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Does New York mexican food really suck?

  • h

OK chowhounds, here's your challenge.

Our friends all warned us before we moved from Ft. Worth that the Mexican food in NYC stinks. No, to be more precise, I should say that we were warned that what passes for Mexican food up here would be worse than week-old leftovers from Taco Cabana. That what New Yorkers called "Mexican" was in fact overpriced, high-falutin' Southwestern garbage of the Coyote Cafe/Mark Miller variety that even a Californian-turned-Austinite would recognize as a crime against nature. Or worse yet, that "Mexican" up here meant a limp California perversion consisting of humongous, tasteless burrito "wraps"--I shudder even to mention that word!

Before we threw in the towel, though, we thought we'd give it a try. Zagat's and Sidewalk have been useless, written by New Yorkers for New Yorkers. What we're looking for is the stuff that every Texan will recognize instantly as a piece of home. For some, this means Tex-Mex like Joe T's or La Familia in Ft. Worth, or Guero's or Las Manitas in Austin. It means incredible mole sauce; pecan pralines in Saran wrap by the register; piping hot tortillas made like they do at Ninfa's; Lone Star or Shiner on tap, and of course, iced and salted margaritas on demand; $7 combo plates so big that you're set for lunch the next day; salsa made fresh every day, sometimes twice a day, served with greasy chips so thick and crunchy that you're likely to sever an artery if you bite one wrong; maybe even off-the-menu items like roast cabrito tacos; greasy migas with chorizo for Sunday breakfasts; and finally, food that's not-too greasy going down, but is sure to give you a lard-induced food coma.

So what do you say, chowhounds, does it exist up here? Help us Obi-Wan, you're our only hope!

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  1. o

    If you do a little search (see the home page), you will find a thread titled "Does Authentic Mexican Exit in Manhattan?" There are several places mentioned in this thread.

    I just add one place to those that are mentioned: Taqueria Y Fonda, which is on Amsterdam bet 106 and 107. The place is a tiny hole in the wall, and when it first opened, most of the clientele were Mexican. Now there are nights when the majority of diners are non-Mexican, but I think the food is still just as good.

    There are other Mexican restaurants on this stretch of Amsterdam Ave, a reflection of growing Mexican population in the area.

    You'd also want to investigate East Harlem, along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, where there are many, many Mexican restaurants.

    1 Reply
    1. re: oysterpancake

      i second tacqueria y la fonda. fantastic thick chips (served with two different salsas) and horchata, and very tasty tacos with more authentic-seeming filling choices.

    2. The answer is "NO!!" Having lived and traveled extensively in Mexico I have eaten my way through lots of "real" Mexican food from various regions of the country. I, too, was disappointed after returning to see the poor pickings here in NYC. Obviously you can forget Zagats and most of those magazine articles on the subject. Your only hope is to get your self to an area such as Roosevelt Avenue in Elmhurst where there are a batch of Mexican places that cater mostly to lower-income Mexican workers. These places are usually run by Pueblans and that is the type of food you will find...various tacos, tortas, basic hot dishes like enchiladas verdes y rojas, etc..but not good mole, unfortunately...too complex for these sort of places. This is, of course, not the same as the stuff you probably eat in Texas but it is not bad..just don't get your hopes up too high. If you can't make it out to Queens, there are a few places on 116th Street in East Harlem and another on 9th Avenue called Dos Rancheros Mexicanos or something close. That is the state of "real" Mexican food in the city as I know it.....

      1 Reply
      1. re: erica

        That level of assertiveness is just very unwise. For example, if you have the Lamb Shank Mixiote at Rosa Mexicano paired with a glass of Monte Xanic Cab... that is truly authentic Mexican cuisine that is rarely found in the U.S.... extremely rare even in L.A. or Texas. They had other well executed dishes from deep Mexico.

        The stuff in Texas is overwhelming Northern Mexican cuisine which is the least developed region of the country. Its good & very tasty... but the cuisine that is most identifiably Mexican is that which has a deep history in Mesoamerican tradition.

        Manhattan is one of the few places in the U.S. where you find such food... Chicago is another (thanks to Bayless & his ex-staff).

        At the same time, the bulk of what is sold in Manhattan is unfavorably distorted. But to say its not possible to find Authentic Mexican cuisine in Manhattan is a flat out lie.

      2. having grown up in Ft. Worth, you will be hard-pressed to find any Mexican restaurant ANYWHERE that matches Joe T. Garcia's.

        the closest i ever found is the now-gone La Lupe, lost because new yorkers seems to prefer gringo to authentic.

        lots of great places to TRY though, of hispanic ilk. personally, i'm partial to the ceviche at Braulio Y Familia in Woodside, Queens.


        1. ha ha ha ugh. why does this post repeat itself endlessly? what will follow next? why can't i get a decent philly cheesesteak in new york? how's about my thing too (being a former clevelander)--why can't i get pierogies in every pub in town and some perch & walleye? well the answer is everyplace you go has it's own specialties. so be it.

          boy i dream about bbq, GUERO'S and migas con hongos at LAS MANITAS. hell, i even dream about putting stuff on my TACO CABANA tacos too. it's just not what this town is all about. the street pronounced how-ston should have been another clue.

          the best i can suggest is that you take a stroll down roosevelt in queens as suggested above. also, give the korean bbq a go, no it's not texas at all but it's good. good luck on your quest and please do report back your findings. shucks, now you all went and got me thinkin about texas again.

          1. the answer: an absolute YES. and in my honest opinion, just don't even bother searching if you are looking for anything that passes as authentic mexican (although tex mex is slightly easier to find than real mex). I've been to the places in queens, I've been to the uws for the places near broadway and amsterdam, i've scouted out the tamale vendors in various manhattan and borough locations and you simply won't find it. period.

            some places will have the facade of a great discovery, but only to realize that the "mexican" food is unfortunately influenced by some other spanish speaking country. As if the language alone qualified a place as authentic.

            I finally got over the perplexing nature of the poor state of mexican food in nyc and have resigned myself to cooking it myself when I have a craving (often, at that). At any rate, it makes me anticipate my travels out west that much more.

            Sorry to break it to you, but someone has to do it... :)

            the good news is, outside of mexican, nyc is about the best place on earth for most other cuisines. happy searching.

            16 Replies
            1. re: adamclyde

              First, strong disagreement on Tex-Mex. I don't know a single decent place for it for miles and miles from NYC.

              Re: Mex-Mex, you've checked the obvious places. Those are no more than starting points. Before giving up (and certainly before urging others to), you owe it to yourself to scout on your own. Chowhounding is about widening your vistas by intrepidly scoping places, not by walking in the tracks of others.

              It's especially essential with Mexican food, because there's a weird effect around here. Places open, are great for a while, then dive in quality. I've seen it happen again and again. I've had dozens of meals as good as in Mexico City at places that a few months later turned utterly useless. So you need to eat ahead of the curve, not behind it.

              Here are suggstions: start on 116 and 2nd Ave (yes, there's lots of Puerto Rican and Dominican stuff thereabouts, but those places are in decline, the nabe's turning Mexican). Then eat around Sunset Park, a huge Mexican Neighborhood. Don't miss La Espiga in Elmhurst, which is a rare Mexican that's kept its quality high...but try them several times because they blow hot and cold. Another place that's apparently stayed good is Castro's Coffee Shop (511 Myrtle Avenue (between Grand and Ryerson), Brooklyn
              (718) 398-1459). I haven't been there lately, and reports trailed off a few months ago. But it's a lead. But...again, screw the leads. Go try places, little anonymous places. Be methodical, get a quick huarache in a different place every day. Some will suck, some will blow your mind. Just go be intrepid and inquisitive.

              There is a lot of great Mexican food in NYC at any given point. But it's extremely fluid, so you need to move quickly, and go scout stuff for yourself off the well-worn path. Be a chowhound!

              And, of course, please report back the hits and misses.


              1. re: Jim Leff

                I would add the Bronx to the list of neighborhoods to scour for good Mexican food. I've seen good and bad taquerias sprout up in Mott Haven, Hunts Point, Longwood, Melrose, and the Hub. The Mexican population there is growing, and they really don't expect to see gringos around.

                1. re: JackS

                  Absolutely right. This place, for instance, was mentioned on the boards a while ago, and was killer, at least six months ago when I last visited (per my previous posting, it might well be awful now):

                  Real Azteca 1013 E163 St 860-1566 (take #6 train to 163rd St./Hunts Point Ave)

                  .and there are lots more. As with any other sort of food, you've got to go thru bad ones to get to good ones, and sadly few people are out there doing the chowconnaissance work (so the conventional wisdom is fatally inbred).


                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    i work on 163rd and i can vouch for REAL AZTECA, but like many new york mexican places its not real reliable like some places out west seem to be.

                    for example, there is a large bodega in the hub area on 149th & brook ave. that has an attached kitchen area which opens and closes down with lightening regularity. several incarnations have been outstanding, others terrible. the mexican folks running it (renting it out?) come and go very quickly.

                    however, with more and more people from mexico moving into new york, the situation is bound to improve soon. the south bronx is up and coming for more consistant mexican chow.

                    1. re: mrnyc

                      Not to belabor my point, but Real Azteca was consistently slamming once. You and I are late to that party, because we were following up on the work and reports of others.

                      There are others cooking great right NOW (and which will be inconsistent 6 months from now and terrible in a year). Lots of 'em. NYC abounds with great Mexican food at any given time, but it's a brass ring that can only be grabbed by the most energetic and intrepid chowhounds.

                      Not to moan and groan (nor is this at ALL directed at you, MrNYC!), but sometimes I feel like the majority of users here wait for others to find deliciousness so they can follow their tracks. Which is contrary to the whole point!

                      There are many thousands of us, counting the silent lurkers. Let's each one of us go eat a quick research gordita or chalupa somewhere new tomorrow (walk a block or two out of your way!) and report back if we find something good. Shoot, we can cover the entire city in a couple of weeks! We have the manpower, we have the know-how!!


                2. re: Jim Leff

                  thanks jim. while I certainly don't intend to discourage anyone from searching, I do see the prospects of good mex in nyc dim. as for my own searching, i've even gone as far as cross referencing nyc city planning records with census records to locate new neighborhoods with growing mexican populations to find potential treasures (a process I'm still undergoing, by the way). to date, it is still lacking. I'll continue to report on what I find. as for now, the verdict is, unfortunately, still poor.

                  1. re: adamclyde

                    "i've even gone as far as cross referencing nyc city planning records with census records to locate new neighborhoods with growing mexican populations to find potential treasures"

                    Really? Kewl! Where do you find such records? I'm not sure that a lot of Mexican immigration is "on the books," but the tool intrigues me!

                    Sunset Park's ripe for picking. I'm about to do some major chowhounding in Sunset Park. Taqueria El Paisano was killer there for a while, but, like the rest of them, declined. There's great stuff now, and I'm gonna find it. Will report in Chow Alert.


                    Link: http://chowhound.safeshopper.com/25/c...

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      Jim -

                      OK, here it is - for an easy map of NYC's mexican population:

                      If anyone is interested in other populations and where they are distributed in NYC, go here:
                      (in case you ever wanted to know where the largest filipino or bangledeshi populations are
                      [You can find much more detailed information (down to the city block) on both the US Census records (www.census.gov) and the NYC's city planning pages (www.nyc.gov/html/dcp).
                      The mexican records don't reflect too much more than what we already know. However, who knew there were decent mexican populations in Staten Island???

                      Bringing this all back to food - hopefully this will be a resource to those wanted to search out food from specific ethnic groups.

                      And, finally, back to the original mexican food discussion - I'll be continuing to search these neighborhoods and hope that I will be pleasantly surprised to find a few that pass the test. I'll pass on what I find.

                      1. re: adamclyde

                        That's wicked great info, Adam. Much obliged. We'll certainly include all that in this week's issue of ChowNews.


                        Link: http://chowhound.safeshopper.com/23/c...

                        1. re: adamclyde
                          babar ganesh

                          ok, now i know where to look for the best multiracial nonhispanic chow in nyc...

                          1. re: adamclyde

                            Besides the census tract information available through nyc.gov's site, I look at this report from the census bureau for information on various geographies for cities, counties, metropolitan areas and so on. For example, I just figured out that Orange County, CA has the largest concentration of Vietnamese in the US (or at least it seems to from a cursory look) with 135,548, when I always thought that was Santa Clara County (i.e., around San Jose), which has nearly 56,000. In case you're curious, the Vietnamese populations of New York, Boston and Philadelphia are roughly the same, hovering around 11,000 in each city. This is just one example of the info I pick up by going through this report. Anyhow, if you're a numbers geek like me, you'll appreciate it.

                            Link: http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2000/dp...

                            1. re: Eric Eto

                              Particularly for those connecting to the internet via modem, note that the link eric points to is a 8.5 megabyte file, a few seconds download time by broadband. 10 minutes to half hour by modem.

                              http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2000/ brings you to the menu that eric used to select that file.

                              Link: http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2000/

                              1. re: wrayb

                                Oops. Thanks Wray for bringing up the size of the acrobat file. Another suggestion is to download the file (for PC users) by right-clicking on the link and selecting "save link as..." and open it up on a local drive.

                      2. re: Jim Leff

                        The garment center is now populated with a bunch of mexican restaurants, owned, run and patronized by actual mexicans who work in the area doing piece goods sewing.

                        Dos Rancheros Mexicanos on 38th and 9th is one, and there are a couple on 38th between 8th and 9th.

                        You may try these for authenticity. I don't think they'll answer your tex-mex desires.

                        1. re: Randi

                          Dos Rancheros is a great example of the fast burn-out syndrome. They were great for a few months, and have been running on fumes ever since.

                          I forgot in previous postings to mention Portchester. Superb Mexican up there. Its heavy on the low branches. There's a tortilleria I reported on in my Chow Alert newsletter that's particularly great (haven't been there in four months or so, so IT may have dived, too). Here's what I wrote:

                          INCREDIBLE TACOS (AND HORCHATA)

                          I first spotted Tortilleria El Paisano (167 Westchester Ave, Port Chester, NY; 914-934-0372) driving 40 m.p.h. past the front door. I instantly fell in love and promised speedy return. It's a high-ceilinged tortilla factory that also serves food, and if there's a more sure-fire scenario for deliciousness, I don't know it. The tortillas travel around the inside of the building on an amazing ancient clattering conveyer belt; I couldn't figure out exactly where they were coming from or going to (and the machine oil smell was slightly jarring in a food service venue), but once you're inside for a few seconds, you realize you've gone far, far away from Westchester county.

                          Tortilleria El Paisano is a portal; just browsing the menu (on a big board in back of the makeshift counter) made me feel as if I'd been beamed to Mexico. It's a tremendously transportive experience. And the chow's superb.

                          Their tacos are the best I've found in the Tristate area. I don't need to mention that tortillas were impeccably fresh and delicious, so let's cut to the fillings. We had buche (tripe), egg-and-chorizo, lengua, cabeza, and a sope (tostada-like) with al pastor. First off, a warning: tripe is often translated as "tripa" (as on the menu here), but it's wrong; a false linguistical friend. What we call tripe is "buche"; "tripa" usually means intestine. So unless you want chittlin' tacos, stick with buche. We did and were amply rewarded. The buches were grilled very crisp and were so rich and luxurious and crunchy that each consecutive fress team member to try them was instantly moved to rapture, as if some viral delirium had spread over our table.

                          Cabeza was just as good, almost too delicious to bear. As for the egg-and-chorizo, the chorizo they use is the cheap stuff squeezed out of a packet, but great things are done with such chorizo all over Mexico, and likewise here. The result was a masterwork of cumin, hearty grill flavor, and eggy tenderness (a subtlety which would not have survived wrapping in less fresh/delicate tortillas). Lengua was fine, but tamals were not good at all (though, even so, respectable: they're a terrible sort of tamal made according to an awful recipe, but are nonetheless surprisingly edible - a testament to the kitchen's prowress). The sope was sloppy and satisfying, though the meat wasn't true al pastor. Horchata (in a huge glass jar from which customers self serve with a giant ladle) was the best I'd ever had, including in Mexico. It was thinner than usual, less chalky/thick/sweet/sticky, yet still undilutedly ricey. It was quenching; truly a licuado.

                          We declined to squeeze a bit of lime on the tacos. We drizzled nary a drop of (low-profile, high-pepper) salsa. We just gloried in fresh tortillas and great fillings; any modification would have been defilement.

                          Link: http://chowhound.safeshopper.com/25/c...

                        2. re: Jim Leff
                          Blood In Blood Out

                          Los Amigos in Astoria. 31st Street and 23rd Ave, under the bridge. Good salsa and guacamole. Authentic style. Mana in the jukebox. And they're open untill 2:00.

                          I like some Tex-Mex places too but they never roll the burritos right.

                      3. You may wish to check out 10th Avenue in the upper 40s. There are a couple of places there with Aztec names that might have a few acceptable items. (Mex-Mex)

                        1. Yeah, it sucks. I'm from Colorado and have spent 3 years trying to find something that sooths my craving. There is nothing that comes close to the kind of Southwestern USA Mexican food I'm used to. Don't get me wrong, I've come across some tasty grub along the way, but none of it was what I was looking for. I've resorted to recreating things at home.

                          The thing I miss most is green chili - which when you ask for it here people hand you a bell pepper. I was in Colorado last week and brought back a vat of green chili and some homemade flour tortillas in my carry-on.

                          I know others say that we shouldn't expect to find good Mexican in NYC just like we shouldn't expect to find a good pastrami in Ft. Worth. Well, if you can get everything else here, why not great Mexican food? Of all the various kinds of food New Yorkers are into, I don't understand how they aren't into some fab Mexican/Southwestern.

                          Here's a couple places that will do in a pinch:
                          137th & B'way

                          La Ceiba
                          Ave A around 8th St

                          1. j
                            Judith Hurley

                            I grew up in New York, made my way to California about 25 years ago, and get back to the east coast two or three times a year. In between, I live with cravings for real rye bread, Greek coffee shop corn muffins, crowds of pedestrians and cheap underwear. Nobody does those things like New York.

                            But when it comes to taquerias where the owner brings you fresh made hot tortillas as you eat, and someone is chopping up a bucket of fresh pico de gallo behind the counter, or a greasy spoon with green chili omelets and machaca, not to mention a white table cloth restaurant with tacos de atun made with fabulous ahi, or exquisite red and green moles, this is not New York.

                            When you get in a room of ex New Yorkers on the west coast they actually stop talking about real estate at a certain point and enter a group reverie about pastrami sandwiches. The SF Bay Area Chowhound board is occasionally host to one of these bouts of nostalgia. A friend of mine once had an entire deli lunch fed-exed out here.

                            Everything in its place and time. But not Mexican in New York.

                            1. Okay, I've never been to Texas or Mexico, but Mexican AND Tex-Mex are two of my very favorite cuisines. I make my own tortillas at home, when I've got time, or I use the blue corn tortillas I buy at the tiny Mexican market on Avenue A just north of 13th Street, which also carries various Mexican products (chiles, Mexican frijoles, quesa fresca). Kitchen Market on Eighth Avenue between 21st and 22nd has most other Mexican ingredients (212/243-4433), and some of their take-out is quite good.

                              As for restaurants, I think the Mexican cuisine picture is slowly but very surely changing--primarily due to the fact others have mentioned here that Mexicans are moving into New York City in droves.

                              Rosa Mexicana has slid slightly since the near-demise of Josefina Howard (a bad stroke), Zarela has Ms. Martinez's own special flair, Maya was great last time I went there (2 years ago), and La Cieba (173 Avenue A at 11th St., 212/677-0443) is my favorite new inexpensive Mexican arrival. But Jim's right: These places are all great when the start out, then the downward spiral begins. I don't understand why this should happen to Mexican restaurants and not to many others. Yes, the cooking can be very labor intensive, but it's the same with French and Chinese.

                              I'm just very, very hopeful that the influx of Mexicans among us will lead to a glut of great Mexican food. I'd say it's inevitable.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Tom Steele

                                Rosa Mexicana??????
                                Zarela???? Has Ms. Martinez' own special flair????What is that? Incompetence throughout the kitchen??
                                These two places especially are absolutely horrible, while you were at it why didn't we add Mesa Grill to the list. Come on this is Chowhound (not DigitalCity on AOL) let's have some credibility! We don't need more lists of places that opened up under some hype and and yes as was mentioned have continued the downward spiral. We need the info on where to go, not where not to.

                                1. re: godhelpus

                                  C'mon, let us know how you really feel about this issue.

                                  1. re: godhelpus

                                    I am in complete agreement.....pathetic..each and all of them!!!

                                2. c
                                  Canchito (J. DiStefano)

                                  I went to this spot on Sunday and had one of the Oaxacan dishes...it was pretty good..

                                  Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                  1. Try going up to 116th St and 3rd Avenue- the NW corner. There is a great stand/table there in the evenings run by 3 Mexican women. They make taquitos, gorditas, quesadillas.... They told me that they are there 6-11pm everyday besides Sunday (or Monday).

                                    1. I hear you! I'm from California and travelled all over the southwest and Mexico...but I found a nice little place in Nolita. It's on Elizabeth between Spring and Kenmare...east side of the street. Real sweet folks and great, authentic dishes. It's more central Mexican. Sorry...can't remember the name.


                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: cinth1

                                        that's cafe el portal. quesadillas with corn fungus is on the menu.

                                        1. re: epicure-us

                                          and the best fish tacos i have found in the whole city so far!

                                          CAFE EL PORTAL is a cool laid back little place with a nice cali-style-friendly mexican menu.

                                          1. re: mrnyc

                                            Cafe el porto is fine, but again, keep in mind that it is decidedly american mexican. that may not be a bad thing, depending on what you are looking for, but if you are trying to find something akin to what you'd find in mexico or at the truly authentic places out west or in the southwest, this isn't the place.

                                            1. re: mrnyc

                                              I thought it a nice alternative to what Mexican food that's available in NYC, most of which is terrible The owners are from central Mexico so it's not exactly Taco Bell.

                                        2. As a Texan, I agree that most NY Mexican sucks, but I do secretly love Mary Ann's for the margaritas and the atmosphere. My favorite place for Mexican is Elora's in Brooklyn's Windsor Terrace -- take the F train to the Prospect Park stop. They have kick ass mole, and you must try the shrimp quesadillas.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Rebecca

                                            whoops. I apologize.
                                            I don't know what I was thinking. I don't think Elora's even *has* mole - as more thinking posters pointed out, Elora's is not so Mexican. Nonetheless, I defend their seafood dishes.
                                            I had confused a memory of Eloa's with a memory of a a truly authentic restaraunt in Minneapolis that had mole. Now if you displaced Texans go to Minneapolis you will find that they do have very authentic and cheap TX/mexican food - but it's a long trip from NY.

                                          2. We need to lobby the boys in the Spoetzl brewery to start gettin their product to our local taps (it's as far north as Aberdeen MD currently). Shiner'd kick this town to hell - it'd fly quicker than what's at the Stella factories we constantly churn out nowadays (which might be a bad thing, actually)...

                                            Rodeo Bar and Grill used to have Lone Star on tap. Now I think it's just bottles. Also used to be you could catch Guy Forsythe there and the Gourds when they first played the Apple. Haven't been there in a while, but know enough to avoid the texmex and cue.

                                            Aching for the Airport Blvd Tamale House.


                                            1. el maguey, anyone? pretty yummy, imo.
                                              also, i've has some good stuff at downtown bakery.

                                              1. I like El Maguey - they are really hospitable as well. Maybe not exactly what I saw in Mexico, but they had a decent pozole - white corn variety? I've also had a decent enough experience as well at the taco trucks along Roosevelt in Queens, and at the counters in the back of the bodegas.

                                                True enough, NYC ain't no LA, or probably Texas, for that matter.

                                                1. This topic is probably worth a revisit. If there's good, authentic Mexican (but gawd, NOT Tex-Mex!), I'd love to hear about it for my next trip to Manhattan.

                                                  It's interesting to get Texans' POV on Mexican in NYC, since they gauge it by Tex-Mex (*shudder*). And by the way-- not all California Mexican food is like those horrible Mission-style burritos that are so inexplicably popular up in the Bay Area.

                                                  The good stuff in the southern half of the state will have you forgetting all about those Mission-style things or those deep-fried chimichanga atrocities on every menu in Texas....

                                                  Since we're discussing Manhattan Mexican-- can one get a good Oaxacan mole anywhere in town?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                    It's worth doing a search to find some good info on where the Mexican food is in NYC (not just Manhattan). There are several pockets of Mexican communities in NYC, and the largest one in Manhattan is in Spanish Harlem around 116th St. Mexicans have been immigrating to NYC by the tens of thousands each year and you can really see their footprints all over the city now. Because they are the newest immigrants, you're probably more likely to be in places where you HAVE to speak Spanish in order to communicate. More so than LA. And as it's been mentioned several dozen times on these boards, most of these Mexican immigrants are from Puebla. So you'll find mole poblano, cemitas, and barbacoa de chivo on the weekends in most places, but not Oaxacan mole.

                                                    I've been saying all along that I need to update this info, but here's a sampling of many places you'll find Mexican food along Roosevelt.

                                                  2. "And by the way-- not all California Mexican food is like those horrible Mission-style burritos that are so inexplicably popular up in the Bay Area. The good stuff in the southern half of the state will have you forgetting all about those deep-fried chimichanga atrocities...."

                                                    Huh? Since when are mission burritos "deep fried"?

                                                    Let me sum up the NYC Mexican situation succinctly. Recently, I ate rolled tacos with guacamole, rice, and refried beans at a late-night fast-food Mexican place in LA called Benito's Taco Shop. Only the very drunk or desperate eat there in LA, yet it was better than 90% of the "Mexican" food I've had in NYC.

                                                    1. That *was* confusing-- I edited it to make a bit more sense.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                        Ah, gotcha, that makes more sense. I still prefer mission burritos to "authentic" mexican food. Curiously, the "authentic" stuff is getting better in NYC even as most burritos remain inedible.

                                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                                          Until there's as large an influx of San Franciscans into NYC as there has been of Pueblans I wouldn't expect that situation to change.

                                                          This is one of those topics that seems to regularly go 'round and 'round and always end up in the same place.

                                                      2. there is a place in Queens call deli tulcingo on 103 street off Roosevelt is always crowded with mexican nationals .The food is delicios and autenthic

                                                        1. La Esquina/ The Corner on Lafayette and Kenmare is pretty good, but pricey.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: frogman12345

                                                            I don't know much about authentic Mexican food, but I didn't like the tacos La Esquina/The Corner all that much. They were OK, but if I'm going to cough up $3 for a little taco in that neighborhood, then the Calexico cart run by the Vendley Bros. at Wooster and Prince is a way better choice. Not amazing, but better. (But then, maybe I'm just not big on tacos in general.)


                                                            BTW, it's an quick ride out to Sunset Park on the D train from this neighborhood, although when I went out there to investigate a few months ago, I didn't taste anything amazing. I suspect some of the older posts are no longer entirely accurate. If I'd read THIS thread first, I would've seen Jim Leff's statement that a lot of these places go downhill after their first few months.

                                                          2. try noche mexicana on amsterdam (bet W102 and 103). check out the reviews on menupages.com. it's not perfect but it's more authentic than most, has large portions for little money without any fanfare. the hauraches are great as well as the nachos. i've been to mexico, texas, tulsa and san diego but still find this place to be more acceptable than most in nyc.

                                                            1. Imagine a New Yorker jetting to Los Angeles and eating in a few places in the downtown Chinatown, then writing a post named "Does Chinese food in Los Angeles really suck?" You'd have people on the left coast dying of laughter!

                                                              Try Tulcingo on 10th Ave http://www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0...

                                                              Or just about any place in Jackson Heights, especially Coatzingo. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/247808

                                                              1. I'm from LA, and I have to say that the closest I've come to alleviating my home sickness for LA tacos is Taqueria California on Broadway between 123rd street and Tiemann. It's a bit of a hole in the wall but tacos make up for the decor. La Bonita on Bedford in Williamsburg always satifies my cravings for the corn on the cob street-vendor style. And, when I'm craving pretty healthy fast-food American-Mexican, we stop by Baja Fresh in NJ on our way back from a shopping trip to Ikea.

                                                                1. There is no Oaxacan in NY...which is a real problem.

                                                                  This is, after all, a place where people think that "mole" just means mole Poblano.

                                                                  1. dude...mi cocina opened up in nyc months ago.

                                                                    1. El Toro Partido on 139th and Broadway. It's a hole in the wall, but SOOOOO good. I recommend the chicken pipian (pumpkin seed sauce), but pretty much everything there is good. And I don;t even like Mexican food that much! I live in brooklyn, and it's an hour each way on the train, but its worth it. PLUS-- on the uptown side of the 1 train, at the 137th street station there's a Mexican woman standing by the subway entrance selling fantastic tamales for $1 each!!! That makes the trip doubly worthwhile. mmmmm... gettting that craving again...

                                                                      1. After reading this, we went to Cafe El Portal, where thing looked promising but nothing seemed good enough. The sangria was watery, guacamole not seasoned enough, chips sort of prefabricated, shrimp tacos ok. Rice wasn't seasoned. We prefer Agave in the W. Village, which is southwestern but we like everything there much better than these other places.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: tsiblis

                                                                          you must have missed that the thread is five years old. an oldie, but goodie -- brought back from the ashes of chow history!

                                                                          i find AGAVE has great drinks, but the food is unmemorable.

                                                                          i have been slacking on the mex chow lately. however, i can report that in my nabe ROCKING HORSE has picked up its food game a bit, we've been going there lately. also, the takeout burritos at KITCHEN have slipped a bit. chili is still a winner tho.

                                                                        2. Don't understand the hate with Rosa Mexicana. I think the place is pretty good. Love the overpriced guacamole. I used to think nyc mexican food sucks then I went to mexico city. The food I got seemed kind of bland and the meats are really thin and dry just like what I get in nyc. The tour guide I spoke with said the locals liked the meat prepared that way. Maybe I just don't like authentic mexican food or maybe I'm not ordering the right dishes. Down in Mexico, I remember getting stuff like mole pablano and somedish that looked like grits and a bunch of grilled meats. The food was pretty bland. All my traveling companions agreed the food was pretty bad.

                                                                          I like tacos though. Tulcingo de valle and the grocery next to it makes some great tacos as does Great Burrito in chelsea. I like Burrito Box burritos too.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: randumbposter

                                                                            My post was deleted... but I had stated you didn't know what you were doing in Mexico City... I am going to take back my comment. You probably did get stuck in some tourist trap... but there could be legitimacy in your perception of blandness in Mexican Cuisine.

                                                                            In Mexico the food is a bit subtle compared to the versions north of the border. For example, in Mexico people tend often use whole spices in sauces & soups, place them in pouches so they can lend their essence and then removed.

                                                                            Manhattan restaurants tend to be very heavy on the seasonings, while Mexican cuisine depends on a more nuanced approach with the spotlight being on the flavor of chiles, a bit of piquant, and the contribution of herbs, tomatoes, tomatillos etc.,

                                                                            So if you are used to the typical Frank Costanza approach of cooking that you find in Manhattan... yeah Mexican cuisine would seem bland.

                                                                            One time out of convenience & curiosity, I dined at Ixta near the Flatiron District... and was nauseated by the amount of Ground Coriander in the Guacamole & the thick crust of Al Pastor spices on the Lamb Chops.

                                                                            I always have intestinal issues in Manhattan. A couple of times I am sure it was due to bacterial issues (Manhattan has serious sanitary issues compared to the rest of the country... that is why the restauranteurs oppose the public health grading system to the death). But usually... its the accumulation of spices & the excessive drinking... plus the usual travel dehydration.

                                                                          2. I'm curious to hear what people who know real mexican food think about Rocking Horse Cafe in Chelsea. We've now been a couple times & really enjoyed and going back this weekend (hopefully) with a native texan couple that hasnt been there before.

                                                                            i'm not going to pretend i know REAL mexican, so maybe you'll just laugh!

                                                                            1. I'm sort of surprised that with 75+ responses to this post, only a handful have bothered to mention anything approaching the fact that saying "Mexican" food is something close to saying "European food" in that you're talking about a huge area with an incredible variety of traditional cuisines. Check out any one of Diana Kennedy's cookbooks for verification on this point. So maybe a better question would be "are there any good Norteno Mexican restaurants in NY" (or Veracruzan, or Oaxacan, or Pueblan, etc.)

                                                                              There might not be any good Oaxacan restaurants in NYC as an earlier post claims, but there are a number of excellent and authentic Oaxacan places in New Brunswick, NJ -- search chowhound for "El Oaxaqueno" and there should be a few threads.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: tractorfeed

                                                                                To be fair.... Regional Mexican cuisine is barely starting to get really noticed in L.A; I think it will take another 20 or 30 years for "Mexican Restaurants" to get outnumbered by Regional & Specialized Mexican Restuarants in California let alone Manhattan.

                                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                  Re your post above, Eatnopal, you really should try Coatzingo when next you are in New York!!!


                                                                                  And thank you tractorfeed for the tip about New Brunswick. I've long searched for Oaxacan food in NYC; I'd heard that there was some in Poughkeepsie but didn't think of NJ. Sietsema reviewed the place you mention.

                                                                              2. this seems to be fairly low on anyone's radar, but one of the newest mexican nabes in Manhattan is actually lower wash heights where new places are sprouting like mushrooms after rain. there's at least one deli that sells taco and tortas from the back on bway around 163 (w side), a sitdown resto with a fairly lengthy menu and daily specials that bills itself as oaxacan on amsterdam between 157 and 158 (e side) and a florist (!) on the se corner of amsterdam and 162nd that also sells tortas, tacos and tamales, iirc. (warning: all addies might be off by a st or 2.) the area also has a couple of mexican groceries (one on broadway around 163, the other on 161 between amsterdam and st. nick) and at least one mexican music store. i don't speak spanish or eat out much, so i've barely scratched the surface (tho the specials and tacos at the oaxacan place are worth checking out-- the goat tacos were nice and goaty and i had some kind of long-stewed beefy thing that was muy bueno). anyone else done any digging?

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: platypus

                                                                                  Agreed about this neighborhood ...

                                                                                2. Well, having recently returned from San Diego, where I grew up, I am reminded that there are a lot of medium Mexican restaurants even in places where there should be good stuff (ie, San Diego). I will also say that people from the Southwest and Texas, myself included, have an over-nostalgic appraisal of 'authentic' Mexican cuisine, which then turns into non-credible claims that you can't find any really good Mexican cuisine anywhere in the city. This is silly. Just to name two places that stand out in NYC: The first is Tacqueria Y Fonda, on Amsterdam btw 107 and 108. They have great tacos (carnitas, lengua, though no sesos anymore), and their mole is ok. It's a great, cheap, Mexican meal. The second is Itzocan. Sure, it's not 'traditional,' but the chef is from Oaxaca and applied techniques he learned as a sous chef in France to Oaxacan cuisine. It's very creative and no reason not to call it 'Mexican.'

                                                                                  I half agree with the comments about 'Mexican' being too large and unhelpful a concept. If you're looking for some great tacos, like at Tacqueria y Fonda, that's different than looking for mole, and different again if you're looking for pozole (the only decent one I've found is at Noche Mexicana on weekends), and different again if you're looking for tamales. And so on and so forth.

                                                                                  1. My dear Homesick Texan, no more weeping. I was born and raised in Mexico City, moved to Texas and now I am in NYC where I pretty much had lived before. Let me tell you that I was lucky enough to find the best tacos outside of Mexico City so far in 103rd and Lex. As a true connoisseur of REAL authentic Mexican food I can tell you that nothing in Dallas besides Taco Diner, La Paloma and La Hechicera are worth trying. If you feel like having true good Tex-Mex Joe T Garcia's is the place to go if you are in Ft. Worth, if you are in Dallas you have to go to Manny's or Mia's. Some of the best Tex-Mex style enchiladas I have ever had are at Joe T's. For true tacos in NYC hop on the 6 train and get off on 103 & Lexington. The place is at the NW corner and has no sign but a 'Pastor Trompo' outside for the street eaters. The place is called "Santa Clarita", the name is only on the entrance mat. Order "pastor con todo y pina asada (grilled pineapple)" and feel you are in Mexico. Accompany your tacos with Orchata or Sangria Senorial.
                                                                                    For good Mexican, more Mex than Tex go to Maya on 64st and 1st Avenue.

                                                                                    1. el zocolo on the east side in the 80s is very good but expensive

                                                                                      1. My first problem after moving here from TX was that I was looking for good Tex-Mex and didnt realize no one knows that really is up here. But I did found decent Mexican at dive-type places, like La Noche in the UWS. I also learned that no one knows what queso is, so you're better off making that at home. But places that do have huevos rancheros (Cafe con Leche, Benny's (or is it Harry's?) Burritos) usually dont mess it up too much and that's comforting food so it really helps when I'm homesick.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: sugarcookie

                                                                                          You can easily find proper queso in any of New York's Mexican neighborhoods.

                                                                                          1. re: sugarcookie

                                                                                            sugarcookie it's Benny's. Barrio Chino's (LES) huevos rancheros are okay.

                                                                                          2. I'm in saint paul minnesota. we have a pretty big per capita mexican population here. Particularly on the westside. We have GREAT authentic mexican food throughout mpls and st. paul.
                                                                                            I have 2 best friends who moved to NYC. We all love going to mexico and mexican food. Sadly they both say there is nothing even close there. That said,and I'm serious,it's really the only thing this great city lacks.

                                                                                            1. I'm from texas as well and tex/mex is hard to find properly, but there is authentic mexican. Zarela, Paladar, Centrico all from the same family are amazing. Then again I am a push over for anyplace that has true cajeta. However, if it's crock pot queso you want, best do it yourself.

                                                                                              1. I am severely disappointed to see that others are suffering as much as I am without basic necessities like green chile and decent mole. I moved to New York from Colorado (would probably kill for Deli Cioso, Santiago's or even Efrain's at this point), and ever since I have been trying to find good tex-mex and southwestern US/mexican food. Has anyone ever found green chile in NY? I am dumbfounded that no one has moved from CO/NM/AZ/TX and started a restaurant offering green chile--they would have a monopoly over thousands of restaurants in this area. Please help if you have ever seen real green chile in NY--is it too much to ask to have a huge plate of food smothered with green chile for under $10?

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: bookmonger

                                                                                                  Los Dos Molinos might fit the bill. The website says, "we use real New Mexico chiles and that means HOT!!!" http://www.losdosmolinosnyc.com They are a branch of a Phoenix restaurant.

                                                                                                  1. re: Brian S

                                                                                                    Compared to what one usually pays for, say a combo dinner with enchiladas, a taco & a chile Relleno, their menu can give one sticker shock.

                                                                                                  2. re: bookmonger

                                                                                                    I'm a Colorado native living in Pennsylvania. I am suffering along with bookmonger in my search for green chile. I have to settle for making my own, or buying Trader Joe's chicken green chile in the freezer section. I'm tempted to take a container into one of "Tex-Mex" restaurants around here and "smother" things to my liking! I even emailed my recipe to several restaurants in the area, asking them to add it to their menu. Burritos in PA are usually served with "ranchero sauce". I have no idea what that is, but it tastes like salsa with bbq sauce. Awful. The search continues!

                                                                                                    1. re: jooleepadoolie

                                                                                                      Finding green chile in NYC is nearly impossible, I'm afraid. I spent two summers in Santa Fe and fell in love with New Mexican cuisine and those AMAZING Hatch green chiles! I too am amazed that no one has opened a Southwestern/New Mexican restaurant here in the city - it's a shame. Maybe I'll open one myself someday! A bowl of Santa Fe posole and a plate of cheese or chicken enchiladas with green chile (or maybe "christmas" style) would hit the spot right now!

                                                                                                      As for this: http://www.losdosmolinosnyc.com - I haven't tried it, but the fact that they give a "spicyness" warning on their menu doesn't really sit well with me. Authentic New Mexican food does not HAVE to be spicy. New Mexico red chiles tend to be very spicy, and I ate some of the hottest adovada of my life when I was there, but Hatch green chiles are not spicy at all. And paying $21 for a chicken enchilada platter is RIDICULOUS! There are certainly fine dining establishments in Santa Fe where you will pay those prices, but for the type of food they seem to be serving, the prices should be about half what they are.

                                                                                                  3. If you don't mind being in Times Square, I think Viva Pancho has great Mexican.

                                                                                                    Viva Pancho
                                                                                                    156 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

                                                                                                    1. Taqueria y Fonda in the city, Jackson Heights, Sunset Park, etc. All of them have excellent authentic Mexican food. Jackson Heights has some really incredible places. Taqueria Coatzingo is amazing.

                                                                                                      1. I've seen this thread before, looks like it got resurrected... and I'm surprised I never replied to it. I'm a San Diegan who is always on the quest for good Southwest Mex. I've accepted even the best hole in the wall taco shops are nothing compared to my local back home.

                                                                                                        Ay! Chiuahua on 53rd St between 1st and 2nd is the only place in NYC that I've had decent Tex-Mex. Huge plates of enchilades verdes with (lard-filled) beans, rice, fresh-baked tortilla chips and rockin margaritas. As long as you accept it for what it is (i.e. the best of the worst in NYC), you will be fine. And it's definitely enough for two meals.

                                                                                                        I would also recommend Los Dos Molinos, but only if you like VERY spicy food. They have much the same fare - fajitas, enchiladas, etc. but kicked up quite a few notches.

                                                                                                        Don't bother with the Rosa Mexicanas and Dos Caminos' of the world unless you just want guac and an icy margarita - those two things they do very well.

                                                                                                        As for the Lone Star and Shiner, they only place I know of is Hill Country BBQ. Maybe Southern Hospitality and Brother Jimmy's carry those brands too.

                                                                                                        1. I see this thread has been around for a long time, but got revived.

                                                                                                          With regard to Mexican in NYC, you have a few chocies: fake, reasonable nothing to write home about; expensive, decent food, but not really traditional in any regard; leave Manhattan and try areas with real Mexicans in the outer boroughs. I've had cheap, good enjoyable Mexican, although some was adapted some, in Queens. Heck, I had a problem ordering a beer in Queens, I think because the locals never bothered to order Negra Modelo. Me, gringo as can be, walks into bar/restaurant near R line in Astoria; all but me inside speaking Spanish; I asked for Negra Modelo, and it took a minute before the waitress understands; to order food I point; Beer and food, excellent beer, good food, less than $10 for take out.

                                                                                                          Once, I think I embarrased the locals who were drinking Heinken, and they swiitched and drank a couple Negras with me.

                                                                                                          1. As a fellow Texan, I strongly recommend Mole for real Mexican on Houston & Allen in the Lower East Side. There food is amazing, every time - and my wife & I have been there a dozen times.

                                                                                                            Must haves
                                                                                                            - Taco's: my fav's are the diver scallop, fish or anything pork
                                                                                                            - Lime-chipotle BBQ pork ribs served with” poblano” mashed potato.
                                                                                                            - Carne Asada
                                                                                                            - Carnitas Torta
                                                                                                            - any of the specials
                                                                                                            - and naturally the Mole Enchiladas

                                                                                                            If you want Tex-Mex... well, that's a different animal

                                                                                                            1. I love Zarela @ midtown east and the best burrito I've ever had is from this hole in the wall on 1st ave between 4th and 5th st.'s. I forget the name, but it's on the west side of the street; you cannot and by all means should not miss it. Dirt cheap and the stuff of dreams.