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Best Mexican food in NYC

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Okay, we've debated Thai - let's go to my other love - Mexican food. I'm from south Texas, so obviously this is of great importance to me. So far, the best I've encountered is Rosa Mexicano (Lincoln Center) - though it's not your traditional, down and dirty Tex Mex, it's the best derivation I've found (and I love their queso flameado and margaritas).

What are your faves?

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  1. Are you asking about Tex-Mex or Mexican? Different animals.

    My favorite Mexican is Zarela, but I'm looking forward to trying her son Aaron's new Centrico. I don't really like Tex-Mex.

    http://petercherches.blogspot.com

    5 Replies
    1. re: Peter Cherches

      Zarela? Really? I used to eat there many years ago, but recent reports have it heading way downhill and not worth going to anymore.

      1. re: saeyedoc

        For some reason Bruni seems to have it in for Zarela. Anyway, on recent visits the snapper hash, cochinita de pibil & lamb barbacoa were all great, as was the pan de arroz.

        1. re: Peter Cherches

          That's good to hear. I've been cooking with her recipes for almost 20 years and will be back in the city next month.

          1. re: Peter Cherches

            I went to Zarela's about 2 yrs ago and all the food was really well prepared and excellent. But the Pan de Arroz.... I was stuffed from all the other stuff but could not in good conscience leave even one piece; it was that good. Never had anything like it before.

        2. re: Peter Cherches

          I have been to Centrico with my fiance, and I really enjoyed it. The food was very well done. The desserts were very bad though...we had a molten chocolate cake and it came out fully cooked and way too hot...we sent it back and the same thing happened again.

          I hope they fixed their desserts, but the food itself was outstanding.

        3. Best I've had is Downtown Bakery - really only a takeout place but it is the only place I've been to in Manhattan that comes close to the flavor of San Diego.

          3 Replies
          1. re: wingman

            Tell more. Donde esta Downtown Bakery?

            1. re: xavier

              downtown bakery is great. 1st Ave between 4th and 5th.

              totally cheap & cheerful.

              mole tacos for $6 are my weekly ritual.

              1. re: mas

                I just had Downtown Bakery last night. The chicken mole burrito is my absolute favorite. The chorizo burrito is great too.

                -----
                Downtown Bakery
                69 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

          2. i have not spent much time in mexico (or south texas for that matter) so i can't chime in on authenticity. my comments are solely on food, ambiance, service in general.

            i did eat at centrico once and thought it was decent. i'd say it's on par w/ zarela.

            i'm not a big rosa mexicano fan.

            you may try mi cocina (hudson/jane) - falls under the "good but not memorable" category, but they do have a nice garden and varied menu.

            1. Two places: Mercadito and Alma.

              I've only been to Mercadito on Ave B, so I can't speak for the 7th Ave location, but it was pretty good. Not absolutely one hundred percent the best I've ever been to, but pretty decent, food fairly fresh, and small portions allowing you to try more. Their queso fundido was good, and I love their huevos rancheros. Their drinks are amazing.

              Alma is definitely my favorite. It's in Red Hook, Brooklyn, a trek for most, but it's so worth it. The view is amazing, the food is great, lots of options (I adore their chilaquiles), and portions generous.

              I've also heard great things about Castro's, in E Williamsburg/Bushwick. Confirmations?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Sunnidae

                Mercadito is nowhere near the "down and dirty Tex Mex" the OP mentioned. They're more of a fusion-y upscaling of a baja-inflected cuisine. Problem is they take the fruit way, way too far. When I went it was with a group of 6. Tried all the ceviches, all the guacs, many of the tacos. The only one worth mentioning was the battered baja fish tacos, which were indeed superb, but not what a Texan is likely to be familiar with.

                1. re: Sunnidae

                  Alma, the place that charges extra for rice and beans even with an entree? Surely you jest, or Sunnidae should, along with Shirley and many others of us. The place where an herb crusted fish on the menu when ordered is delivered in a substitute form -- they went with fennel. Now for those not acquainted, it's akin to NyQuil-lacqured fish - yummy! My 'clean plate club' gold star dinner left his untouched. One bit maybe, gag inducing. Then that tab , eek! If you must go, get drinks, any are fine, chip and salsa, enjoy the view upstairs on nice evenings and move ON for an edible meal.

                2. Last time I went to Zarela, we were all underwhelmed, and one of us found his food literally inedible. He sent it back and was so disheartened that he didn't even order a salad or something to replace it. Cafe Frida was disappointing as well.

                  1. I gotta agree, Zarela is really not as wonderful as it used to be. The zoo like atmosphere and the high prices don't help.

                    1. My favorite to this point is Suenos (17th bet. 8th & 9th Aves). The owner/chef, Sue Torres, is quite gifted and really enjoys presenting cuisine from all parts of Mexico (she used to be at Hell's Kitchen and before that at the Rocking Horse).

                      I thought Centrico was excellent and particulary enjoyed the short rib (and I'm not a big meat guy).

                      I also really enjoyed Pampano because of its seafood emphasis.

                      Next on my list Mercadito for its fish tacos.

                      1. i really like itzocan cafe for their lunch burritos. the tequila lime shrimp burrito is especially good. i also really like the shrimp tacos at cafe el portal. itzocan is on e. 9th st. (i think) by the park and cafe el portal is in noho.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Traz0r

                          For some reason, I always forget about Itzocan when people ask about Mexican - I always enjoy Bistro Itzocan on Lexington.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            itzocan seems more fusion mexican/french to me for dinner. i've never had lunch there, though. it is very good.

                            1. re: shirlotta

                              I agree - it is "fusion" - but the ingredients are primarily Mexican, IMHO - didn't know they were open for lunch.

                              1. re: shirlotta

                                I've only been to each place once, but I thought Bistro Itzocan was more "fusion" than Itzocan Cafe, and that both were wonderful. But neither is Tex-Mex, as requested by the OP.

                                1. re: AppleSister

                                  you know, AppleSister, that's what i always thought too, but i realized recently that their menu is almost identical. i think it's the difference in the atmosphere that led us to think that (well, led me to, at least). their food is great. the huitlacoche souffle is amazing--but much better uptown, where it is finished with truffle oil. downtown, i recently had it served with multiple competing fruity sauces that didn't add much to the dish.

                                  1. re: AppleSister

                                    For some reason there was no reply button on rose water's post.

                                    When I had the souffle at Itzocan downtown last month it did have the truffle oil, and it was one of the most sensual things I've ever had in a restaurant. Link to my review:

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

                            2. Mas Mezcal on east 85th street is excellent- they have a nice mix of tex mex and authentic mexican food

                              1. I saw this post for big enchilada and we went over tonight. We loved it, and coming from California, we know Mexican and this was the real thing. The mole with the enchilada was aamazing. Just wish we could find good refried beans somewhere...

                                1. One place that gets a lot of praise on here is Pio Maya for hole in the wall cheap Mexican (8th Street between 5th and 6th Ave). Gotta tell you, I went once and wasn't impressed, but I'm willing to chalk it up to ordering the wrong thing and try again.

                                  I got the quarter chicken (way dry) with boiled yuca (tasteless), which came with a small container of some mystery red condiment (tasteless). The side order of tostones was quite good though.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: josephsm

                                    I love Pio Maya. Try their burritos, which are among the best in NYC even though you have to eat them with knife and fork. Also, excellent tortas. My other go-to mexican place is Tulcingo del Valle, which serves some of the best tortas in the city. Try the torta al pastor with avocado instead of guac.

                                  2. I ate at Agave in the West Village recently. I had the kobe beef fajitas which were cooked perfectly, rare enough for me not to complain. I forget what my friend had, but she was happy. We also had this crazy cheese dip appetizer which was yummy and the drinks were strong and not watered down.

                                    I second Alma, my favorite place to eat on a nice summer day in Bklyn. Another great Mexican place in Bklyn is Maria's in Park Slope, though this is the NYC board so you prob don't want to trek out there.

                                    Mexicana Mama's is also good, though I got pretty drunk there and can't give you details except I remember thinking..yum.

                                    1. El Maguey y la Tuna, 321 E. Houston St., is unpretentious, charming, and cheap. I especially like their mole poblano and enchiladas verdes. My wife is from the Rio Grande Valley, and she pronounces it the most authentic place she's seen in Manhattan. Tulcingo del Valle, 665 10th Ave., is another fine Puebla-style place.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: americanafan

                                        i really enjoyed my first visit here about a year ago. their pozole is amazing. my friend who took me, though, has mentioned their food has taken a serious downturn since then. i can't report firsthand, but i was disappointed to hear this. have you been recently?

                                        1. re: jungirl

                                          If you were asking about El Maguey y la Tuna, I have been there a few times in the last two months and I love love their food. In my top 3 for mexican in the city....

                                      2. You say NYC, but do you mean Manhattan only? If you search on the Outerboroughs board you'll see tons of places.

                                        1. Taqueria y Fonda on A'dam and 106th. I haven't been to any of the other mentioned places so can't speak for comparison but this place is sick sick sick. The first burrito I got there was a religious experience (on later tries it failed to meet my expectations but was still very good). Small storefront, great ambience if you like a mexican jukebox and glass fridge filled with mexican beers. Also try tacos dorados. The mole is also good if you like that kind of thing

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Ackerman

                                            I like the meat at Taqueria y Fonda, but I personally think their burritos are pretty bad.

                                          2. my absolute favorite is el rey del sol on 14th street between 7th and 8th ave. they have delicious classic cheese enchiladas. i can't get enough!! the margaritas are weak, though.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: calypsogirl

                                              I went there on Cinco ey Mayo and paid $9 for a 12 oz. Tecate. Ouch.

                                              1. re: subinai

                                                el rey del sol makes awesome fresh fruit margaritas, but I've found their food to be very, very average.

                                            2. Itzocan and Suenos and Mexicana Mama. (there's a new one w/more ambience on E 12th now too)

                                              1. I lived in New York for 9 years until last month. I've talked to many people from the south and from Texas who live in the city. I don't think there is any such thing as good Tex-Mex in NYC. I like Rosa Mexicano but it ain't Tex-Mex. I live in Spain now and have heard that there is abosolutely no good Mexican or Tex-Mex food in Spain. Pity me. At least you're a short plane ride from Texas or from Louisiana where my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant is, Superior Grill.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Helind

                                                  Nice shout out to Superior Grill, which is VERY good. I lived in Texas for ten years and have lived in NYC for five. Sadly, there is no Tex-Mex here in NYC. You have to move on and enjoy other types of food. I like Los Dos Molinos on 17th b/w Park and Irving which is New Mexico-Mexican. That being said, there are some excellent real Mexican places but in general, you'll have to leave Manhattan to find them.

                                                2. Speaking of Mexican, has anyone tried the new Gabriela's on 94th and Columbus? After much waiting, I hear they finally opened. Is it safe to go there yet? I can't stand going to brand new places that haven't got the kinks worked out yet...anyone tried it yet?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: eugenia77

                                                    My wife and I went about a month ago, and although the place looks great, the food was just ok. By comparison, we went to Cilantro's on 2nd Ave and East 89th the next night and had a far better meal, for a much better price.

                                                    Still, since we live around the corner from Gabriela's, I imagine we'll end up giving it another chance at some point this summer, while it's still margarita weather.

                                                  2. Love Mi Cocina, Mexicana Mama also that little rest on Irving Place... Can't remember the name unfortunately...

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Nuray

                                                      There is a Mexican restaurant on Irving Place?

                                                      1. re: Scott V

                                                        I think you mean Los Dos Molinos. It's on 17th, just off Irving.

                                                        1. re: ML152

                                                          Yes, that's it! I always forget the name...Thanks..

                                                    2. I think I'd be pretty disappointed if I were new here and looking for good Mexican food and came upon this thread. Although this is a Manhattan board, it seems like no one has ventured into the Mexican neighborhoods of NYC, where there's a lot of good cooking being done. So let's see, so far we have these places mentioned in this thread:
                                                      Zarela, Rosa Mexicana, Downtown Bakery, Mercadito, Alma, Centrico, Mi Cocina, Suenos, Pampano, Itzocan Cafe, Big Enchilada, Pio Maya, Agave, El Maguy y la Tuna, Taqueria y Fonda, El Rey del Sol, Gabrielas, Tulcingo del Valle

                                                      I can nix just about all of them, save Taqueria y Fonda and Pio Maya (I haven't been to these two) from any "best of" list. By the way, Big Enchilada was singled out a while ago by Jim Leff as "one of the 3-4 most awful restaurants in the entire city." See thread http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
                                                      Out of the given list, I would probably prefer some kind of chef-driven fusiony Mexican, since there's likely to be some soul in the food. But whenever I've tried more or less traditional items at the high-end places listed here, I've always come away thinking I could have had a better version of those dishes if I got it in Jackson Heights or Sunset Park.

                                                      In Manhattan, my suggestion is to start in Spanish Harlem around 116th St, a vibrant Mexican neighborhood. Then maybe the handful of places on the far west side. Then get on the subway and get to the other boroughs. You can even use the search engine here to help guide your way.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: E Eto

                                                        Yes...116th!!! There are at least 3 tasty spots on 116th between 2nd & 3rd. (I believe they are all owned by the same people.) One specializes in seafood and has a beautiful outdoor area. Sorry, I can't remember the names of any of them.

                                                        1. re: E Eto

                                                          The title of the post is best Mexican in NYC, and I agree with Eric that (though I've eaten years ago in four or five great places on 116 St near 3 av and also 3 av south of 116)if best is what you want, you have to check out the Outer Boroughs board... here's just one example of what you'll find. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                          1. re: E Eto

                                                            big enchilada isn't THAT bad. i like it. it's not fancy, but it's strangely addictive. i would not go so far as to say it's one of the 3-4 most awful restaurants in the entire city! as other posters who replied to that thread contended. it's not a destination restaurant, i.e. i wouldn't travel more than 10 blocks to visit, but if you're around there and hungry and want something cheap, it's quite satisfying. i guess it may not belong on the "best mexican" list, though. my bad. and thanks for the kyoto tip, i really appreciate it!

                                                            1. re: E Eto

                                                              So, you've nixed every restaurant mentioned. Any specific places in manhattan you would deign recommend? "Spanish Harlem" and the "far west side" aren't very helpful, esp. since you've already dinged two suggestions (tulcingo and tehuitzingo) in the latter...

                                                              1. re: a_and_w

                                                                Not sure I can really recommend anywhere in Manhattan. The meals I've had at the two far west side places were good, but not as good as what I get in Queens (so not worth the schlep for me). I haven't checked out the scene in Spanish Harlem in over a year, so I don't have any specific recommendations there, but it's the largest Mexican neighborhood in Manhattan that I know of, and worth checking out. I think that's very helpful to point out. If you want specific info, then go explore up there and let us know what you find. Also, since Queens is part of NYC, I'd recommend Taqueria Coatzingo in Jackson Heights. That's my regular stop.

                                                            2. La Hacienda is a famous place on 116th and, because of its fame, we went last Thursday evening, round 7.30. The first disappointment was that the place was empty. It looked down-at-heel, and, in truth, the food wasn't great. What was great was the service. The waiter / maitre d' was the most charming and helpful guy you could imagine, going as far as to furnish our 9-year-old with two fried eggs, with beans and rice on the side. All done with a gentle smile, not at all condescending.

                                                              As we were walking home from La Hacienda, we spotted a much smaller, and livelier-looking, place, about four or five houses east, on the same block. I've forgotten the name. Does anyone know this place?

                                                              - Sean

                                                              1. El Paso Taqueria on Lex and 104th is excellent. Great horchata, tortilla soup, chilaquiles, burritos, tacos, and enchiladas. And cheap!

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: gaucho25

                                                                  Is this the place on the northwest corner of the intersection? Walk-up taco counter on 104th? If so, it was pretty good, especially the al pastor, carved from a spit right in front of you, and a very flavorful (read: deliciously greasy) chorizo. Haven't been in a year though, so excuse my haziness.

                                                                  1. re: Spoony Bard

                                                                    nope, it's on the SW corner, and is more of a casual sit-down place. but i'm also a fan--i especially like their sopes.

                                                                2. I can't speak for anything above 80th street, but Del Valle is really worth chekcing out. There Torta is one of the best sandwiches in nyc. I've had them with lengua or cebeza, and they've both been great. Lots of other things to try.

                                                                  1. I used to live a few blocks from El Maguey Y La Tuna on Houston/B and used to go like twice a week. Ohhh it was good. But for cheap counter service, I love Zarazoga - the pork tacos. It's on like Ave A and 13th in a bodega. Matamoros on Bedford/7th in Williamsburg too is pretty good. I like the pozole there.

                                                                    1. none....the zarela's of the world are a culinary joke....endorsed by the foodies for whatever reason...I assume it has something to do with the formulaic cook books and constant mentions in magazines....Still the food and room are below even average....I do like the Tacos at Tehuitzinga but thats about all I've found

                                                                      1. I'm just back from lunch at Tulcingo del Valle, my first time there. The dish I had, pork adobo, was amazing: pork ribs stewed in a red chile sauce with wonderfully complex spicing. Clearly the spices were freshly ground and combined with a kind of abuela-like alchemy. The ever-so-slight sweet-sour finish made it, in a way, closer in flavor to a true Goan vindaloo than the vindaloos at most NY Indian restaurants. The accompanying refritos, topped with cotija cheese, were wonderful too. I had a Jamaica (hibiscus drink), and it was happily not overly sweet, as can sometimes be the case. I also tasted my friend's pipian sauce (pumpkin seed sauce, served with chicken), and that was quite good too. So far I haven't had any meals at any of the Poblano places in Brooklyn that rival this.

                                                                        http://petercherches.blogspot.com

                                                                        1. So I'm not sure how long it's been open but tonight I went to check out Puebla Mexican Food & Coffee Shop which is a second restaurant by the owner of Downtown Bakery. While I've only had a couple of things on the menu I can say that this is certainly the best mexican I've had in the city. I've tried almost all of the places mentioned and most are fine (mexican being the sort of food that is easy to do sufficiently but rarely done exceptionally).

                                                                          I've had the chipolte enchiladas and a chorizo tacos (not served open faced but more like a small burrito with a fresh corn tortilla wrapped in paper). The chipolte sauce is bright, spicy, savory and fresh. The rice and beans are fresh and delicious. It was really great. I get Rosa Mexicana and Mercadito but mexican as haute cuisine rarely hits the mark - I think the best mexican is simple and honest and with that as a measure this is by far the best I've had in NYC.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: sakurama

                                                                            interesting - i've been uniformly disappointed by everything i've tried here. i'm no expert on mexican food, but i have been to mexico. perhaps the meat dishes are better than the vegetarian ones.

                                                                            1. re: sakurama

                                                                              Downtown Bakery does Mexican well, so that's a positive sign. Is Puebla a little less divey than Downtown Bakery?

                                                                            2. I think I'd say kitschy. There's only one table and a bar facing the window so it's not like there's accommodations for more than a few. I think it's more like a take out place but I enjoyed sitting at the bar. Divey is authentic...

                                                                              1. Yes, 1) I agree the place on the SW corner of 104 and lex (just a block up from subway) is good--compltely different, but 2) Dos Caminos - is fine--and weekdays lunchtime if you walk into the 3) SE corner 49th and 3rd sort of mini mall under a high rise there is a taqueria from the folks who brought you pampano on E 48--the taqueria is much cheaper....

                                                                                1. What ever you do, DO NOT GO TO MAS MEZCAL! The food is far from authentic. It is greasy, fatty, tastless and, I think, out of can! On top of that, very expensive! The only authentic items are, (is) the beer and the waiters. Oh! the chips and salsa are not bad if that's what you want for dinner. Don't waste your money.

                                                                                  1. EL PARADOR. Best Mexian hands down. Great Ambiance, on 34th between 1st and 2nd. Go there. Trust me.

                                                                                    1. Guys, sorry to totally disagree. I have lived in Mexico 18 yrs and just spent a year in San Diego and so was really excited to try Downtown Bakery. DISGUSTING!! I should have known it wasn't mexican because they used the word "pernil" on the menu which is Puerto Rican, the word for pork from the leg in Mexican spanish is simply "pierna." So, I asked for a rajas and papas taco and got a taco with potatoes and tons of sliced, raw jalapeños...come on...rajas in mexico is roasted poblano chiles...and the mole sauce was so bad it cannot be described. The worst mexican food I have ever had.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: fedris

                                                                                        Fedris, is there a Mexican restaurant in NYC where you go to cure your craving? I'm always in search of a good, authentic place. Thanks.

                                                                                        www.thelunchbelle.com

                                                                                      2. I don't know if anyone has mentioned Puebla, on 1st Ave at 3rd, yet. For authentic Mexican, this is the best place I've found. It's pretty much a hole in the wall with maybe four seats at the counter and a couple of tables. And I don't think they have Margaritas. But if you're looking for the actual food, and not the Chi-Chi's experience, then this is the place.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: douglas525

                                                                                          I like that place, for what it is. I don't go frequently but do sometimes feel like it. Like about a week and a half ago, I went and got a cactus burrito. It was pretty tasty, and though prices have increased, hey, it was still a filling meal for less than $9. But though I think the place is worthy for Manhattan, it sure doesn't cause me to forget the great taquerias I like to go to in SF and Santa Barbara - even the average ones there are superior to Puebla, in my opinion.

                                                                                          1. re: douglas525

                                                                                            I hate to say this--and I've only done it once before, with respect to this restaurant on a different site, and this restaurant only--but the food at Puebla reminded me--seriously, and I apologize especially if it makes you skeptical of my rating--but it reminded me of dog food. My only explanation of the difference between my view and others is that some people seem to think that if you get a lot of it, it's good. That, to me, is an upper west side mentality (sorry again--I can't seem to avoid insulting restaurants, people and neighborhoods!)--but it is the only explanation. I have tried the food three times here and each time I couldn't get beyond the second or third bite (maybe it improves with bites??). And I am not a negative reviewer. There are a lot of acceptable (but sadly not great and perhaps not even all that good( Mexican restaurants in Manhattan, but this is not one of them, at least by my lights (that's what makes horse races). This place is right near my home so I am often tempted, but I've given up. Never an edible plate. Not once. And I'm still searching for a great cheese enchilada. Just to show I am not absolutely churlish, I like Cafe Frida, next to the Natural History museum, and Mexico Lindo on Second Avenue, and I think I had a passable time at Tulcinga del Valle (I don't remember if that is the one, so I am about to go up there now and give it a try...I hope it's not the one I went to last year. wouldn't it be great if I actually found a great cheese enchilada?). Sorry for all this, but I am SO disappointed in NY Mexican food and SOOOO hungry for a good cheese enchilada.

                                                                                            -----
                                                                                            Mexico Lindo
                                                                                            459 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10010

                                                                                            Puebla Mexican Food
                                                                                            47 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

                                                                                            Cafe Frida
                                                                                            368 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024

                                                                                          2. I highly recommend Mole on Allen St BTW Houston and Delancy for authentic Mexico City-Mexican. It's real tiny, but the food itself is legit. I like the Enchilada Suizas and the Burrito Enchilado. Plenty to choose from, gets busy on the weekends.

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: silencespeak

                                                                                              Silensespeak, I hear ya. Having lived 16 years in San Diego and almost 9 in Texas before moving here, I'm pining for some good MExican food, either SD style burritos and fish tacos or even Tex Mex at this point. THinking I'm going to have to just get on the internet, order up some good chorizo (which you can't find here), some fresh lard-made tortillas, and make it myself.

                                                                                              1. re: silencespeak

                                                                                                Mole is near me and I went there twice. It wasn't horrible. Best I can say. Sorry. Three stars, but only because it is NY. If it were California, it would be one star at best.

                                                                                                1. re: mdavis

                                                                                                  It ain't three stars for Manhattan, either.

                                                                                              2. My favorite sit-down Mexican places in Manhattan are Cafe El Portal on Elizabeth St and Lupe's East LA Kitchen on 6th Ave just above Canal. I also like Mexicana Mama, but it's a bit too inventive & pricey to be a regular choice.

                                                                                                On the casual take-out side, I've found nothing I like. Burritos are all overstuffed with rice, beans, lettuce, sour cream, etc and require a knife & fork. To me, rice & beans are meant to be a side dish. A burrito should be stuffed with stewed meat, onions, cilantro, and guacamole and wrapped in foil. But that's just me. I prefer San Diego style. I'm also not overly impressed with NYC tacos, though I did recently have some decent ones at a small joint also on Elizabeth St, but can't remember the name.

                                                                                                14 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: billyeats

                                                                                                  If the place on Elizabeth isn't Cafe El Portal, maybe you mean Pinche Taqueria on Mott? Their tortas were disappointing, but I did recently have a VERY good fish taco there. My bf sampled some of the other tacos, which were also good, but not as good as my fish one.

                                                                                                  And I totally agree about the burrito style here. No one seems to get that you do NOT put rice or beans inside a burrito. That's some new fangled wrap concoction. The only thing that should be in my burrito is delicious stewed meat -- that's the way we used to get them in the south (rice, beans, quac, sour cream on the side), and aparently San Diego too. I'm not saying burritos are authentically Mexican, but for TexMex, these NY things are not burritos.

                                                                                                  Someone above mentioned Mi Cocina -- that's one of the few places I think kinda gets it right, although it is expensive and more high end than I'd generally want for Mexican. It, along with Barrio Chino, gets my mexican bf's seal of approval. Mmm the nopales at Barrio are sooo good! Not TexMex though.

                                                                                                  El Maguey was just ok -- not awful at all, but not inspiring me to go back either, and it's definitely the closest place to my house.

                                                                                                  Puebla also was just ok. And Mole was just ok. And Mercadito was just ok -- perhaps a step above the others, but not at all worth it in terms of price and general headache.

                                                                                                  Centrico was awful and a total rip off, but I do like his other latin-fusiony place Paladar. Not really what you are looking for for authentic Mex though.

                                                                                                  Rosa Mexicano is pretty awful too, and totally pandering. Ooo guacamole made before your very eyes! Barf.

                                                                                                  So basically, I have to agree with some of the other posters above that there really isn't any great mexican food in downtown Manhattan. There is Barrio if you want a good cocktail and some tasty snacks, and there is Mi Cocina if you want white tablecloth, but neither are the grubby, casual TexMex you crave. I haven't been to the places on the far west side, and I haven't been out to Queens, but judging from what I've had so far, I'm not that hopeful.

                                                                                                  It just makes no sense that there are mexicans in every good kitchen in the city, and yet no good mexican food to be found. What gives?

                                                                                                  1. re: _emilie_

                                                                                                    I am in agreement with you on most counts, especially with regard to Mole (about which I think you're too generous) and Rosa Mexicano. But...

                                                                                                    "No one seems to get that you do NOT put rice or beans inside a burrito. That's some new fangled wrap concoction."

                                                                                                    I've lived in Manhattan since 1983, and burritos with rice & beans have been around here as long as I have. Wrong it may be, but new fangled it surely is not. If people didn't like their burritos with rice & beans, restaurants wouldn't serve 'em that way.

                                                                                                    1. re: small h

                                                                                                      Fair enough, I'll give you the rice and beans in a burrito is a NY thing (is it a Puerto Rican thing? a Chinese influence? I'm curious to know the origin). Where I come from, rice in a burrito either means you are (a) at Chipotle, (b) cheap, and stingy with the meat or (c) in a real big hurry and can't bother with a plate, but still need a lot of carbs for some reason... maybe to lift that barbell of a burrito? I never will get used to it.

                                                                                                      As for "if people didn't like em, restaurants wouldn't serve em" I don't see a lot of alternatives out there, but I do hear a lot of people complaining about not finding good mexican food, so it sounds like we're all just settling (sigh). Maybe billyeats will open up a San Diego style burrito dive and we can all eat happy.

                                                                                                      1. re: _emilie_

                                                                                                        Emilie...Amazing posts. You hit the nail on the head! My thoughts about Mexican food in NY, exactly. Amen, sister!

                                                                                                        www.thelunchbelle.com

                                                                                                        1. re: LeahBaila

                                                                                                          So just curious...what does go inside a genuine burrito? Anywhere I've been (not just New York) they've always had rice and beans. Although admittedly, I haven't been to Mexico in twenty years, and I don't think I had a burrito when I was there.

                                                                                                          1. re: douglas525

                                                                                                            Yeah, I don't think they have burritos in Mexico at all -- at least not that I've ever seen or heard of. So "genuine" is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. Are they Tex Mex? Yeah, I'd probably want to give credit for burritos to the Texans (for proximity and sheer number of mexicans living there, though it could as easily have been from New Mexico, California, etc), but I have no idea if that's actually the origin. Everywhere I have had them in the south, the beans and rice are on the side (or not at all), and just meat and maybe onions, sauce, perhaps cheese, etc, inside. Plus they are much smaller than NY ones -- like you could make them without having to use a giant wrap tortilla the size of a large pizza. As I have moved northward over the years, I have seen more and more rice and beans show up in burritos (some places, but not everywhere in the DC area, basically everywhere here), so I assume its a northern thing, but then again it could kinda make sense as a Cali/coastal thing. Where else have you had them with rice? And were they still hugemongous?

                                                                                                        2. re: _emilie_

                                                                                                          I have no idea what the origin might be, but maybe it's a time saver because, um, you don't have to move your fork as much as you would if the rice & beans were on the side?

                                                                                                          The Big Enchilada on W. 12th St., beloved by me for its shrimp fajita burrito, offers both a burrito (which has meat & beans & cheese) and a burrito grande (which also has rice & guacamole & sour cream). So you can't escape the beans, I guess, but you can avoid the interior rice if you want.

                                                                                                          1. re: _emilie_

                                                                                                            This is total nonsense. Rice and beans on a burrito isn't a "NY" thing. There are many types of burritos, including Mission style in SF, which have rice and beans. As for a lack of alternatives...are you serious? Just order them MINUS rice and beans.

                                                                                                        3. re: _emilie_

                                                                                                          You did hit the nail on the head as far as Mexican food in lower Manhattan is concerned, but NYC is much larger than that, and there's good Mexican food to be had if you expand your search parameters. And I'm not sure why you would draw conclusions about the rest of NY from your limited experiences at these restaurants. Go to where the Mexicans in NYC go. And then you'll find much better food.

                                                                                                          As for burritos, the rice and beans thing probably has more to do with the SF Mission style burrito which has become the standard in most parts of the country. The Chipotle chain and most others in NYC are based on that model. But like you, I prefer my burrito without the filler, and with something stewy and comforting like machaca or chile verde or other kind of guisado. I haven't found anything like that outside of southern California.

                                                                                                          1. re: E Eto

                                                                                                            Touche! I will totally have to get off my lazy ass and get to Queens.

                                                                                                            1. re: E Eto

                                                                                                              Honestly, because American burritos aren't particularly authentic, going "where the Mexicans go" has never led me to great burritos.

                                                                                                              1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                                                mexican food is american

                                                                                                                1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                                                  Note that my comment on this dated thread wasn't about burritos. It was about Mexican food. I wouldn't expect to have a good burrito at the Mexican restaurants I like in NYC. But then, we never really saw eye-to-eye about what makes a good burrito. While you claim there are no good burritos in LA, I like the ones in LA with guisado fillings, rather than the ones you tend to find in SF's Mission district. I've always found the best northern CA burrito in Santa Cruz.

                                                                                                                  1. re: E Eto

                                                                                                                    My bad -- I misread.

                                                                                                          2. I can't believe that none of my top picks for Mexican in the city are noted here. In order of high to low brow: Crema in Chelsea, Taco Taco on the UES, and Paquitos by Curry Hill.

                                                                                                            We had our first meal at Crema tonight, and it was absolutely incredible. From the warm habanero salsa and freshly fried chips, to the incredibly seasoned and artistically plated pork tacos, to the chocolate flan that tasted almost like cheesecake, it was amazing. Centrico has nothing compared to this, and I imagine Rosa Mexicano is leagues behind as well. The main chef, Julieta was in the kitchen - we had seen her on the Ramsey Kitchen Nightmare episode filmed in West Nyack.

                                                                                                            For a little more affordable Mexican, Taco Taco in the 90s is great and was our go-to place for about a year when we lived in the area. The tacos al pastor are tender, juicy, flavorful, and are served with a plateful of beans, guacamole, salad. A friend had a not too great experience with the hanger steak there, though, so I'd recommend staying with the dishes that the restaurant is named after.

                                                                                                            Paquitos is quick, cheap, filling, and fulfilling. If you have a craving for a messy, huge burrito, this is the place to go.

                                                                                                            1. Well, there is some real Mexican stuff out there, nearby NYC. If you come to North Bergen, West New York (by Weekhawken) or Union City, they have real Mexican restaurants where the workers and patrons are primarily Mexican families, and where next to no English is spoken. These places are inexpensive and the food blows away what one typically gets at a "Mexican" restaurant elsewhere.

                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: sbrener

                                                                                                                I've lived most of my life in Southern California, so moving to NYC was a bit of a kick in the face, Mexican-food-wise. But my husband and I did find La Esquina Taqueria in Soho, which puts out some really tasty tacos. I really like their aquacate con queso, which is really fresh - mostly avocado, pico de gallo and salsa verde with queso fresco - and i love their hongo y epazote tacos with mushrooms, hominy and epazote. Also, we almost always order their cochinita pibil, which is a pulled pork, shredded cabbage deal, with habanero pickled onions and jalapenos... so good! Whenever friends from San Diego or Santa Ana come to visit us and we're about Soho, doing a little shopping, we almost always stop by La Esquina and eat our tacos standing outside at the outdoor counter.

                                                                                                                1. re: jbeaux

                                                                                                                  We went to El Paso on 104th I believe, and it was not good at all. The guac was almost tasteless, and the enchiladas were dry. We are searching for great tex-mex on the UES or Spanish Harlem. Many of these posts are very old, so I am asking if anyone has any current suggestions?
                                                                                                                  I was raised in Texas and it just irritates me when I can make something I order at a restaurant better at home! I am sure many hounds out there know what I mean! There was a tiny restaurant on the south-west corner in spanish harlem that was good a few years ago. Does anyone know the place?

                                                                                                                  -----
                                                                                                                  El Paso
                                                                                                                  134 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

                                                                                                                  1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                                                                                                                    What are some other places you've been to in town? Maybe I can help recommend.

                                                                                                                    www.thelunchbelle.com

                                                                                                                    1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                                                                                                                      You're not going to find great tex-mex anywhere in NYC, I'm afraid.

                                                                                                                      But if you want to get recommendations for the best Mexican food in NYC...post on the outer boroughs board.

                                                                                                                      1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                                                                                                                        The restaurant you're remembering is the original location of El Paso. I think it's a coffee house now. Getting good Mexican in Spanish Harlem is far easier than getting good Tex-Mex. Where to go depends on what you want as different restaurants specialize in different items (i.e. Taco Mix: tacos al pastor; Cafe Ollin: cemitas/tortas).

                                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                                        Taco Mix
                                                                                                                        234 E 116th St, New York, NY 10029

                                                                                                                        Cafe Ollin
                                                                                                                        339 E 108th St, New York, NY 10029

                                                                                                                  2. Haven't been there lately, but always was the best Tex-Mex!

                                                                                                                    http://www.arkrestaurants.com/elrio_g...

                                                                                                                    http://newyork.citysearch.com/profile...

                                                                                                                    -----
                                                                                                                    El Rio Grande
                                                                                                                    160 East 38th Street, New York, NY 10016

                                                                                                                    1. Looking for great Enchiladas or Chilies Rellenos-maybe UES -but will go farther if necessary. Tried El Paso on upper Lex. Was not impressed. Any suggestions? great Tex-Mex is hard to find! You all have the best suggestions.

                                                                                                                      -----
                                                                                                                      El Paso
                                                                                                                      134 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

                                                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                                                                                                                        While it's not on the UES, I think that Tulcingo del Valle makes the city's best chile rellenos. As for enchiladas - again, not UES - I love the cheese version at "Ah Chihuahua."

                                                                                                                        www.thelunchbelle.com

                                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                                        Tulcingo del Valle
                                                                                                                        665 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036

                                                                                                                        1. re: LeahBaila

                                                                                                                          Thank you. I am so excited to try these. As a transplanted "tex-yorker" (grew up in Houston and Austin, in NY for 20+ yrs) I really miss the food. Chihuahua even has Chile Con Queso, which I NEVER see on menus!

                                                                                                                          1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                                                                                                                            Same! Grew up in El Paso. :) Yep, sure is nice to see queso on a menu! I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised by both restaurant's rice and beans, as well. Make sure to report back!

                                                                                                                            www.thelunchbelle.com

                                                                                                                            -----
                                                                                                                            El Paso
                                                                                                                            134 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

                                                                                                                            1. re: LeahBaila

                                                                                                                              Yes! That's another thing I noticed. The rice and beans are always considered a Throwaway, not seasoned, etc. Thanks again! Hope to go soon!

                                                                                                                              1. re: LeahBaila

                                                                                                                                We are going to ah! C or Tulcingo on Thursday. Looking forward to it! I will def. try your suggestion, as well as the con queso if we hit A.C., just because I never see it offered. I appreciate the responses and suggestions. I will report back afterward.

                                                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                                                Tulcingo del Valle
                                                                                                                                665 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036

                                                                                                                                1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                                                                                                                                  LeahBaila,The chili rellenos was wonderful and the beans were great. They were generous with the soft corn tortillas. Delicious. Perfect recommendation. Thanks!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                                                                                                                                    Hey, glad to hear it! :) Thanks for the feedback, Hungry...let us know when you check out AC!

                                                                                                                                    www.thelunchbelle.com

                                                                                                                        2. A big Disappointment. Mediocre at best.
                                                                                                                          First let me say that I had the luxury of having Aaron Sanchez' food at a private function. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. Unfortunately the restaurant did not live up to his reputation.
                                                                                                                          The food was really not memorable and did not live up to the ford porn descriptions on the menu. $12.00 for guacamole and chips that was so small it was a joke. The fried plantain appetizer was greasy, obviously fried at too low a temp. The filet of red snapper came with a vinegar based salsa, with some chopped up chiles and I have to think really hard what it tasted like.
                                                                                                                          Now I do not expect a celebrity chef or any chef to be in the kitchen at all times. but when I saw him preparing ceviches for a vip table filled with his buddies, then to see him sit and relax with them then leave the restaurant all together, I thought this is not a good sign.
                                                                                                                          The service was slow with waiters also busing the tables and a host who was delivering food to the tables. . Looks like they were shorthanded that night.

                                                                                                                          I once vowed to never eat at another Dre Neiporent restaurant some 20 years ago after an unfortunate incident at Nobu and now I am sorry that I broke that promise to myself.

                                                                                                                          There are many other options in NYC that are better.

                                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                                          Nobu
                                                                                                                          105 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                                                          Centrico
                                                                                                                          211 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: BillW

                                                                                                                            Which restaurant are we talking about?

                                                                                                                            1. re: LeahBaila

                                                                                                                              I'm pretty sure BillW's talking about Centrico, and I agree totally.

                                                                                                                              -----
                                                                                                                              Centrico
                                                                                                                              211 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                                                              1. re: fm1963

                                                                                                                                Ditto.

                                                                                                                          2. so i will prob get alot of crap for this, but considering im a vegetarian, trying to eat healthy, and on a serious budget.... Blockheads!

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: PotatoPuff

                                                                                                                              If Blockheads is a contender, then so is Chipotle. I like Blockheads fine, for what it is (and Chipotle, too, actually), but best Mexican in Manhattan? I think not. I *hope* not.

                                                                                                                            2. im only chimming in cause this says nyc not manhattan. the best mexican i've had is at Los Tres Potrillos in corona, queens. there's also one in brooklyn but i've never tried it.