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Authentic Mexican (Tijuana) food in NYC?

A friend who is originally from Tijuana but now lives in San Diego will be visiting in a few months. His chief complaint is that NYC doesn't have good Mexican restaurant and I'd love to prove him wrong. This is what he wrote :

Menu must have Lengua, cabeza, adobado, carne asada, pollo asado, tripas, horchata, NOT black beans, but pinto/refried and not gooey yellow rice, Crema Mexicana not sour cream, cotija cheese not yellow.

To my surprise I didn't find too many places that matched.. I'm looking for some good recommendations that we can try... thanks

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  1. Have him connect through Houston, we have all of the above, we're not just Tex-Mex. Seriously, good luck and show him the best you have, and then show all the great food NYC has that is not available in San Diego or Tijuana.

    1. It's hard to find Tijuana food in Tijuana (or even in the southern parts of San Diego).

      You're not likely to find it (or any similar facsimile of it) in high-rent districts like Manhattan.

      1. Look for Mexican taco joins in East Harlem (116th-125th and 3rd/Lex/2nd) and Bushwick, avoid hipster taco joints.

        Check outer boroughs board.

        4 Replies
        1. re: avial

          +1 to check outer boroughs, i'm not sure your friend is wrong....
          Why not take your friend to an ethnic restaurant he could never find in san diego?
          Dominican, icelandic, ethiopian, etcetc

          1. re: Ttrockwood

            where is nyc's best icelandic found?

          2. There are plenty of places around NYC to find Mexican dishes as prescribed by your friend. There is a significant Mexican immigrant community in NYC since the late 1990s, which has changed the food landscape around many parts of the city. However, you'll have to get to those parts of the city.

            Here's an example of a listing of places along one street in Queens (that was 10 years ago! dang!).
            A lot has changed since I've written that, but that probably gives you a hint of what's available. There are other concentrations of Mexicans in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and in Spanish Harlem. Try those on for size and let your friend know.

            1 Reply
            1. re: E Eto

              Welcome back E Eto, I haven't seen you post in a long time.

            2. Your friend isn't going to be impressed. Sure, there's some good Mexican in New York, and huge Mexican communities, but it's still not really up for the challenge. None of it's going to make your friend envious.

              None of the places are solid across the board....they might have great refriend beans, but they'll serve sour cream....or they serve crema, but they don't carry tongue...and if they still manage that balancing act, the carne asada is tough as leather. Notice nobody is suggesting a single place in their answers?

              I think NY thrives more in upscale Mexican, and faux street Mexican rather than actual street Mexican.

              1. For authentic Mexican, I like Cafe Ollin in East Harlem, Taqueria Coatzingo in Jackson Heights (Queens), and Tacos Matamoros in Sunset Park (Bklyn). Best to go to all these places on the weekend.....But I mean really, you can fulfill all those needs with a crawl down 5th Ave in Sunset Park....Seems the Mexican communities here are often people from Puebla, so menus slant toward their regional specialties.

                1. What everyone else said. Your friend is right; I think you should just spend your efforts showing him all of NYC's non-Mexican jewels!

                  1. The Mexican places I tend to frequent all use crema, cotija, pinto beans and have great meats, but to get everything on your list at one place is going to be a hard bargain. NYC has decent Mexican restaurants, but it does not have the type of knockout place you're looking for.

                    1. He lives in San Diego across the border from Tijuana. He's coming to New York looking for Tijuana food?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DavyTheFatBoy

                        You know how long those queues are to get back into the states?

                        But yes, if I lived in SD, I'd be getting fish tacos and taking in jai alai quite a bit...


                      2. Despite the fact that Baja cuisine is recognized as probably the best in Mexico, you wont find anything Baja in NYC.

                        I went to school in San Diego and love Baja: Rosarito lobster, fresh off the boat yellow fin ceviche, carne asada burrito with guac n pico but no beans, decent fish tacos, and spit roasted cabrito. They are all missing here. It's even hard to find Hussongs reposado, my favorite tequila.

                        Which is a shame given all the crappy pseudo southwest mexican masquerading as haute cuisine in the city. Bobby Flay for one.

                        So Baja Fresh is everywhere, but neither.

                        Pinche Taqueria claims to be be from Tijuana, but is sadly gringoed up.

                        I would echo what others have said about Jackson Heights and Sunset Park, but you are more likely to find Sonora, Chihuahua, Monterey, or even Oaxacan food on the menu than authentic Baja.

                        Of course if you want lengua, cabeza, cabrito or menudo you can always take the train to Red Bank, NJ and check out North of the Border...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: vikingkaj

                          Baja cuisine is recognized as probably the best in Mexico? By whom? I suspect the people of Yucatan might take issue with that. Or Oaxaca. Or Veracuz.

                          Also I haven't run into Sonoran food in NY, especially not in Queens.

                        2. not sure you'll be able to prove him wrong. is there a reason you need to? there are so many other great food options in NYC that far surpass SD's anyway. maybe you can convince your friend that time would be better spent on that.

                          At best you'll find places that are as good as average places in California. even when the Mexican cooks are good, the ingredients aren't at the same level of freshness. I'm a california native and have had to compromise my standards to keep myself from getting disappointed by the Mexican food out here. It's certainly better than it was 15 years ago, but it's going to be hard to impress a San Diegan.