrements.

Flickr/T.Tseng

Duck carnitas tacos

Cosme

Address and Info

Gramercy

Cosme is not your average taqueria, and its $89 duck carnitas certainly aren’t your average tacos. But they’re worth the special occasion splurge -- or anytime someone else is paying. Acclaimed chef Enrique Olvera and chef de cuisine Daniela Soto-Innes take nearly four days to prepare their birds for the shareable dish. At points it's cooked in evaporated and condensed milks as well as Mexican coke. The result is flavorful, tender meat covered with crisp, browned skin, served as a whole hunk. Guests shred the block themselves, then place the slivers of fowl into warm house-made tortillas, DIY-style.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Al pastor tacos

EmpellĂłn Al Pastor

Address and Info

East Village

The specialty at Alex Stupak’s East Village taqueria is -- you guessed it -- al pastor. Thin strips of marinated pork shoulder pivot around a rotisserie like tourists on a subway pole. That crisp yet tender meat gets sliced off and placed on a house-made tortilla with slivers of pineapple, before getting topped with red and green salsa, cilantro, and onion. To wash it down, there’s a broad list of beers and agave-based beverages including excellent micheladas and margaritas.

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Carne enchilada tacos

La Morada

Address and Info

Bronx

La Morada isn’t known for tacos; people trek to the Oaxacan restaurant in Mott Haven mainly for its rich and complex moles and other regional specialties. But the tacos deserve higher praise, mainly because of how beautifully simple they are in comparison to everything else on the menu. Two soft corn tortillas get stacked with options like chicken, skirt steak, carnitas, al pastor, chorizo, and bistec asado. The move is to go with the spicy pork, which is juicy and bursting with chile. Don’t forget to layer on a generous serving of the smoky, spicy, house-made chipotle sauce.

Campechanos tacos

Tacos El Broncos

Address and Info

Sunset Park

This Sunset Park restaurant (and two corresponding food trucks) has developed a highly dedicated group of fanatics -- mainly for its tripe (which can often times feel like chewing through leather, but here it’s nearly as soft as Cool Whip). But the tacos shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, it’s hard to choose from the different varieties: The al pastor is sweet and tart; the chorizo is spicy with just the right amount of grease; the cabeza (veal head) is smooth and more flavorful than most other meats. Best of all, you don’t have to choose. The campechanos tacos combine multiple meats in one tortilla, doled out according to the chef’s whim.

Courtesy of Tacombi

Seared fish tikin XIC tacos

Tacombi Bleecker Street

Address and Info

West Village

The latest iteration of this four location mini-chain, Tacombi Bleecker Street draws its inspiration from the Gulf of Mexico. Chef Jason DeBriere (previously of Peels) crafts Yucatán specialties like panucho with lechón, essentially a puffed tortilla filled with beans and suckling pig. He also makes some serious fish tacos. The Seared Fish Tikin XIC is a necessary pick here. Briny fish (not your average Mahi Mahi) is marinated in traditional recado rojo, a flowery, peppery paste of spices common in the Yucatán. It’s wrapped in a corn tortilla and served sans salsa (which it doesn’t need, anyway).

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Al pastor tacos

Taco Mix

Address and Info

East Harlem

The beauty of the enormous al pastor spit at Taco Mix -- an East Harlem taqueria with a big window open to the street -- tends to halt passersby in their paths. After you order, watch the taquero shave off the charred stack of marinated pork into a warm tortilla. Marinated in 10 different spices and roasted slowly on the spit, the al pastor tacos here are some of the city’s most flavorful and traditional.

Camaron tacos

Tortilleria Nixtamal

Address and Info

Corona

Some of the city’s most popular Mexican restaurants source their masa (the nixtamalized dough that’s used to make tortillas) from this Queens factory. It was the first tortilleria in the city to use fresh kernels in the masa-making process, but you can bypass the middleman with a visit to its brightly colored onsite cafe. Here, freshly made dough is pressed into faultless tortillas, topped with all manner of traditional fillings. For the camaron, sautéed shrimp is topped with a refreshing mix of mango and cilantro and is served with chipotle mayo salsa. It’s smoky, spicy, and fresh, and sure to temporarily transport you to a seaside getaway -- until you walk back outside and hit the concrete.

Salvation Taco

Roasted cauliflower tacos

Salvation Taco

Address and Info

Murray Hill

When April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman opened their offbeat taqueria inside the Pod Hotel, they recruited Mexican-born Roberto Santibanez (Fonda) to consult. Still, what you’ll find here is anything but traditional. Tacos are filled with eclectic ingredients like tamarind-glazed pork shank and Indonesian beef. But it’s not just about the meat -- the roasted cauliflower tacos are some of the best veg-friendly tacos in the city. The cauliflower is cooked until tender and golden brown and set above a three-bite tortilla, garnished with a curry crema and farro piccolo. It’s a reasonable cause to celebrate #MeatlessMonday.

Suadero tacos

Taqueria Izucar

Address and Info

Bushwick

Technically, suadero is a cut from the drop loin of a cow, a flap of striated muscle that runs close to the navel, similar to brisket. Butcher jargon aside, all you need to know is that it’s the must-order at this small Bushwick taqueria. The meat is extremely tender (with just the right amount of fat) and arrives inside a tiny, warm corn tortilla. You’ll need to order multiple to feel full, but at just $1.50 per taco, it’s hardly an issue.

Caviar

Baja fish tacos

Playa Betty’s

Address and Info

Upper West Side

Next time your Angeleno friend complains about NYC’s fish taco scene, shut him up with a visit to this place. Tom Wilson and Eugene Ashe, formerly of Mas (farmhouse) opened this Cali-Mex specialty shop with the goal of recreating the taco shacks found along the PCH. It appears that, aside from the view, they have succeeded. Their baja fish taco rivals those found in Malibu, with tempura-battered Mahi Mahi cradled in a soft corn tortilla with cabbage and avocado slaw, pico de gallo, and cotija cheese.