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Apr 24, 2012 06:36 AM

Best Mexican Food in Spanish Harlem

Going to be in East Harlem for the first time in many years for dinner sat night and wanted to check out some great Mexican food. Whats your recs? Thanks!!

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  1. Most of the best spots are take away, but you can get a great sit down meal at Cafe Ollin. It's always the first place I recommend to newcomers to the area. El Paso, while it might attract more attention due to its convenience, has slid well down the hill imo.

    1. I would agree with JungMann on both points: Cafe Ollin is excellent (but very small and no atmosphere) and that El Paso has gone downhill.

      4 Replies
      1. re: UWSHomeCook

        I just had lunch at El Paso on Sat. and thought it was quite good, nice atmosphere and the place was very busy at 1:30 in the afternoon. We both enjoyed our meal there.

        1. re: owlwoman

          I also had a good meal at El Paso recently (the one on Lexington @104th) and have never had an issue with the food, although I know some on CH do not agree. It is also an attractive place and a nice spot for an evening out. I like the food at Cafe Ollin but it's really only for takeout or a quick bite.

          1. re: City Kid

            I actually rather like the atmosphere at Cafe Ollin. I find it cozy and the service is always attentive. El Paso is more convenient, however. The last few times I went, the salsas, the burritos, everything was terribly bland, but if you think they're on the upswing, I'll have to pay them a visit.

            1. re: JungMann

              Hi JungMann - I tried Cafe Ollin because of your rec and really like it. But when I was recently going out with friends on a Saturday night it didn't seem too festive, though I agree it is friendly, clean, and comfortable. El Paso was very enjoyable -- good food, attractive place, good service -- but perhaps your Mexican palate is more refined than mine!

      2. Agua de Fresca!! Excellent, inspired Mexican food.

        1. I hit both El Paso and Agua Fresca today during an epic East Harlem foot tour. I had tacos at both locations -- not a full meal really. But tacos were good at both places.

          I hate to draw such a conclusions from such a limited dining experience, but El Paso reminded me of Mexican fare from towns in the Western U.S. where there is a large Mexican population. The tacos I had were the real thing. Agua Fresca was offering maybe -- tacos reinterpreted, but in a subtle way. The asada tacos at El Paso were chopped seasoned beef, onions and cilantro. At Agua Fresca, on the other hand, the pulled pork tacos had fresh tomato, pico de gallo, guacamole, perfectly balanced really -- like someone had developed a recipe for them, rather than relying on "how everyone knows tacos are made."

          Much more restaurant-y than street food-y. Does that make sense?

          Anyway, both were good and I'd definitely return to either. I didn't find the Americanized, "upscale" interior of El Paso to be all that appealing, but I think many mainstream diners would find that comforting rather than off-putting.