NYC’s Top-5 Mexican Spots (from a LA transplant)
I grew up in Los Angeles and after traveling for some time, I developed a theory: the farther away from LA I was, the harder it was to find good Mexican food. When I moved to NYC seven years ago, I was cautiously hopeful about finding decent Mexican food. After some trials and errors, I’ve thrown together a shortlist of some of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve found so far.
1. Lupe’s East LA Kitchen
It has LA in the name. It has to be good, right? The first time I went toLupe’s East LA Kitchen I had the chile relleno with rice and beans. I almost cried. It reminded me of home. The second time I went, I had the super burrito. I couldn’t finish it. The servings are generous. I was salty about paying $10 for a burrito but I chalked it up to the NYC rent surcharge.
2. La Esquina
On a tiny corner in Soho, La Esquina churns out some amazing dishes. My favorite is the Plato Julia — rice, corn, black beans, pico de gallo, queso fresco, avocado. All the ingredients tasted fresh, balanced, and cared for. There are plenty of hot sauces readily available. The seating area upstairs is tiny and usually packed for good reason. But there is a brasserie downstairs with its own menu. Plan ahead if you’re heading downstairs. Their website advises making a reservation 3 weeks in advance (!).
3. Tacos El Bronco
This gem of a truck in Sunset Park is parked next to Melody Lanes bowling alley and stays open late. If you find yourself lucky enough to be in the area, stop by Tacos El Bronco and order as many tacos as you can eat. The Pastor and Bistec are juicy, drippy, and topped with fresh greens and a radish. The prices are low, the quality is amazing and you can visit Pete in the bowling alley bar afterward for the Pete’s Special.
Guacamole needs it’s own list. I’m a guac snob. There’s no point in lying about it. Plenty can go wrong with an avocado and an inexperienced human. And I make guacamole, so my standards are relatively high. These restaurants have the best guacamole that I’ve experienced so far (other than my own)
Pro-tip: a good bowl of guac costs $14 in this city. Don’t waste it on bad pre-made guac.
Some unsolicited advice: If you plan to order guacamole, look around the restaurant. Is there a tower of avocados on a cart or counter somewhere visible? Are they hass avocados? Are there heavy stone bowls for guac prep? Now look at the tables. Did anyone else order guacamole? Is the wooden spoon still in the bowl when they brought it to the table? If so, order confidently. If you answered no to any of those questions, go here instead:
2. Rosa Mexicano
Rosa Mexicano is a national chain so if you’re fiending for guac in an unfamiliar city, see if there’s a Rosa nearby. And the sangria is amazing.
Bonus: If you’re in LA or traveling there soon, go here. Just go. Go now, actually.
Erin’s NYC Mexican Suggestions
Lupe’s East LA Kitchen $$
10 Sixth Ave. at Watts Street E
La Esquina $$
114 Kenmare St, b/t Mulberry St & Mott St
Tacos El Bronco — Food Truck $
37rd St. & 5th Ave.
Sunset Park, Brooklyn
40 Avenue B b/t 4th St & 3rd St
East Village, Alphabet City
Rosa Mexicano $$
41 Murray St, b/t Broadway & Church St
Tribeca (+ locations in Union Square, First Ave, Tribeca, Lincoln Center)