Only a few decades ago, it was hard to find many options for Mexican restaurants in New York City. However, around 10 years ago, a number of new restaurants and street carts began firing up their tortilla-warming griddles for the first time. Why? There’s no consensus, but it’s not a coincidence that Mexicans have been the largest demographic to immigrate to NYC in the last 10 years.
Now, you can feast on everything from Michelin-starred fare to flavor-popping street food. Here are our picks for the best Mexican restaurants in New York City.
Mariscos El Submarino
If you wake up with a craving for shrimp, particularly the Mexican-accented kind, then point yourself to Mariscos El Submarino, a no-frills Mexican spot in Jackson Heights, Queens. Here you can get a palate-kicking bowl of shrimp-laced aguachile negro, a plate of avocado-topped shrimp ceviche, shrimp piled onto a tostada, or shrimp in a coctel. You can even get a shrimp-topped burger. And it’s all excellent.
Located in Gowanus, the once-desolate, now-hip Brooklyn neighborhood, Claro is a Michelin-starred south-of-the-border restaurant that delights on every level. The largely Oaxacan menu is prix fixe at dinner: for $72, diners get four courses (add $54 to get mezcal pairings). If you’re not up for a multi-course, fixed-price affair, plant yourself at the bar for the à la carte bar menu.
Superstar Mexican chef (of highly lauded Mexico City restaurant Pujol) Enrique Olvera wears the chef’s hat at this Flatiron eatery. The dishes at Cosme are creative yet fun and, of course, delicious. The duck carnitas is the standout menu item that first-timers should gravitate toward, but the mole with sweet potato and the kimchi-spiked Swiss chard are also excellent.
Pair Cosme’s duck carnitas with a mezcal cocktail for a match made in Mexican food heaven. Photo credit: T.Tseng
The more laid-back restaurant from Cosme chef Enrique Olvera, Atla is not like its elevated sibling eatery. This NoHo restaurant stands on its own, serving up an all-day menu of excellent Mexican fare, including black-sesame-laced eggplant tacos, excellent beef birria, and the gringa version of the al pastor taco (which isn’t seen much outside of the Mexico City restaurant El Fogoncito where it was first created).
Los Tacos No. 1
Take our word for it – Los Tacos No. 1 really lives up to its name. Located inside the Chelsea Market, you can easily find this counter-service taqueria by the perpetual line that snakes away from the register. Don’t be afraid to join the queue; you’ll be rewarded with some of the best tacos in New York City. That taco is the adobada, another name for the al pastor taco that is cooked on a trombo (or upright spit) and shaved off into a waiting tortilla. There are also locations near Times Square, in Tribeca, NoHo, and Grand Central.
Don’t let the line at Los Tacos No. 1 deter you – the food is worth the wait! Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim
After opening in 2018, this Greenpoint, Brooklyn spot quickly earned a Michelin star and shot to fame as one of the top Mexican restaurants in NYC. The long bar, high ceilings, and giant skylight at Oxomoco make for a fine venue in which to enjoy the wood-fired fare from chef Justin Bazdarich. The lamb barbacoa tacos are standouts. So is the generously portioned grilled chicken.
Located in the Bronx – the most underrated borough for great Mexican fare – La Morada is an excellent Oaxacan eatery, serving up classics and staples from the delicious southern Mexican region. In addition to being one of the best Mexican restaurants in New York City, they have also championed social causes helping undocumented workers.
Opened in 2012, Casa Enrique was the first Mexican restaurant in New York to earn a Michelin star. And it still retains it. Located in Long Island City, Enrique has a loyal local following thanks to great service and dishes like the mole de piaxla, a chicken dish from Puebla that is complex and rich. The deceptively simple fish tacos are also excellent here.
Chef Alex Stupak was the pastry chef at wd-50, the city’s only restaurant serving molecular cuisine. He left the eatery to open up Empellón, a West Village restaurant that serves up surprisingly straight-forward Mexican fare. High quality ingredients, masterful execution, and a dash of creativity make this one of the can’t-miss Mexican restaurants in New York City.
Salt-of-the-earth Taqueria Ramirez has been among the best Mexican restaurants in NYC since opening in 2021 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Competition can be fierce for one of the 16 bar stools. Once planted at the bar at this CDMX-inspired spot, though, commence your taco feast, choosing between al pastor, tripa, suadero, or other fillings to be stuffed into a homemade grilled corn tortilla.
This food truck, parked nightly at Roosevelt Avenue and 78th Street in Jackson Heights, single-handedly shifted the Mexican food scene in the city and helped kick off the craze for birria tacos in New York and the rest of the country. Yes, it’s that good. The birria in question at Birria-Landia is a slow-cooked Tijuana-style adobo-laced beef folded into a tortilla and accompanied by a rich consommé for either dipping or sipping between bites.
David Farley is a West Village-based food and travel writer whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC, and Food & Wine, among other publications. He’s the author of three books, including “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town,” which was made into a documentary by the National Geographic Channel. You can find Farley’s online homes here and here.