HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >



So I'm from LA (where all the good mexican food comes from) and have been living in New York for the past 6 months, and have finally decided to make the leap and try mexican in the city. Does anybody have any good recommendations. I'm not looking for anything too expensive (but if that's the only good mexican i guess it will just have to do)..

Thanks in Advance.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Pampano, on 49th St., b/t 2nd & 3rd Avs., serves excellent modern Mexican cuisine with an emphasis on fish and seafood. Tasty mixed drinks. Good service. Attractive atmospherics and a convivial vibe. It is a bit on the upscale side but not hideously expensive. If you want to economize, they offer a 3-course lunch prix-fixe for $25.


    Note: I have not been to Pampano's sister restaurant, Maya, but Hounds who have say it's very good as well.

    5 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      I am a hound who's done maya, not pampano. i am itching to go to pampano,but can no doubt vouch for maya!

      1. re: RGR

        I didn't love Pampano the night I tried it. I thought it was overpriced for the quality.

        1. re: lconnor

          I agree. Went to Pampano in the fall and found the food good, but not outstanding, and the service was AWFUL.

          1. re: Lindy74

            Count me too in with the group that doesn't praise Pampano. I really wanted to like it but didn't. We went on a weekday night and the place was packed. We sat upstairs and the waitstaff was terrible. They ignored us and catered to the big groups of businessmen in suits at large tables. We had 3 different waiters come up to us eventually, each asking to take our order, each with a huffy attitude. The left hand didn't know what the right was doing. While I still wanted to be wow'ed by the food, I wasn't.

        2. re: RGR

          even better than Pampano is their little taco stand, Pampano Taqueria, downstairs in the Crystal Pavilion (building with bebe, eyeglass store)...3 fantastic tacos for under $10 and salsa choices. I went to regular Pampano during a restaurant week and really enjoyed it, but the taste and value of the tacos is too good to pass up.

        3. I just tried La Noche Mexicana a few nights ago on some Chowhound recommendations. It's not bad! They have pretty good street-style tacos and huaraches, and a bunch of other things I haven't tried, yet. I wasn't a fan of their tamales (oddly flavorless, though they were hot/spicy enough.. maybe they're not making it with high quality lard). Overall, I think it's worth hitting up. The taco truck at 96th between Broadway and West End has decent tacos and *great* pork tamales. Chicken tamales are okay, too. Orchata isn't very good IMO.

          If you want something slightly fancier, I've liked La Palapa Rockola in the past (the chuletas and the pollo con pipian sauce are, I think, the best two entree dishes), though my past two visits have left me with the impression that they've gone downhill a bit since I moved out of the neighborhood (chuletas overcooked and not as thick and juicy, forgot to bring out the accompanying chayote). There've been tons of threads about Mexican food in the city on this board, so it might be worth your while to search.

          1. i second noche mexicana . i'm in there at least once a week . try the steak nachos and hauraches. they are also sooooo nice.

            1. I've always liked Rosa Mexicano, although it does get knocked on this board. Also upscale, mostly traditional Mexican dishes, and I think quite well prepared. They do a great tableside guacamole, and the margaritas are very good.

              You might also try Rocking Horse Cafe in Chelsea. It's a small but lively place, mid-range in terms of price and food. I've only been for brunch and for a private party (just had cocktail-type food), but in both cases it was very good.

              You should also do searches on this board for taquerias and food carts in Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side, as well as in Brooklyn.

              Enjoy your forays into Mexican dining in New York. It will be different from L.A. but not necessarily inauthentic - there has been a huge surge in Mexican population in the NY area. A lot of the smaller, more modest restaurants have been opened by entrepreneurs who are newly arrived from Mexico. L.A. also has restaurants owned/run by Mexicans, but many of the older, established Mexican restaurants in L.A. serve Cal-Mex food - very good, but something that has evolved over a few generations from Mexican traditions.

              1. For some seriously good Mexican food, and cheap to boot, your first stop should be Taqueria y Fonda. It's a little hole-in-the-wall, 10 table taco joint on Amsterdam between 107th & 108th. The owner is Mexican, as is all the staff and the jukebox. There's a fridge in the back where you can pick either a Hornitas soda, or a Negra Modelo/Tecate/Dos Equis to go with the fresh chips still hot from the fryer, and homemade salsa they'll bring to the table. Interestingly enough none of the salsas are tomato based, there are three kinds: 1) a bright and gently spicy tomatillo salsa, 2) an almost creamy, smoky, chile-based red salsa, and 3) and an incendiary green salsa with little chunks of avocado. If New York were warmer and there was more space, this would be a place that would spill out onto the street. I love Taqueria y Fonda with a passion, but I find that I'm disappointed when I order their more ambitious menu items like Chicken Pipian, but if you stick with the basics: tacos (take your pick from carne asada, lengua, chorizo, carnitas, al pastor, oreja, sesos, tripe, etc), tamales (I prefer the pork to the chicken), sopes, tortas or alhambres, you'll be in Mexican heaven.

                If you're looking for something really festive and fun, I'd stop in at Mama Mexico on 100th and Broadway. The food isn't stellar, but it's really not bad at all, and it's authentic, just not great. The reason you go is for the atmosphere and the great margaritas. The food I've had here is really no better or worse than Rosa Mexicano, but with a smaller price tag and more of a party, it's the kind of place with the tableside guacamole act, sizzling fajita platters and a mariachi band.

                I saw a recent thread about Mexican food in Queens recently, and I'm dying to take a field trip.

                1. I recently had lunch at the Dos Cominos on 3rd and like 50th. I thought it was great. I ate at the bar and the bartender was great.

                  1. I swear by El Maguey y La Tuna on Houston. It's downmarket but very authentic and muy delicioso! (And I'm from L.A. too!)

                    7 Replies
                      1. re: buyrgah

                        Just had some El Maguey y La Tuna last night. Yum. I'm a former Angeleno, and have found the place is pretty close to what I'm used to out there.

                        Tehuitzingo on 10th Ave. serves pretty authentic tacos - similar to what I used to get in Mexico. Cheap and filling too.

                        1. re: kayonyc

                          We're totally on the same page! Love Tehuitzingo! Make me jealous and tell me what you had at Maguey last night...

                          1. re: kayonyc

                            I'm also a former Angeleno and now a Queensite, and I thought Maguey was pretty mediocre. Pretty substandard, especially compared to what you can get at most little corner Mexican joints in Queens (or LA). With so many Mexican choices now in NYC, I wouldn't bother with Maguey again.

                            1. re: E Eto

                              I am sorry you feel that way. I can't comment on the quality of the Queens mexican, although I've had some good tacos from the taco trucks along roosevelt. I've often had Pozole at Maguey, which was pretty darn tasty and good. I haven't found the dish anywhere else in NYC. I've had other dishes including the mole poblano there, and although the preparation was not perfect, I found the mole to be pretty darn complex and close to what I enjoyed in Puebla, Mexico. More than that, it's convenient - a mere two blocks away from where my bf lives - which to me is perfect.

                              You keep stating that Queens is better, without any specific examples. I would love to hear your specific suggestions. Which mexican choices should I be visiting in its stead?

                              1. re: kayonyc

                                Here's a post that needs some updating. I've also had the pozole at Maguey, and while it was probably the best thing on the menu, I've had better versions at several of the Mexican places on this list. The cooking at Maguey isn't really inspired or doesn't aspire to much more than feeding the LES crowds who don't know better. You're right, it's probably the best option in the area though.


                                1. re: kayonyc

                                  I like Coatzingo. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/247808 I've never been to Maguey but it WAS a Brooklyn restaurant, way out in the back end of Williamsburg, I remember passing it many times because my friend worked in a fish store nearby. According to Sietsema, they dumbed down many of the dishes when they moved to Manhattan. http://www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0...

                          2. dos caminos is pricey and a bit midtown/cheesey. pampano is authentic. take out is very inexpensive. mama mexico is across the street but not as good. don't bother with rosa mexicano.

                            1. Rocking Horse Cafe has definitely risen to the top of the pile for me. I've been a number of times and always have an excellent meal. Most recently had an amazing pork tenderloin special that was absolutely delicious. I also cant get enough of their salsa and chips and frozen pint margaritas..and guac.

                              I do like Dos Caminos but it always gets to be very pricey with their $12/2ppl guac (which i think is excellent), drinks etc. I always enjoy the food though.

                              I was very disappointed when I went to Rosa Mexicano. Found the food to be underwhelming for the price and the guac not nearly as good as the others.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: downtownstefanie

                                stay away from mamma mexico. please read the recent reviews here: http://menupages.com/restaurantdetail...
                                go around the corner to noche mexicana or anywhere else.

                                1. re: nativeNYer

                                  mama mexico is alright if you know what to order, don't get too fancy or stray into the more ambitious parts of the menu. the food is only adequate, it's not stellar and never really was, and after a particularly rubbery grilled calamari dish many years ago i swore i'd never order fish there again, but you go for the mini-vacation, fiesta atmosphere and the hospitality. it's great for small groups who want to drink margaritas in a festive atmosphere. juan, the owner, is one of the nicest men in the world, i've been eating in his restaurants for 15 years (since he was the manager at fiesta mexicana about 10 blocks up, fiesta mexicana burned down in '96 or '97 i believe...kitchen fire). when mama mexico first opened they were only about a third of the size they are now, and juan was extremely food proud, he used to say that all the recipes were his mother's and grandmother's. things may be slipping lately because i hear they opened two new restaurants and he's not as ever-present as he once was. i think mama mexico is one of the few restaurants in new york that walks the fine line between street food served in divey locations (where admittedly i've found much better food), and a nice restaurant setting with attention to design and a good-ish menu, without feeling completely ripped off.

                              2. dos caminos is awesome. Honestly, I'd say stick to their appetizer menu, and order appz and drinks for the table

                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    Hey a_and_w, now that you're in LA, getting to experience the wonders of regional Mexican food, I'm surprised you still think Pio Maya is so great. It's fine for a neighborhood takeout Mexican joint, but not a destination spot. They don't try to raise any standards there. That pretty much goes for many of the downtown spots like Maguey y la Tuna, or that taco stand in the east village/lower east side. I'm not sure what the OP's standards are, but I still suggest going to Spanish Harlem to the Mexican neighborhood, or to the far west side. Tehuitzingo and Tulcingo del Valle are better than the standard Manhattan places, but I feel I get better in Queens. I need to make a visit to those Spanish Harlem places one of these days.

                                    1. re: E Eto

                                      Believe me, it's a relative judgment. Of all the places I tried in Manhattan, Pio Maya reminded me the most of Cal-Mex. I actually prefer it to Tehuitzingo and Tulcingo del Valle, but that's partly because I'm a burrito guy. I second your suggestion of Spanish Harlem, and would add Sunset Park in Brooklyn. In another thread, I actually suggested that someone do a search for your posts re the former, but the same could be said for the latter.

                                      PS: Downtown Bakery is good, too. Again, however, it's a relative judgment.

                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                        Eric, a and w, where do you go in Spanish Harlem? My one trip to La Hacienda was horrible. I like El Paso and Itzocan, but imagine there must be better. There are all those little places along 116th St that need chowhound exploration and reports back. As soon as I have some free time...

                                        1. re: rose water

                                          Stumbled across an excellent Mexican place today called San Francisco de Asis, 1779 Lexington Avenue between 110th and 111th Streets, I guess that would be the borders between Spanish Harlem and El Barrio. We had a late lunch (circa 4pm), were the only non-Mexican customers in there and shared a taco carne enchilada (spicy pork), a taco barbacoa chivo (bbq goat) and a mole poblano. Tacos were good, mole poblano was delicious and sizeable served with rice and beans on the side. With 2 jarrito sodas, the bill came to $19 ($2.50 per taco, $10 for mole poblano). We were stuffed. Friendly + relaxed place, Mexican music and TV, we got by with limited Spanish but there is some English spoken. Highly recommended.

                                          I attach (1) a photo of the restaurant frontage and (2) the menupages link:


                                          1. re: oonth

                                            very cool. thanks.
                                            one thing: Spanish Harlem = El Barrio
                                            (el Barrio is Spanish for "the neighborhood", ie, Spanish Harlem)

                                            But, endearingly, the restaurant is named after an Italian saint (St. Francis of Assisi).

                                            I like Downtown Bakery on 1st Avenue as well. Great mole poblano among other things. The young guy who runs the place is really warm and is trying hard it seems.

                                            1. re: Andrew P.

                                              Thanks for the clarification on area names - I've been in NYC coming up for 2 years now and different maps seem to identify and demarcate neighbourhoods in different ways so it's good to know that they are one and the same. We were also a bit puzzled by the choice of name but it's definitely endearing as is the place overall.

                                              I will post a mini-review on a separate thread because I draw a distinction between places like this and fancier Mexican places in Manhattan like Pampano, Hells Kitchen, Suenos, Crema, Centrico etc and I am keen to hear about people's experiences at other places in Spanish Harlem.

                                              I will give Downtown Bakery a try at some point soon, it's much closer to home for me than El Barrio.

                                  2. I am no expert on "authentic" Mexican food but the place in NYC that has the best Mole sauces and feels the most authentic is El Maquey Y La Tuna. Rosa Mexicano, Dos Caminos and La Palapa are NY Mexican. They are all tasty but I am sure not up to LA standards.

                                    1. I gotta throw Centrico into the mix for good mexican. It's really interesting, because their in-restaurant dining menu is fairly progressive/inventive and can get a bit pricey, but for those fortunate enough to be in their delivery area, they have an excellent delivery menu with a completely different entree selection and is very inexpensive. Once they introduced it, we stopped going to the restaurant because we could get the same guac and chips we loved along with excellent entrees for 1/2 the price.

                                      1. I'm a huge fan of the tacos at El Toro Partido (Broadway between 139 and 140), although I haven't tried the other offerings, or the Ecuadorian fare there. Their portions are generous, the meat is perfectly cooked, and the cilantro and onions are crisp and flavorful. Try the taco al suadero (beef belly), it's simply divine.

                                        The decor is pretty plain--it's small, and looks like a nicer version of a Chinese takeout. They do have a pretty sweet jukebox, though.

                                        I can't speak to how it compares to the food in L.A., because different U.S. cities have Mexican immigrants from different regions, but I understand that the customers at El Toro Partido are predominantly from the Mexico City area.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kimcheater

                                          that sounds fantastic. thanks for the tip.

                                        2. Oh, and it's cheap. All the tacos are $2, except, interestingly, the vegetarian taco, which is $3.

                                          1. If you're willing to make the trip to Brooklyn, there is a great hole in the wall off the Lorimer stop of the L train. Just exit the train and walk toward the BQE, its basically under the overpass. Reminded me of eating back in San Diego...

                                            1. I have been to Pampano and I was not impressed...I didn't really even think it was Mexican. The guacamole was tiny and overpriced and although my fish was fresh it wasn't anything special. For fun Mexican (especially good for groups) I would recommend Gabriela's on the Upper West Side. The first time I went was right after they reopened in their new space (94th and Columbus) and there were some service issues but I have since been back, one time with a group of 10, and the service was great and the food was very good and reasonably priced. It is the best food for the money that I have tried in the city and I have been to Dos Caminos, Rosa Mexicano, etc.

                                              1. Did you ever find good mexican food? I know this place planning a Tamales Tequila Tasting that should be pretty, well, tasty. haha. I think it's going to be in May. My vote goes to Mama Mexico, at least until I check out what Queens has to offer.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: divinachina

                                                  I love Mama Mexico. I grew up in a Mexican border town and this food is pretty darn authentic. I know some other hounders don't think much of this place, but I've been very happy with my experiences.

                                                2. Please please please L.A. people, don't neglect Queens! Feast your eyes on these:



                                                  My favorite by far in Manhattan is Tulcingo. But I concede that much exploration needs to be done in all areas with a substantial Mexican population. In Manhattan: Spanish Harlem, including 3 Ave north of 105 or so; Columbus Ave north of 105 or so, Amsterdam too, and Amsterdam around 148 street. In Brooklyn, Sunset Park and Bushwich. In the Bronx, the gritty streets of Mott Haven.

                                                  Years ago one hound accessed US census data to find concentrations of Mexican immigrants and went and explored each of them. That's what needs to be done.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Brian S

                                                    Tulcingo rocks my world. Ever had the chilaquiles??

                                                    1. re: LFeinberg

                                                      Yes. They are better than what I got in Mexico City. The queso fresco (sp?) is great too. So are the Mexican scrammbled eggs.

                                                  2. The best, authentic mexican in the city is Mexicana Mama. Do not confuse it with Mama Mexico. Mexicana Mama is a very small, amazingly delicious mexican restaurant. Mexicana Mama
                                                    525 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014
                                                    nr. Charles St.