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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 here....in 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?

            TIA,
            Bob

            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.
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/443018
              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.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/564330

      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

                1. On the high end, La Serenata de Garibaldi in Boyle Heights and, if you want to go all food-as-art on your friends, Babita Mexicuisine in San Gabriel. For Yucatan food, Chichen Itza near MacArthur Park. For Oaxacan, there are so many great places, but the obvious starting place is Guelaguetza in Palms. In East L.A./Boyle Heights, try Teresitas for an excellent traditional sit-down Mexican meal. Enrique's in Long Beach is also one of the greats. For a street-food burrito, I confess an addiction to the carnitas-bean one at Yuca's Hut in Los Feliz. As for taquerias and taco trucks, I don't know why people say that's not an L.A. thing-- there are great ones all over the place, especially in Highland Park, East L.A., Eagle Rock, Pasadena and environs, but there are even a few on the westside.. Bandini's Great Taco Hunt blog is a great place to research

                  1. There's more to Mexican than tacos and burritos. You may have arrived in Los Angeles just in time!

                    Call La Serenata de Garibaldi for a reservation and head immediately to Boyle Heights. Do NOT go to the westside. Boyle Heights!

                    You'll get excellent seafood and market fresh produce in a gracious but relaxed environment and find out what GREAT Mexican is all about. They've got the regular combos of rice + beans + taco/burrito/chili relleño/etc. too if that's what you've gotta have but, seriously, you don't want to miss the seafood. Also gorditas, sopas and other interesting appetizers. Don't miss the fish quesadilla for two or the filete de tomate either. If that isn't enough of a selection their caldos are also wonderful -- provided you've got the appetites -- they're HUGE!

                    There's valet parking in the back.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: rainey

                      Concur... and also concur on only going to the Boyle Heights branch, no matter how convenient the Westside branches are to you. The only reason to go to the Pico branch is for the flan.

                      But at Boyle Heights... I mean, they make a MEAN huitlacoche sauce. At this time of the year it means preserved huitlacoche but it's still delicious. Though I might go the extra 10 minutes to San Gabriel to Babita for the chiles en nogada (it's the season now).

                      Just don't order the margaritas. They have a wine and beer license (meaning they can also serve sake and soju) and it ain't a margarita without tequila.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Yup! The huitlacoche is excellent -- even if you know what it is... ;> If you don't, google
                        "Steve, Don't Eat It!" but don't let that stop you. http://www.thesneeze.com/mt-archives/...

                        Personally, I think the margaritas are pretty tasty too. I just think of them as another kind of margarita and enjoy.

                      2. re: rainey

                        I have been here many times and I must say it is pretty good but a bit overpriced and "watered-down"

                        I guess what I am saying is that if I want Mexican food I want to be surrounded by hungry Mexicans......LOL

                        no offense to this place, just think it is a little overrated.

                      3. Ciro's is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Boyle Heights.

                        Literally right down the street from El Tepeyac on Evergreen.

                        The chorizo and eggs is amazing and just about everything I have ever ordered there has not let me down.

                        1. “definitely looking for authentic taqueria type places.” I like it when people know what they are looking for. There are many good Mexican food places in the San Gabriel Valley (I have lived here for a few decades after moving from Brooklyn) but I know only one place that I would say is an “authentic taqueria.” The standard is the size of the menu and how many of the items on that menu are excellent. This is a small shack with a very large menu of authentic foods including lengua, chicken, al pastor, carnitas, cabeza, sesos, chorizo, deep fried shrimp and more. Every food item is made into tacos, burritos, sopes or tortas at your order. and IMO, each are "amazing.." Most tacos are $1 and this place has real Mexican coke. Worth the drive!
                          Taqueria LA Cabana
                          3402 Cogswell Rd
                          El Monte, CA 91732
                          (626) 448-9310
                          My recent post about the chorizo and directions. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/586256

                          For some red or green pork tamales try Maria's Bakery
                          4743 Peck Rd (Just south of the CVS)
                          El Monte, CA
                          (626) 444-8109

                          1. Manny's in East LA. They have the biggest burritos I have ever seen in life!

                            1. I see that El Parian was mentioned above but more needs to be said about what they do right. The Asada standard in L.A. is set by El Parian. See the link below for a great discussion about that standard. This place is also well respected for their birreria (goat) and because the corn tortillas are fresh made and folded into very large tacos. The down side is the chips and salsa but the great beer selection helps to make up for that.

                              Another place for pretty good asada and gost is El Jacal. The asada taco is made with a fresh house made corn tortilla and only a slice of avocado – true Mexico style. IMO, the goat soup is best here. It can is so tender and the broth is perfect. Also, very good chips and salsas (green and red). Nice place inside and a good menu of shrimp plates. All the soups and sauces here are true Mexican food.

                              El Parian 1528 W Pico Blvd,
                              Los Angeles, CA.
                              ( 213) 386-7361
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/581082

                              El Jacal
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/79899

                              1. I grew up in So Cal and lived in NY for 4 years... for the most part, NYers couldn't find mexico on a map... although, I did find one authentic place in Yonker's NY but I felt my life was in danger if I didn't go there when there was plenty of sunshine and a at the minimum of a small group.

                                Jackattack's correct... finding good Mexican food in So Cal is as easy as taking a deep breath.

                                I have to agree with DUNNBATES posting. If you're looking for moles, start with guelaguetza restaurante in palms/west la area. Their website is guelaguetzarestaurante.com. And, I agree that Yuca's in Los Feliz, while nothing to look at from the outside... it's literally looks like a 12x12 foot box with a window... their burritos are very good.

                                Another place to try if you're still looking for a burrito fix is El Torino in Koreatown... it's a weird place... half the clients are korean and the other half are latinos. I happen to be white. The food's great... and that's all that matters. I love their carne asada burritos

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: DrBruin

                                  "... for the most part, NYers couldn't find mexico on a map..."

                                  According to recent studies, many college grads can't find Mexico (or France or China) on a map.

                                  Yes a million times to Yuca's, especially their beautifully folded and delicately juicy cochinita pibil burrito. Roberto Berrelleza should eat there every day for a week, take careful notes, and then go back to his kitchen with a renewed sense of purpose. (Sorry for the blasphemy -- I hope no children are reading this.)

                                  Also yes to those who recommend the La Serenata location in Boyle Heights. (Just be careful not to spill that tequila miniature into your wine margarita under the table.) And La Casita in Bell has the best Chiles en Nogada around, IMHO, although Babita may soon be a real competitor if Berrelleza takes my advice about Yuca's and learns how to cook shreds of pork into something greater than mush. (I'm just following the logic here. I do love Babita otherwise.)

                                  Finally, I also want to love Moles "La Tia," if for no other reason than their outlandishly lame 1992-style Web site (http://www.moleslatia.com/index.html). Like La Casita, it's a charming and warm space, but so far I've found limp, overdressed salads, bland and slightly over-cooked shrimp, and underseasoned and well-seasoned elements in the same dish. The coffee mole was interesting as a project but not as food and not delicious. They do have a big menu, however, and the place is very appealing, so I intend to keep trying for a while on the recommendation of several respected 'hounds.

                                  -----
                                  Yuca's
                                  2056 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                                  La Casita Mexicana
                                  4030 Gage Ave, Bell, CA 90201

                                  La Serenata De Garibaldi
                                  1842 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033

                                  Moles La Tia
                                  4619 E Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90022