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Good, authentic Mexican in Manhattan?

  • j

Hey all,
I'm looking for (as the title may imply) some good quality, AUTHENTIC-style Mexican food in the city. No "Fresh Tortillas", Caliente Cab Co., or anything otherwise made overly bland for the gringos (like myself, haha). I used to live in Chicago and you could find fantastic Mexican/burrito places all over the city and suburbs. I've pretty much gotten used to traveling to Astoria now, as that's the only neighborhood near the city where I've found consistently good places - one in particular, a deli/restaurant called Tulcingo IV (off the Broadway stop) has been especially great for years. Can't say enough about that place. That said, I'm looking for some more options w/ less of a commute, given that I'm no longer anywhere near Astoria. I also am a fan of the Taco carts on 96th and Bway, and on 14th St. and 8th Ave, though their selection is obviously more limited. Thanks!

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  1. I have the same problem as I grew up in Northern California. The Queens spots you mentioned are great. I really like Florencia 13 on Sullivan Street (its very LA and not amazing Mexican food but certainly very good by New York standards. Also Telcingo del valle on 44th and 10 Ave is very good. Definitely try Florencia (really good tacos).

    1. Try Tajin in the Financial District -- 85 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10006. Good, inexpensive, authentic. 212-509-5017 Not sure about their hours -- I've only ever been there during weekday lunchtime.

      1 Reply
      1. re: n_larusso

        Tajin is pretty good. The same owners (if I am not mistaken) also have the higher-dollar, more comfortable joint La Bamba a couple of blocks away. This being said, I enjoyed my tacos at Tulcingo del Valle on Saturday more than I've enjoyed many meals at Tajin and Bamba.

      2. I just moved to NY from Texas a month ago. I desperately need answers to this question!!! :)

        1. El Maguey Y La Tuna, Tulcingo del Valle, El Centro, Zocalo, Mama Mexico, La Palapa

          1. i know it's a hike, but taqueria y fonda on amsterdam and 107 is amazing. it is a total hole in the wall but probably the best mexican i've had in new york. the vegetable burrito comes with actual vegetables like spinach and carrots and broccoli in it, and you can get brain tacos if that's your bag. and it's cheap enough for non-trustfunded columbia students.

            7 Replies
            1. re: ginagee

              As another Chicago ex-pat living in NYC, I feel your pain, joeyz. I've also traveled a bit in Mexico seeking out the best food (is there any other kind of travel, really?).

              I second Taqueria y Fonda. Their tortas are the best I've found so far in the city. It gets a lot of Columbia students seeking burritos, which is too bad. Their other dishes are far more flavorful and authentic. It helps that I live only a few blocks away.

              In the same neighborhood, a bit further south, is Noche Mexicana at 102nd and Amsterdam. Don't be put off by the bagged chips they serve you, their chalupas and chilaquiles are some of the best in the city. Service can be slow and spotty however.

              I'm also a fan of El Paso Taqueria on the east side, on 97th between Madison and Park. Great chilaquiles there as well.

              In Spanish Harlem, I like El Tapatio on 116th just east of 3rd Avenue - wonderful Pozole. I haven't explored as much of this area as I would like but I suspect many gems can be found here.

              Mexican Independence Day is coming up (Sept 16th) and in previous years there has been a wonderful street fair on 116th between 2nd and Lex where many, many food vendors set up shop. I stumbled upon it a few years ago and it reminded me of the street festivals in Mexico City.

              And then there is the Sobres y Ruedas taco truck on 96th and Broadway, which you've already discovered. Best for tacos and tamales, I think. But you already know about that.

              1. re: mjps2

                second the chilaquiles at noche mexicana. huge serving and the green sauce is fantastic. i think the first time i went, i ate the whole serving and went comatose for 3 hours it was so filling.

              2. re: ginagee

                I personally thought the burritos at Taqueria y Fonda were awful. Filled with lettuce and gummy cheese, dry tortilla, no whole beans, etc.. I'd stick with tacos and tortas since I agree their meat is pretty decent.

                1. re: a_and_w

                  i stopped ordering the giant burritos once I realized how amazing the rest of the food was.

                  1. re: AndrewOG

                    I don't think it can be considered a burrito...it's really a pile of food covered with a tortilla. I was sorely disappointed when I ate there, high expectations from all the rave reviews. All I got was a soggy styrofoam box which i couldn't just pick up and sink my teeth into...

                    But i think i'll have to go back and try their tortas

                    1. re: kelea

                      kelea, sounds like you got take out at noche mexicana. you may like it far better if you eat in.

                2. re: ginagee

                  I would have to disagree with ginagee about y fonda. I am a Columbia student and grew up in LA and I found this place mediocre at best (and extremely overpriced for the quality.....$13 for so-so enchiladas at a whole in the wall restaurant where the food is being cooked right in front of you is not a good bargain).

                3. For good authentic Mexican, you can either

                  1) go to Tulcinco del Valle http://www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0...

                  2) Go north of 100th street. There are, or at least used to be, a lot of places on 116 St near 3rd av and on 3rd av south of 116. Others on columbus and Amsterdam just north of 100th st. And a few on Amsterdam around 145 street

                  3)Go to Jackson Heights, where you'll find my favorite. A few days ago I had pig's feet in a rich, thick chipotle-flavored red sauce. They also had a special of goat's rumen sauteed in blood... which I've had before and is also great (a lot better than it sounds

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Brian S

                    big thumbs up for noche mexicana on w102 and amsterdam. the toq and fonda place others have mentioned is indeed a huge favorite among many. please, please, please don't let anyone talk you into mama mexico. just read the reviews on menupages.

                    1. re: Brian S

                      Several nabes I forgot

                      1 Just south of the Port Authority bus terminal are, or at least used to be, several Mexican places that serve workers from the Garment district

                      2 a small Mexican nabe in the South Bronx around 139 Street and Brook Ave

                      3 and of course Sunset Park in Brooklyn

                      1. re: Brian S

                        I went looking for Mexican restaurants today in the South Bronx and found quite a few:


                      2. re: Brian S

                        I went walking along 3rd Avenue yesterday and all the Mexican places on 3rd Av I referred to above are gone. But 116th Street is still going strong, at least 4 Mexican restaurants on the block betweeen 2nd and 3rd, plus a taco stand outside a store selling Mexican rodeo outfits and cowboy boots.

                      3. I also grew up in Chicago in a large Mexican neighborhood and have come to love authentic Mexican food. Though I'm no authority, I've learnt to ignore the claims of authority from most "gringos" as you say. (especially the Californians -- yeesh! just because you have a lot of Mexicans in LA doesn't mean you know what their food is like) My Mexican friends took me to Spanish Harlem for some of the best in the city. One can walk through the neighborhood to scout out different flavors, but we used to go to one repeatedly on Lexington near 110th. I believe it's called San Francisco de Asissi. There are a few other good options in more convenient areas: Telcingo del Valle, if I remember correctly, is authentic. BrianS knows his stuff better than most.

                        1. We finally find THE TACO PLACE in Manhattan, Thanks to Mr. Darin Bresnitz. (www.dinnerwiththeband.com) You have no idea how long it takes and how many places we have try in the city and every time results in disappointment. How come all the self-proclaimed “Authentic Mexican” places have Jerk Chicken on the menu? That’s not even Mexican, that’s Jamaican dumb ass. The closest we got is El Maguey Y La Tuna on Houston but that’s not cheap ass. And that’s why I am in total ecstasy when I discover Tehuitzingo.

                          This Mexican Deli Taco joint is named after Tehuitzingo, a municipality located in the Puebla province in Mexico. Since most of the Mexicans in New York came from Puebla that has its own cuisine and culture, Tehuitzingo offers a comfy, friendly and great traditional food for the homesick Mexican workers. When we are there, there is a lonely hombre drinking 12 packs of Corona by himself, relaxing and keep feeding the jukebox full of Mexican Norteño music.

                          We are not talking about Tex-Mex here, we are talking about tacos that are as authentico as you can get on the street in Mexico. Trust me, Young drives cross-countries from San Francisco to Mexico to El Salvador for months. Here’s the list of tacos we keep chowing down until I feel like I am impregnated:

                          CARNITAS ($2)- deep-fried pork seasoned with garlic, thyme and oregano and cooked in lard, crunchy texture with juicy meat, Excellente!

                          ENCHILADA (AL PASTOR) ($2)- marinated with a blend of different spices and gravy, then slowly cooked with pineapple and onion on top, I dunno why they call it Enchilada but its obviously Al pastor, anyhow I am not Mexican but this is absolutely Muy Delicioso!

                          BARBACOA ($2.50)- not only where the term barbecue originated from but also means slow cooking a whole sheep on open fire. In this version, marinades are not used and sauces are not applied until the meat is fully cooked, resulting in a Goat taco with great flavor and a bit dry in texture. Muy Bueno!

                          LENGUA ($2.50)- beef tongue slow cooked with spices (usually boiled), in their version they pan seared a bit to give it a charred crunchy surface, Mi Favorito!

                          CHICHARRON en SALSA VERDE ($2)- fried pigskin in green sauce makes with Tomatillos, chilles Serrano, garlic, onion and cilantro. Its all fat and skin, too heavy unless you are preparing to get wasted. Bueno Para Conseguir Bebido!

                          CABEZA ($2.50)- head taco, head of a cow steamed over night, the bones and gristle removed and the meat shredded and stirred with its broth. The meat is well-cooked without much grease because its all steamed away. Hacerme El Drool!

                          BISTECK ($2)- Great beef taco that I cannot remember how it taste anymore and all I remember is I drank 3 Modelo and ate 4 tacos already. All I can recall is Uno Más Uno Más Por Favor Mamacita!

                          They also serve Menudo (beef tripe soup that fixes your hung over) on Saturday. This place is a real BYOB, basically you Buy Your Own Beer there at the deli and drink it there, we pay $2 per can for Modelo. And last, you don’t have to but please be sure to tip the Mamacitas in the kitchen well, they are more hardworking than you.

                          For the earlier review by Mr. Darin Bresnitz here’s the link:

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: youngjung

                            Thanks for this lovely report. I remember that Tehuitzingo was closed for a while, good to see it back. Also note that it is a few doors away from Tulcongo del Valle, so you can visit both places on the same trip!!

                            1. re: Brian S

                              Port Authority bus terminal really I have to check it out!
                              thanks for the tip

                              1. re: youngjung

                                They might be long gone. I know a really good one on 9 Av and 38 closed years ago. I think there was one on 39 or 40th just west of 8th ave, and there might be others on those Garment District side streets.

                                1. re: youngjung

                                  I walked there today just to check it out. On 39th street between 8 and 9th Ave, I saw three places, and a fourth on 38th.All the places look really authentic. I got a menu from one of the places, which I do believe is the first authentic restaurant I had ever seen, when it was new back in the 80s. Now it's old, but the menu lists a lot of good dishes like Mole Poblano, Pipian, and Adobo de Puerca Rojo.

                                  Rinconcito Mexicano
                                  307 W 39 st
                                  (212) 268-1704

                              2. re: youngjung

                                Oh I am so there. And thanks for the pix.

                                1. some pictures from
                                  Tehuitzingo Mexican Deli

                                  695 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036 (btw 47 & 48 st)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: youngjung

                                    if you're gonna go to tehuitzingo, you might as well go to tulcingo (1 block south, dining area, and they speak english)

                                  2. Try Tehuitzingo Grocery (i think this is the correct spelling) on 9th or 10th Ave between 46, 47th street.
                                    Great, they expoanded with more seating next door. Make sure they serve you the homeade hot sauce with chips, excellent guac and had prok ribs in a red sauce with nopales. My friend had Red Mole chicken, that looked serious.

                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: MatawanChick

                                        Dos CAminos is neither good nor authentic.

                                      1. re: Nick F.

                                        I find Pio Maya frustratingly lackluster. I wanted so bad to like it but most every dish has left me disappointed because of it's mediocrity. It's hard to pinpoint but their meats tend to be too dry and most dishes seem to lack in overall flavor.

                                        1. re: billyeats

                                          Try their Pio combination, the roasted chicken, probably their best item. Also, the Tortas are not bad.

                                      2. Although it is more Mexican upscale, the food at Maya on 1st ave and 65th st. is fantastic. My family tried it for the first time a week or so ago and we had one of the best meals we've had in a while.

                                          1. Sunset Park has a LOT of authentic Mexican food, Corona/Jackson Heights has a huge Mexican population, El Paso Taqueria at 104 & Lex is good, authentic, but has already been "discovered" so it's often crowded.

                                            1. Taco Taco on 2nd and 91st (I believe) is really good. They have great soft tacos. Plain and simple good Mexican food!

                                              1. the only two places to go -- Rosa Mexiacans and Zaralas

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: sugakc69

                                                  didnt rosa mexicano close? a few months ago

                                                2. Any ever eat at La Palapa Rockola in the West Village?
                                                  I thought it was great and reasonably priced for a nice restaurant.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: AndrewOG

                                                    Yes. I think it's pretty mediocre.

                                                    1. re: AndrewOG

                                                      i go there quite often. it's far from "great", but it doesn't suck, like most other nyc mexican "food". you still have 2 days left on their "cactus" festival....i had catfish tamales with cactus recently. not sure how mexican catfish is... :-)

                                                    2. Best two places hands down: El Parador and Mercadito.

                                                      1. I'd strongly encourage everyone to go to the red hook ballfields for all sorts of mexican treats. expecially the huaraches and pupusas. other than that there are a couple of places in the east village on 1st ave between 2nd and 5th streets that are pretty decent. puebla and downtown bakery. you can find them on menupages.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: artfuldestruct

                                                          A quick note of thanks to youngjung for suggesting tehuitzingo in hell's kitchen. I went on saturday and was tremendously impressed with the depth of flavors, quality of ingredients, and overall authenticity of the tacos. It's recommendations like this - the "bourdain-ian" recommendation to the "rachel ray-ian" recommendation of dos caminos or rosa mexicana, if you will - that make chowhound such a valuable site. Thanks again - fantastic!

                                                        2. The Daily News did a listing of great Mexican in the city recently including a lot of CH favorites and some new options: http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/....

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                            Maria's in Park Slope (3rd ave. and Union St) is a higher end, really good mexican restaurant. i grew up in Dallas, TX and i just took my whole family there and everyone loved it.

                                                            1. re: demigodh

                                                              lol everytime i try and go there it is closed! am i crazy(don't answer that!)...

                                                          2. http://www.toloachenyc.com/

                                                            Toloache seems to be a new place. Went there for dinner. Got the Mole Chicken which was very good. I usually don't order Chicken when going to a restaurant.

                                                            1. Mexico Lindo.
                                                              First and 26th or 27th.
                                                              Been going for years.

                                                              1. Im sorry, Mexico Lindo is on 2nd and 26th or 27th.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: kcijones001

                                                                  Mexico Lindo isn't very authentic, IMO.

                                                                2. I'm a transplanted Austinite, and the only food I've had that has shown any sort of authenticity was at Rico's Tacos in Sunset Park — 51st and 5th Ave. So real, cheap and delicious. They play norteño on the stereo and cannot speak a word of English.

                                                                  I question that there is any authentic Mexican (at least to my Chihuahuan-interior sensibilities) in Manhattan. Maybe California-authentic, but does that really count ?

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: cmballa

                                                                    There are any number of "authentic" Mexican delis/takeout places uptown. My understanding is that almost all of them feature Poblano/Southern Mexican food, which might not come across as familiar to people who know Southwestern or Texican kind of cooking.

                                                                    I had a great barbacoa of goat at a little takeout place with six tables on the 158th St. block of Broadway called La Fiesta Guadalupana II two weeks ago. Also little/no English spoken inside by employees or patrons. Nevertheless, I got very gracious and friendly service, huge portions and the green sauce served with the meat was condiment heaven.

                                                                    As for the Manhattan standards of Mexican cuisine (Maryann's, etc.) ... No, not all that authentic nor all that great, either.

                                                                  2. There's a taco truck at 14th Street and 8th Avenue but only after 8pm that I think is pretty good. I also remember a truck on 103rd St and Broadway that was better than the 96th St one. I went to the Red Hook ballfields for the first time recently and thought the vendors were great. I had that yummy roast corn with lime, cheese and chili. I still haven''t checked out the Jackson Heights Mexican places (of which there are many) because I love Indian food so much that I always eat that when I go there.

                                                                    About 5 years ago I used to buy tamales from a woman selling them out of a shopping cart right near Port Authority on 8th Avenue. I've looked for her recently but she seems to be gone.

                                                                    1. I've often seen the dreaded fajita on menus at Mexican restaurants, but I've never noticed the apparent plethora of places serving Jerk Chicken.

                                                                      So the preparation of tacos is so inherently difficult that it saps 100% of the taco maker's life focus? They're precluded from possibly learning a few words of basic English, have I got that right? If you're not greeted in Spanish, if the servers understand such complex phrases as "3 chicken tacos please", it can't possibly be the real thing?

                                                                      If Shakira or Juanes is playing on the jukebox rather than nortenas, that's a sign you should head straight for the door? If nortenas are replaced by merengues or bachatas after you've placed your order, you can just go ahead and dump your carnitas and barbacoa into the trash untouched?

                                                                      Anyway, I've been to those 2 places in Hell's Kitchen people have been mentioning, they seem to be about on par with some of the better tacos I've had on Roosevelt Ave in Queens. I like how the place a little further south includes all the trimmings like the radishes and guac, I believe the tacos there would ordinarily cost just slightly more than their competitor to the north, but I insisted my guacamole be prepared tableside, so 3 tacos cost me $28.

                                                                      1. I grew up in Los Angeles, so I hear you. I can't find much that tastes right. (I was all excited, at one point, about a place in Brooklyn that had "L.A.-Style Tacqueria" painted on the building, but... nope.

                                                                        The arroz con pollo at Baby Bo's tasted right, at least as of a couple of years ago. The rest of the menu seemed a little New Yorky, but if you're in the neighborhood, it's worth checking out.

                                                                        Also, if you ask a mixed group of Texans and Angelenos about "authentic Mexican," you're going to start a fight about which is correct. (And neither side is really eating Mexican.)

                                                                        1. I really like Barrio Chino in the LES. In terms of dishes on the menu and flavor it is very authentic. The prices are also reasonable by Manhattan standards.

                                                                          1. I just posted a list of the daily specials at my favorite Mexican restaurant. If, gentle reader, you still believe that you can't find authentic Mexican food in New York City, just look at this list and it will change your mind.