With such a traditional foundation, a seasoned chef can tweak, modernize, and interpret Mexican food without losing what it means to be Mexican food. That’s why we rounded up seven face-stuffingly progressive Mexican dishes from cantinas across NYC. And because you’ll need a beverage, we got Tequila Herradura to hook us up with seven cocktails, each paired to its own dish by Thrillist’s bartender in residence Nick Bennett.
Enchiladas de Conejo Black Ant NYC Forget everything you thought when you read “enchilada” up there. This dish is made with braised rabbit, chilacayote ragout, adobo, escabeche and añejo cheese.
What You’re Drinking: Petróleo Reposado, lime juice, salt, pepper, Maggi sauce, Worcestershire sauce, serrano chile With intense flavors like braised rabbit and acidic escabeche, you’ll need the heavy, rich, savory notes in the Petróleo.
Agave-Glazed Spare Ribs Mission Cantina These ribs take a sweet agave glaze and throw in hibiscus vinegar, watermelon, and fennel, giving you a super weird (but freakin’ delightful) fusion experience.
What You’re Drinking: Reposado Ramirez Reposado, Damiana liqueur, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, ginger, dill, orange Other than the fact that the Ramirez will cleanse your palate after the ribs’ eclectic flavor explosion, the ginger and watermelon join forces to create a flavor pairing made in heaven.
Crab Tostadas El Vez NYC The normal decadence of a tostada is taken to new heights with fresh jumbo lump at the helm. Round it out with lime, jalapeño and avocado crema, and you’ve got yourself something seriously tasty.
What You’re Drinking: Margarita Reposado, Cointreau, agave nectar, fresh lime juice An obviously delicious pairing: lime and jalapeño. A not-so-obviously delicious pairing: the richness of the crab and avocado alongside the dryness of the margarita.
Pumpkin Seed Empipianadas Hecho en Dumbo These pumpkin seed delights hit your tastebuds hard with intriguing fall flavors like squash blossom, zucchini, sweet onion, and grilled corn, and they top it off with queso fresco and chiles poblanos.
What You’re Drinking: Paloma Reposado, lime juice, grapefruit soda, salt The assertive grapefruitiness will go quite well with the substantial fall flavors that kick this Mexican classic to a new level.
Pato al Mole Negro Oaxaqueño La Palapa Duck’s getting an insane Mexican vibe. These folks are taking grilled duck breast and covering it with a 26-ingredient mole, red tomato rice, and swiss chard.
What You’re Drinking: Herradura Seleccion Seprema Neat Herradura Seleccion Suprema, straight up When you order duck, you want it to be the dominant flavor. This exquisite, vanilla tequila will let the dish itself shine through, while giving you something substantial to sip on.
Brussels Sprouts Tacos Empellon Taqueria Anyone can throw chicken in a taco. This resto fills it with Brussels sprouts, malted hummus, and hazelnut.
What You’re Drinking: Herradura Luxe Herradura Silver, agave nectar, water, lime, lemon This bright drink will go well with this lighter taco. But more interestingly, you’ll get some bitter oils from the lemon/lime that will set the Brussels sprouts off quite nicely.
Tostada de Salmón Horchata New York This is your basic salmon dish -- if your basic salmon dish came mezcal-cured with pickled onion and everything cream cheese. So, maybe it’s not your basic salmon dish at all.
What You’re Drinking: Añejo Old Fashioned Añejo, orange, sugar, Angostura bitters, brandied cherries This rich, oaky libation will pick up the smoky salmon’s Mezcal flavors quite well. And with a dish like this, you’ll want that smokiness front and center.