New York isn’t known for its Mexican restaurants. (While Spanish is heard throughout the five boroughs, most residents are from Puerto Rico — not Mexico.) Yet the Mexican restaurants that do exist within NYC city limits are fantastic. From tacos to tamales to tortas, you can find just about any south-of-the-border treat your tastebuds desire. If you’ve only eaten Mexican food in Australia, then you’ll realise how mediocre it is until you eat Mexican food in the USA.

Madre Cocina & Mezcales

Formerly known as El Atoradero, this beloved Mexican restaurant has seen many incarnations during its long life in New York City. Originally opened in the Bronx, it moved to Crown Heights after its imminent closing a few years ago. This year it went through some more changes — it’s name to be specific. It’s the local love of this Mexican favorite that keeps Madre Cocina & Mezcales going.

You won’t find your average “street tacos” here. Instead, Madre makes use of their house-made blue corn tortillas. They grind the masa themselves and sell it in the restaurant. These tortillas go on to make entrees, like elevated quesadillas, burritos and enchiladas.

Fonda

Visit Fonda in the summer, sit outside and you’ll be transported to a whimsical oasis. These guys also make their own tortillas, but unlike Madre, they use white instead of blue corn. These go perfectly with their tacos or dipped in house-made salsa or table-side guacamole. 

Dos Caminos

Probably one of the most famous upscale Mexican restaurant chains in New York City, Dos Caminos is often favorited by stars on the Food Network (probably thanks to its flagship restaurant’s Chelsea location). 

Margaritas are the name of the game here, and Dos Caminos has plenty of refreshing options. Whether you go with the traditional house margarita, the Cadillac (made with grand marnier), the grapefruit or organic margarita, you can’t go wrong.

Tehuitzingo

This hole-in-the wall Mexican restaurant and bodega is one of the best kept secrets in Manhattan. Though from the outside it looks like your average corner bodega, it offers some of the best tortas and tacos in the city — for only a few dollars.

Head inside, go to the back and part the beaded curtain. Behind the shelves of dried beans and rice is a “secret” not-so-secret restaurant. The menu is simple, and the seating is limited. Order your tacos or your torta, and head to the small park across the street to eat.

Tacombi

Tacombi is a local chain that specializes in SoCal Mexican food. The décor is half the fun here; walk inside, and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to a nighttime beach party. The menu offers a large selection of tortas, tacos and burritos. Appetizers include corn esquites and ceviche. The seasonal menu offers creative fillings in tacos and burritos. 

La Esquina

Another no-frills spot that serves up authentic Mexican fare, La Esquina is known for its stellar tacos with fillings like rib eye, carnitas and queso fresco. They also offer tacos and burritos as bowls and salads. Toppings include braised lamb, rotisserie chicken and fried eggs. In addition to the typical margaritas, La Esquina also specializes in horchata and seasonal beverages. 

Los Tacos No. 1

Depending on who you ask, Los Tacos No. 1 is often considered the best taqueria in New York City — and it lives up to its name. The flagship location is in Chelsea Market and is possibly one of the least expensive stands in the market. The second location is in Times Square (and is possibly one of the cheapest meal options in an otherwise super pricey neighborhood). 

Like most of the other Mexican restaurants on this list, the menu is dominated by tacos, tostadas and quesadillas. Yet as the name suggests, you should bypass everything on the menu that isn’t a taco. If you’re vegetarian, you’re in luck: the veggie option here is a grilled cactus taco.

Atla

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Atla showcases some of the most unique Mexican food in Manhattan. You can get both sweet and savory breakfasts here, like pan dulce, chia bowls and flax seed chilaquiles. Lunch and dinner brings Arctic char and farmer’s cheese tostadas, herb guacamole and nopal salad. Drinks include Oaxacan coffee, spicy negronis and mezcal. 

Tacos El Branco

You can’t talk about Mexican food in this city without paying mention to Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Part Mexican neighborhood, part Chinatown, this neighborhood is as authentic as it gets.

Tacos El Bronco started as a food truck near Greenwood Cemetery. As its popularity grew, it branched out to a brick-and-mortar location as well. Here you can order prickly-pear cactus scrambled eggs, white pozole and tripe cemitas.

Pulqueria

You don’t always expect to find one of the best Mexican restaurants in the heart of Chinatown. Yet this Doyers Street speakeasy defies convention. Located in the basement of the Nom Wah Tea Parlor, Pulqueria is a cocktail bar that serves food — not the other way around. You’ll find jalapeño margaritas, palomas and micheladas on the bar menu. 

New York City might not be known for its Mexican food, but that doesn’t mean this city doesn’t know how to cook up some of the best south-of-the-border fare east of the Mississippi. Whether you’re looking for tacos, mezcal or some handmade tortillas, you’ll find exactly the Mexican flavors that’ll satisfy your cravings.

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