Let me tell you a thing about tacos. New York City isn’t known for them. Pizza, we do. Chinese, we’re great at. But a well-executed, perfectly delicious taco has been an ever-elusive entity this side of the States. For decades, most have resigned themselves to waiting until a trip out West to get some approximation of the real deal. To the delight of many (mostly Angeleno expats), NYC has put some more effort into nailing the formula. It’s true. You can officially score a great taco in New York City, you just have to know where to look.
Los Tacos No. 1
If you arrive to Los Tacos No. 1, a bustling stall in Chelsea Market, and there isn’t a line yet, well, consider yourself lucky. This place is generally busy ’round the clock. The tacos here are the real deal. Carne asada, pollo asado, adobada: they’ve got it all. Craving fish tacos? Hit their sister outfit, Los Mariscos. It’s in the same building; you won’t have to travel far.
75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
Pork al pastor tacos are something the well-traveled look forward to every vacation to Mexico. To tide you over between trips, there’s Taco Mix up in East Harlem. Peer through the open window and watch from the sidewalk as they flip tortillas on the grill and slice from a succulent spit of meat. When you’ve fallen out of your desire-induced stupor, remember to go inside and get yourself four of them.
Handmade tortillas? Sign us up. With a restaurant in East Elmhurst and the East Village, Tacos Morelos started out as a humble taco truck serving placeros, which are a kind of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to tacos, with everything from boiled eggs to fried chiles relleno tucked inside. They still serve them at the restaurant, along with a number of other tacos worthy of your attention.
La Esquina Corner Deli
An obvious choice, you say? Sometimes the greatest things are just right outside your door—or, well, in a pinch they’ll at least do. Sitting on top of its tonier subterranean finer dining option, La Esquina’s Corner Deli might not offer the most authentic choices of the bunch, but its cochinita pibil tacos are sure good. Plus, you can’t really beat sitting at one of their sidewalk tables and having a beer on a summer day.
Home to one of the most iconic burgers in the city, Burger One also whips up—surprisingly—a damn good taco. The experience of eating here is, similarly, not to be missed, with a type of old-school NYC aesthetic that is becoming increasingly extinct in this town. Sit yourself down on a vinyl bar stool and order a two-taco special. Fries are included here, if that wasn’t immediately obvious. Oh, you’ve got a lot to learn.
Tortilleria Mexicana Tres Hermanos
Hitch a ride on the L Train and head to the edges of Brooklyn, where you’ll find one of the best tacos in the borough. Setting up shop in front of an operational taco factory (with a handful of seats within throwing distance of the machines), Tres Hermanos keeps things cheap, simple, and beyond delicious. You won’t be able to hear your friend over the factory roar, but there’s always the subway trip home to recap.
Header photo courtesy of Krisztian Tabori