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Mexican in NYC?

k
kansel Jul 13, 2009 01:45 PM

My husband is partial to a decent burrito and I enjoy a good fajita and margarita. I am yet to stumble across a Mexican restaurant on my visits to NYC. Can anyone point me in the right direction? Entrees no more than around $15-$20.

Thanks

  1. c
    capeva Sep 27, 2010 12:03 AM

    Mexican food in the capital of the world? Why yes. The Mexican population is the largest group of Latino's/Hispanic's after Dominicans and Puertoricans in this city. I am talking a population of over 250,000 people. I may not know exact restaurants but I do know key neighborhoods that one should go to when in search of restaurants that serve great and authentic Mexican food, authentic products that are used in Mexican Cuisine, or Mexican Bakeries and more. They are the following: East Harlem (Spanish Harlem)* in Manhattan, Bushwick and Sunset Park in Brooklyn, Corona and Elmhurst in Queens, Mott Haven and Fordham in the Bronx, as for Staten Island well I do not know where. These are neighborhoods that have high concentrations of people of Mexican descent. Most of the restaurants that you find here are family-owned establishments that cater to low-income workers but most of the time the food is almost what you will find south of the border. Most of the Mexican population here in NYC and the tri-state area come from central states of Mexico. States such as Puebla**, Morelos, Guerrero, and Oaxaca, so you will see a great deal of Mole since the Mole sauces are popular in these states and legend has it that Mole comes from the state of Puebla. There is a great usage of Mexican herbs, vegetables and fruits that are sometimes only known in Mexico and more commonly known vegetables and fruits, and overall a bigger emphasis on fresher ingredients, qualities that are known in the foods that come from this region in Mexico.

    * Spanish Harlem is sometimes referred to as the epicenter of Mexico in New York, kind of like a Mexican version of a Chinatown.
    ** Most of the Mexican population in NYC is from Puebla, to the point that sometimes NYC is referred to as Puebla York, a nickname given to the city by people in Mexico and in NY since most Poblanos (people from Puebla) who immigrate to USA end up in NYC.

    1 Reply
    1. re: capeva
      bigjeff Sep 28, 2010 10:04 PM

      thanks for your notes; great! I know you said you didn't have specific recs but if you can think of any great dishes, at any great restaurants or shops, please do share.

    2. w
      Whoopingcrane Aug 27, 2009 09:24 PM

      I agree about Taco Taco. My fiancee is on the UES and I was happy with their food. I live in White Plains, though, and there's some great Mexican in Weschester. (I know that's a haul for someone trying to find something in the city). That's mostly because there tends to be more Mexicans north of the city (including myself). Believe it or not, Poughkeepsie has a large Oaxacan population and I've had some of the best mole poblano up there - but I digress. NYC is just not the place to find the most authentic Mexican (although I wouldn't necessarily call fajitas and burritos authentic). If you're willing to take a trip to the outer boroughs you'll find some decent taquerias.

      1. t
        thousandrobots Aug 18, 2009 05:43 PM

        Any thoughts on Crema or Sinigual?

        I tried Crema this week and was a little disappointed with the food (mostly unremarkable) and the service (a little too relaxed -- e.g., "how's everything, boss?").

        I was at Sinigual a few months ago, and really enjoyed the food. Service was average, but sincere. Not sure what hardcore hounds think (it is a chain, after all), but I thought it was good. Better than El Paso in East Harlem, where I've eaten a million times.

        Wondering what other people think.

        Note: I'm vegetarian.

        -----
        El Paso Taqueria
        1643 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10029

        Sinigual
        150 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

        2 Replies
        1. re: thousandrobots
          JungMann Aug 19, 2009 06:07 AM

          It has been a very long time since my visit to Crema so I am spotty on the service, but the undistinguished food is still pretty fresh in my mind. Everything tasted so bland for Mexican and overpriced for what it was. I haven't been back since.

          1. re: JungMann
            LeahBaila Aug 19, 2009 06:11 AM

            Agreed 100%

            www.thelunchbelle.com

        2. t
          tkm616 Aug 18, 2009 01:58 PM

          there definitely are not many good mexican rest. in the city. pinche taqueria has some of the best tacos in nyc. the owner's from so. cali. mexicana mama is decent. also, el parador has great mexican although it might be more in the $20-25 range for entrees

          1. E Eto Jul 24, 2009 09:49 PM

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/566630
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/310833
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/316261
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/519199
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/495780
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/198704
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/420021
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/377085
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/240514

            1. d
              DJIllies Jul 23, 2009 03:30 PM

              We moved here from California and think Maz Mezcal at 316 East 86th Street is the best.

              1 Reply
              1. re: DJIllies
                t
                tkm616 Aug 18, 2009 03:04 PM

                i used to live in the ues and i heard a lot about it so i gave maz mezcal a couple of tries but i was disappointed both times. not to say that the food isn't good but it didn't live up to the hype. i just came back from a food tour in cali so maybe i'll try it again to compare.

              2. u
                UWStoSONO Jul 22, 2009 05:34 PM

                Definitely try Cilantro!

                There are 3 of them in NYC: http://www.cilantronyc.com/485_columb...

                3 Replies
                1. re: UWStoSONO
                  c
                  City Kid Jul 23, 2009 06:47 AM

                  Cilantro is Southwestern. Anyone looking for authentic Mexican might be disappointed. I have found the one in the east 80s to be good, not great.

                  1. re: City Kid
                    j
                    Jorel Jul 23, 2009 09:33 AM

                    Anyone looking looking for fajitas at an authentic Mexican restaurant will also be disappointed. Not that there is anything wrong with fajitas or Tex-Mex cuisine... I'm just sayin'.

                  2. re: UWStoSONO
                    e
                    eameyer Jul 24, 2009 12:42 PM

                    Cilantro has great margs.

                  3. NellyNel Jul 22, 2009 01:11 PM

                    Here's a recent thread - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/617346

                    1. s
                      steakrules85 Jul 22, 2009 12:44 PM

                      Even though it is a chain, I think Rosa Mexicano is great. Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to try any other Mexican restaurants.

                      But from heresay Zarela, Mercadito, Pampano and Tolochinghe (spelling??) are supposedly the best.

                      I was always interested about Mama Mexicano also.

                      1. s
                        serious Jul 15, 2009 04:37 AM

                        Love Mexican food and truly serious approach to cooking is found at Zarela (2nd between 50-51) The very best margarita!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: serious
                          c
                          chloe4ever Jul 19, 2009 05:46 PM

                          The Big Enchilada. Hands down the best mexican in the city. A hole in the wall. But amazing food, service and prices.

                        2. u
                          UES Mayor Jul 15, 2009 04:26 AM

                          not gourmet by any means but u might like blockhead burritos-its always packed and whenever i walk by the food looks great. google for locations

                          1. e
                            eameyer Jul 14, 2009 02:08 PM

                            I love El Rio Grande. Great margs. 3rd and 37th. Would skip Mole, you can get just as good mexican from the frozen section of Whole Foods (I'm not trying to be rude by saying that, I literally think my entree was reheated frozen taquitos from Whole Foods.)

                            1. Spends Rent on Food Jul 14, 2009 08:53 AM

                              While Los Dos Molinos (18th between park Ave South and Irving) is more southwestern than mexican, I think they do a fantastic job on their burritos and enchiladas. Definitely worth a trip.

                              1. gracenotesnyc Jul 14, 2009 08:38 AM

                                Have you tried Mexicana Mama? I'm a big fan of their burritos and salsas and both locations have great service.

                                @kelea - completely agree about Dos Caminos - I made the mistake of going there for my birthday with some friends three years ago and it was possibly the worst meal I've ever had in New York. Not worth a visit.

                                1. j
                                  jgradieoakes Jul 13, 2009 05:18 PM

                                  Grew up in Texas, moved to California, have lived here for 6 years. You will not find the Tex- Mex you find in Austin or Dallas nor the Hatch chili sauces you would find in New Mexico nor the dirt cheap corner Wahoo's you would find in LA in New York City. But guess what: you wouldn't find that stuff in Mexico either! New Yorkers are funny about their Mexican food. We would never accept just a plain red sauce joint as Great Italian but that's what we want in our Great Mexican joints: low brow. Consider the post below: Maya is tremendous, but if you're only used to eating combo plates or expect your Mexican to always be cheap, you won't be happy.

                                  I think there is tons of fantastic Mexican food in New York City but you might have to get beyond whatever your home town regional take on Mexican was. I was incredulous when I moved here when I couldn't find $9.99 Comida Completa plates that included a Dos XX or a margarita. Turns out there's a lot of great Mexican in the city though especially if you look beyond things that are wrapped in flour tortillas. I live on the East Side so most of my places are convenient to the 4/5/6.

                                  Zarela: this restaurant has been here for 20 years. The owner lived in El Paso, moved to Veracruz and has run this restaurant since. It has a lot of Veracruz style dishes so there's going to be a lot of fishes with sauce wrapped in banana leaves and stuff. It prices out at around $18 an entree and the drinks aren't dirt cheap. It's towards the high of your range but you should try it if you're here because it's great.

                                  Pampano and Pampano Taqueria: Pampano the restaurant is over your $20 per entree range. It's a high end Richard Sandoval place and you should try it. Pampano Taqueria is the bomb however even though it's located in the absolute worst place you could imagine (food court atrium of an office building). KILLER tacos, good tortas and good burritos. Tacos are $2.95 and burritos cap out at $8.00. I don't know if you can buy beer here. Right now it's only open until 4:00 but starting in August they will be open until 9:00. 3rd at 49th.

                                  Taco Taco: 2nd Avenue between 89th and 90th. Here you start getting into more combo plates and "basic" Mexican. Good margaritas, great carnitas. This is a small restaurant and can be a little slow but my wife and I love it (she's from SoCal so she also has a serious opinion about Mexican food). Burritos are bigger than your head and cost $10. Entrees like carne asada or chiles rellenos are no more than $15. Decent enchiladas. On weekends they have brunch and the eggs in guajillo sauce are sublime. I really like this place.

                                  El Paso: 97th and Lexington. This restaurant used to be on the west side of the street but in the last few weeks they opened up on the east side in a bigger, fancier spot with a garden. I'm assuming the food is the same post move but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE eat the enchiladas here before you say there aren't any good enchiladas in the city. You can get chicken beef or cheese in red or green sauce. Good margaritas...this place is super and my favorite Mexican in the city. They also have a spot on 116th which brings up my final rec:

                                  Anything on 116 between 2nd and 3rd but most importantly TACO MIX: there are a lot of Mexican places in this stretch of Spanish Harlem. Any of the restaurants are decent and are going to be authentic. However TACO MIX is to my mind the best taco place in the city. It's just a taco stand with maybe two chairs in the back, and it will help if you know a little Spanish, but this place is spectacular. The tacos are all about $2. The al pastor taco is ridiculous and they have crazy things like pig ear if you're feeling adventurous. I really recommend this place, especially on a warm Saturday when you can check out the Mexican markets after you eat.

                                  All of those places are great and while El Paso or Taco Taco are going to offer the most casual/ laid back/ combo plate and a margarita experience I really recommend trying some of the higher end spots as well. Also, eat where Mexicans eat. Go to Sunset Park or Spanish Harlem.

                                  14 Replies
                                  1. re: jgradieoakes
                                    s
                                    silencespeak Jul 13, 2009 06:12 PM

                                    Taco Taco also has a sister restaurant downtown called Mole. Amaaazing. Love the Burrito Enchilado with Carnitas, Enchiladas Suizas is good, sauce has that authentic twang to it.

                                    1. re: jgradieoakes
                                      iFat Jul 13, 2009 07:53 PM

                                      Wow, jgradieoakes - that was one of the best posts i've seen in a while, good info in there and thanks for taking the time to do that. i've always heard about pampano taqueria being amazing but have been scared off by the waits. i'm going tomorrow.

                                      I like Mole on the LES as well as Pinche Taqueria in Soho & now Noho... Both very solid. Also, Zargoza is my go-to local spot on Ave A for a nice pair of cheap, authentic tacos ($5 for two and it'll fill you up). Also, i have a really soft spot for Mexican Radio, their burritos are great. It's just a bit on the pricey side.

                                      www.immaculateinfatuation.com

                                      1. re: iFat
                                        d
                                        drumdunn Aug 19, 2009 08:00 AM

                                        Pinche is ok. I still can't get over how expensive the place is....tacos just shouldn't cost that much. I guess that's the only rub with the place. Good food...but way overpriced.

                                      2. re: jgradieoakes
                                        LeahBaila Jul 14, 2009 05:30 AM

                                        Completely agree with you on Taco Taco. Been meaning to hit "El Paso," as it also happens to be the town in Texas where I grew up.

                                        www.thelunchbelle.com

                                        1. re: jgradieoakes
                                          kattyeyes Jul 19, 2009 05:09 PM

                                          jgradieoakes, I found your post yesterday before we somewhat spontaneously decided to head to Manhattan for the day. Zarela sounds great--I checked their website and saw they're open for lunch. Parked and headed into the restaurant, only to hear a voice yell from the back..."We open at 5!" (maybe they even said 4). Whatever the case, the hours on their site are incorrect. I was so bummed--but I will save this recommendation for another visit. Thanks, anyway.

                                          Hey, restaurants--how 'bout posting your real hours on your websites? Just a thought!

                                          1. re: jgradieoakes
                                            o
                                            omnidora Jul 20, 2009 10:29 PM

                                            Thank you, jgradieoakes, I can't wait to try the place you mentioned with the pigs ears.

                                            There is some tasty food if you mingle where the Mexican New Yorkers eat. Some good trucks around the city with things like goat and tongue tacos. I ran across one on the upper west side, but can't remember the exact street.

                                            There is a truck on Lexington and 86th, north side. The food is home cooking, not fancy, and you might best take it home to really enjoy it.. But i do see people eating right at the side of the truck at a counter... I get various tacos and so far the lengue has been my fave.

                                            1. re: omnidora
                                              j
                                              jgradieoakes Jul 22, 2009 08:04 AM

                                              I tried the truck at 86th and Lex a few weeks ago and it was totally satisfying. Good tip. Will try the lengue tacos.

                                              You should for sure check out Taco Mix. I don't know what it's called but they have a convex cooker that they cook the meats on and all the juices run down to a well and simmer everything. Meatapalooza...lots of crazy things that I had to google translate when I got home.

                                              1. re: jgradieoakes
                                                o
                                                omnidora Aug 17, 2009 08:54 PM

                                                Thanks jgradieoakes. Will try Taco Mix. I walked by 86th and Lex the other day and the truck was not in evidence. huh.

                                                1. re: omnidora
                                                  j
                                                  jgradieoakes Aug 18, 2009 12:40 PM

                                                  That sucks. When did you go? I've seen it after work but on Saturday afternoon it was up around 87th on Lex.

                                              2. re: omnidora
                                                JungMann Jul 22, 2009 08:08 AM

                                                The taco truck on the Upper West Side is Super Taco on 96th and Broadway. I was never a fan of their tortas and even their tacos have been slipping in the past couple years.

                                              3. re: jgradieoakes
                                                k
                                                kansel Jul 22, 2009 01:29 PM

                                                Thank you so much. Hopefully we'll get to try Pampano Tacqueria for lunch and maybe Taco Taco as well!

                                                1. re: jgradieoakes
                                                  bigjeff Jul 24, 2009 06:34 PM

                                                  amazing post; been meaning to go to El Paso sometime (they only have one location or two) and have a classy "sit-down" meal. the only place I went to consistently (and this was way back in high school when burritoville was the rage) was mexico lindo in the east 20s; that place was fancy!

                                                  1. re: bigjeff
                                                    s
                                                    small h Jul 24, 2009 06:41 PM

                                                    I used to live right down the street from Mexico Lindo. It WAS fancy! And had strolling mariachis! I loved that place.

                                                  2. re: jgradieoakes
                                                    n
                                                    ninnikuramen Jul 24, 2009 08:15 PM

                                                    Another one for Taco Taco - my wife and I lived on the UES for a year, and this was our go to place for Mexican, we loved it.

                                                    Paquitos was the spot if we were anywhere near Curry Hill.

                                                  3. abbs Jul 13, 2009 03:29 PM

                                                    just went to dos caminos and im just gonna through this out there...the guac was worth the trip. mmm it was tasty!

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: abbs
                                                      kelea Jul 13, 2009 03:38 PM

                                                      Sorry but minus the guac, the rest of the food at dos caminos is sub par for me. and $12 for guac is just not right...

                                                      Pampano tacqueria has one of the better tacos in the city in my opinion but this is only available in the atrium and not the restaurant location. I'm a fan of Pinche on Mott as well

                                                      1. re: kelea
                                                        c
                                                        City Kid Jul 14, 2009 08:45 AM

                                                        Totally agree about Dos Caminos -- overpriced, not authentic...kind of anglicized Mexican food.

                                                        I love El Paso, as noted by OP, but it is on 97th between Park & Madison, as well as 104th & Lex (the one with the garden, I think, that jgradieoakes -- who sounds incredibly knowledgeable -- refers to) and 116th St.

                                                    2. n
                                                      nattie23nyc Jul 13, 2009 01:55 PM

                                                      Of all the cuisines repped in NYC, Mexican is probably the weakest. On top of that, if you're talking burrito, you're talking a certain type of Mexican, not that shi-shi Maya-type crap. Mercadito is down in Alphabet City, not sure if they have a burrito but you can Google, their fish tacos are great, so there's hope. If you want more upscale, fish-centered, look to Pampano in East Midtown. Otherwise, if you must have the burritos and fajitas, I would just go to Benny's or Harry's -- nothing great, and I dare to say I like Chipotle better, but I don't think you'll find better in Manhattan.

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