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Jan 5, 2009 04:52 PM

New Yorkers seeking amazing Mexican food

My west coast friends tell me that there is no good Mexican food in New York. As somebody who frequents Jackson Heights and Sunset Park, I tend to think that my friends are wrong. But just to give them the benefit of the doubt - what are some can't-miss places I must visit in the LA area? We are definitely looking for authentic taqueria type places (as opposed to Tex Mex). Although we also appreciate a good burrito. Any suggestions are appreciated.

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  1. It's everywhere out what end of town will you be staying?

    6 Replies
    1. re: jackattack

      We're staying near LAX, but we will be all over the city (certainly will have to make a trip to East L.A.).
      I know it's everywhere- I just wanted to hear what people recommend and I will decide where to go based on proximity to where I happen to be a given time. Make sense?

        1. re: Servorg

          It gets asked again and again, and Sevorg has done an invaluable service for you.These are the places to go, the ones mentioned on those two threads.

          You want amazing Mexican bennyt, but would settle for a burrito, or a taqueria?Taquerias are great options in Mexico, but there aren't many good ones here.A good burrito, not Tex-Mex, would fall into the Cal-Mex, or Mexican-American category.

          Amazing Mexican food can be found in LA in the forms mentioned by E Eto, below.
          My short list would be:
          Moles La Tia-Oaxaca(Mixteca)
          Mariscos Chente-Sinaloa/Nayarit
          Breed St.-D.F., Jalisco, and Veracruz for tacos,pozole, gorditas, quesadillas preparadas,sopes,pambazos, and huaraches.
          La Casita-Puebla and Jalisco
          La Huasteca and Babita for alta cocina.
          Chichen Itza and Flor de Yucatan-Yucatan

          If you're willing to explore beyond the bland taquerias and burritos.If you're just looking for that comfort food feeling of the burrito, but would like something better I would get a pambazo from Breedt St.A french roll fried in guajillo chile sauce, stuffed with potatoes and chorizo, and cheese, with a hot habanero salsa.Park on the street, get a chela from your car and put it in a plastic cup, and have that with your pambazo, chase that with a couple of tacos of cochinita and cueritos(pickled pig skin).Then, go get a tostada de pata from the pozole vendor or the pozole itself.Enjoy the atmosphere of Boyle Heights and some of the best Mexican street food in LA.Just a thought.

          1. re: streetgourmetla

            Help SGLA!
            I can't find any location for Breed (or is it Breedt) St.
            Is this the night market Exile reviewed?


            1. re: Ciao Bob

              Hey Ciao Bob, yes Exilekiss did an thorough review of this place a while back and I had done a post on this place in Sept '07.The location is at the end of my post and a link to the LA Times story that came out a couple of months later in 11/07.
              It's in Boyle Heights.Exilekiss reviewed all the places, and I just highlighted my favorite hits.I go by there as often as possible.

              Nina's is the best place, the pozole lady, and the Veracruzana with her home style tacos are the best bites there.

              1. re: Ciao Bob

                Hi Ciao Bob,

                Yes. Thanks to streetgourmetla's encouragement and review, I tried it out and it was a blast! :) Here's my thoughts on it and the Chow Place Link for a Map of the area.


      1. Not far from LAX you have El Abajeno in Culver City, or Casa Sanchez on South Centinela. El Tarasco in Manhattan Beach would be easy to get to as well, especially since you GOTTA go to the beach! Lares in Santa Monica also comes to mind, and in
        West Hollywood check out the Loteria Grill.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jackattack

          fwiw, i absolutely would NOT categorize el tarasco as 'amazing.'
          imho, they serve cheap, bland, greasebombs that are best enjoyed very late at night when you've had way too much to drink.

        2. The Mexican in New York is OK, and getting better all the time, but there isn't the huge Mexican population in New York the way there is here (that's not to say there aren't a hell of a lot of Mexicans in New York, but it's not more than half the population).

          Get onto Bandini's Taco Hunt blog. It's slightly stale content but most of the places are still around. You have halal chicken rice carts and the Dessert Truck; we have taco trucks and tepache carts.

          1. The most authentic of NY's Mexican food is pretty much from the state of Puebla, and for those dishes, one could even argue that NY's Poblano dishes might beat out LA's. So fight the urge if you're in the mood for mole poblano, or a cemita, and try restaurants that specialize in foods from other regions of Mexico that are nonexistent in NYC. Like Oaxacan, Sinaloan, Michoacan, Yucatan, Baja, etc. You'll have to dig through posts to get some of that info, but it's around. Do searches for places like Babita, Tacos Baja Ensanada, Carnitas Michoacan, Monte Alban, Guelaguetza, El Parian, Casa Sanchez, or Nayarit style seafood.

            For one-stop convenience, you might want to check out Mercado Paloma, which has a small food court with Yucatan and Oaxacan stands. Also check out Grand Central Market in Downtown for all kinds of Mexican and Mexican-American foods.

            8 Replies
            1. re: E Eto

              You could indeed argue that the NYC Poblano places were better than L.A.'s, but you'd pretty much be wrong. Which is kind of dismaying, actually.

              1. re: condiment

                I've tried a couple places for cemitas in LA, including the much celebrated Elviritas Cemitas Poblanas, as well as the Cemitas truck parked at Pico/Fairfax, and I can conclude that the ones I'm get at my favorite place in NYC (Tia Julia) ranks much higher on the cemitas scale than the ones I've had from these two places in LA. Even my second favorite place in NYC (Taqueria Coatzingo) scores much higher. I'm sure there are dozens of other places to check out in LA for cemitas, but I stand by my original comment that if a NYer wants Mexican food in LA, go for the multitudes of other regional Mexican than food from Puebla, which I will most likely do henceforth, unless I hear of some other really stellar cemitas, since these two LA versions did absolutely nothing for me.

                1. re: E Eto

                  Hello E Eto.While there is no Pueblan regional restaurant in LA specializing in that cuisine, there are some serious options.Cemitas are a fantastic street food in Puebla, and also in D.F., but Puebla has much more to offer.Moles La Tia in East LA makes a traditional mole poblano that is killin', NY has nothing to rival.La Casita and Babita also offer substantial chiles en nogada,La Casita has other Pueblan dishes as well, one of the chef's hails from Puebla, I believe the other is from Jalisco.There are places like Angelica's in Lennox that have Pueblan dishes like a mole verde poblano, among others.And yes, there are many cemitas trucks besides the J. Gold exposed places.So, those looking for comida poblana have other options here besides the street cemita, which is a beautiful thing indeed.

                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                    While I'm sure you are quite correct that there are many exceptional Poblano dishes to be had in LA, my point is that for a NYer to come to LA to specifically find those would be a task for someone really dedicated to it. Even in NYC, there are hundreds of Mexican places that are under the CH radar, which in all probability will specialize in Poblano dishes because that's where 96% (that's just a guess) of the Mexicans in NY are from. My other point is that a NYer in LA should try to find the foods that they won't be able to find in NY, which is everything but Poblano regional food. Do you have a favorite Mexican place in NYC?

                    This comment was also to address the longstanding stereotype that there is no good Mexican food in NYC, which seems to be a prevalent idea for those who haven't explored the Mexican neighborhoods in NYC, which I invite anyone to do.

                    1. re: E Eto

                      You're absolutely right, people do pass off NY as not having any Mexican at all.No, I don't have a favorite NY restaurant for Mexican.I usually look for other things when I go as I'm in Mexico quite a bit.Tell you the truth, I just recently starting looking hard at the local Mexican scene here in LA, more within the last 2 years.We are getting at lot more interesting places here these days.I'll check out some of your posts, I'd be curious to know about any comprehensive pueblan restaurants in NY, that have full menus that are challenging.

              2. re: E Eto

                Just to clarify, Eric, when you say to avoid Pueblan mole poblano, does this include Oaxacan mole negro, as well? They're very similar, but I really think the Oaxacan version is well worth trying at places like Monte Alban, which you mention.

                I would skip the burritos in LA, particularly if you're looking for something like you'd find in SF or Chicago. Instead, gorge yourself on tacos, which are divine. Keep in mind that there's just more produce available at cheaper prices year around in LA, so even the humble stuff will be a step above what you find in NYC.

                1. re: a_and_w

                  Just for clarity, "pueblan mole poblano" is redundant. Poblano = Pueblan (just different languages). So mole poblano means Pueblan style mole. Which is why you can find mole poblano everywhere in NYC. Try telling an Oaxacan or Poblano that their moles are similar. I think they'd disagree.

                  Also, the kind of burritos that I like are more stew-ish, like machaca or chile verde, which is something you don't find in SF very often. I wouldn't write off burritos in LA just because they don't taste like the ones in the bay area.

                  1. re: E Eto

                    I was being deliberately redundant to make the distinction clear -- apologies if it had the opposite effect. My understanding is that mole negro is the Oaxacan version of a chocolate-based mole that originated in Puebla. Regardless, can I assume from your comments that you would NOT discourage people from trying mole negro at a Oaxacan place in LA?

                    As for burritos, we'll have to agree to disagree. I find that people who come from what I think of as burrito towns (SF, Chicago, San Diego, etc.) are disappointed by the LA version. It's not just that they're different -- burritos just don't seem to be the focus of taquerias the way they are elsewhere. That's not to say you can't find a great burrito in LA, just that it wouldn't be my priority if I were visiting.

              3. Los Angeles is less into the taqueria joints than San Francisco. More into burritos and enchiladas etc, but not the queso you might find in Texas...

                Monte Alban - an essential restaurant, that makes the best moles I have had in LA. They have green, red, black etc. A bargain and delicious.

                Lares is where I go for great versions of "standard" mexican - i.e. burritos, tamales, enchiladas etc.

                I hope you made it to the Red Hook Ballfields this past summer if you were looking for good Mexican food in New York.

                Monte Alban
                11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                Lares Restaurant
                2909 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405