While tacos have long reigned supreme on the West Coast, they’ve historically held more of a supporting role on New York City’s food stage. But over the last several years, the city has evolved into a veritable taco hot spot, successfully elevating the taco to one of its food scene’s starring cast members.
Where to Find the Best Tacos in NYC
New York is now rife with both highbrow taco eateries dedicated to creating novel flavor experiences and classic street-style taquerias committed to preserving the impeccable authenticity that makes tacos a truly perfect food. From mouthwatering, aromatic hunks of al pastor straight off a revolving spit to boundary-pushing pastrami tacos, our guide will help you discover the best tacos in NYC.
This Mexican speakeasy gained a bit of a cult following after opening in 2018. The menu boasts traditional Mexican cooking practices with a twist, creating innovative reinventions of classic taco flavors. This results in flavors like the El Gringo con Bone Marrow taco (rib eye, bone marrow, smoked cheddar, and sour cream), and a unique chicken al pastor taco, (adobo chicken thighs with bacon bits), all served on handmade tortillas. The current star of the menu here is Borrachito’s spin on birria, a style of stewed meat that has garnered massive popularity in L.A. and across California. This version uses oxtail topped with caramelized onions, and it brings new life to the phrase “melts in your mouth.” While you won’t find super traditional street tacos here, it’s well worth a mention on our guide to the best tacos in NYC.
10. El Paso Taqueria
As you hunt for the best tacos in NYC, instinct will tell you to go with classic menu options like al pastor or carnitas. At this decade-old Upper East Side cantina, you must fight that feeling. Seriously. The crown jewel at El Paso Taqueria is actually the octopus tacos. If you’ve never had octopus before, there is no better introduction than these tacos, which come on a plate of three and are impeccably fresh. The pickled onions, shredded cabbage, and zesty chipotle epazote curbed with a hint of garlic create a truly bold flavor that will make your taste buds dance. If you’re not feeling particularly adventurous, their chorizo tacos are equal parts oily, crispy, and juicy.
9. Taco Mix
If the heavenly sight of a steaming, charred cylinder of meat twirling salaciously just off the main counter in this small East Harlem taco joint doesn’t immediately grab your attention, the wafting aroma of the slow-roasted, marinated pork certainly will. Since opening in 1990, Taco Mix’s al pastor is the best of its kind in this part of town, only made better with their freshly pressed corn tortillas and sharp pineapple that cuts through the savory pork. Diners can choose from quite an assortment of flavors, including hongo (mushroom), oreja (pork ears), tinga (chipotle chicken), and more. We also love the barbacoa de chivo, which is a fatty slow-braised goat that pairs dreamily with their spicy green salsa.
8. Taqueria Diana
Taqueria Diana is a no-frills takeout taqueria where what you see is what you get. That means shaved bits of blistered, spit-roasted pork slab in fragrant, house-pressed tortillas. Not too shabby, if you ask us. Created by Californians for Mexican food-lovers, the joint prides itself on a loyal authenticity to its tacos that radiates time-tested reliability. Located in East Village, Hell’s Kitchen, the Lower East Side, and now Williamsburg, this establishment consistently churns out some of the best tacos in NYC. They take their tacos a bit further than the standard onion and cilantro garnishes by adding fresh crema and crumbly cotija cheese to create idyllic mouthfuls. We recommend both the al pastor and the pollo tacos, which offer heaping portions of the respective proteins.
Don’t let the various locations make you think Tacombi can’t hang with the hole-in-the-wall greats on this guide to the best tacos in NYC. This popular eatery draws crowds all across the city because the tacos are really delicious. In particular, their baja fish taco. It’s bright, it’s crispy, it’s what beachgoers strive to find at a sunny seaside taco shack in San Diego. The generous share of beer-battered Alaskan cod comes with a spicy pickled cabbage slaw that is tangy and oozes freshness. If you want to go heavy on the chile verde for an instant kick, turn your sights to the carnitas, or bite into an ultra-savory mouthful of their Mexico City-style al pastor taco. Both come with crunchy, diced onions, and each is literally bursting with flavor. Tacombi also serves vegetarian flavors like avocado tostada and black bean and sweet potato, making this the perfect taco spot for foodies of all preferences.
6. La Esquina
Located in Soho, Midtown, and the Upper East Side, La Esquina (which translates to “The Corner,” and is displayed across their storefronts in iconic neon lettering) is an ever-popular choice for some of the best tacos in NYC, and has been for over a decade. The menu differs slightly by location, so make sure to factor that into your decision. They are well known for their expertly seasoned rotisserie chicken tacos, but the bisteq con queso taco really brought the flavor. It offers sliced ribeye steak over crispy queso Chihuahua (this is key), served with a zesty, smokey tomatillo salsa, cilantro, and onion. We’re also obsessed with their taco de camaron, or grilled shrimp with cabbage, avocado salsa, chipotle mayo, and pickled red onion. It’s crunchy, creamy, and chewy simultaneously—the resulting mouthfeel is a perfect 10.
5. Tacos Los Poblanos
Tacos Los Poblanos is an underrated taco eatery southeast of Red Hook, Brooklyn, where the tacos are small but mighty. At $2.50 per taco and a prodigious list of flavors to choose from, you’ll get some serious bang for your buck. If you want a perfect balance of sweet and savory, go for the beef birria. The soft-braised meat marinates in an oily, stew-like sauce that coats the entire tortilla. The cecina (salted beef) is another stand-out selection: chewy, salty, and covered with minuscule diced red onion. Locals and visitors alike will also enjoy the hard-seared al pastor and carnitas tacos. You simply can’t go wrong here. Just make sure to douse any and all tacos with their special green salsa—it’ll zap your brain synapses into orbital perpetuity. Get your tacos to-go and then head to Sunset Park to enjoy some prime views at the top of the park while you bask in taco heaven.
4. Tacos Cuaulta Morelos
Tacos Cuaulta Morelos is one of those rare finds that you’ll remember for years to come because when you first see it, you instantly know it’s going to be good. Located in East Village, the pride of this hole-in-the-wall eatery is the homemade tortillas, which ensure you’re getting some of the very best tacos in NYC. They are fresh, pillowy perfection—and an extra dollar when ordering, but we’d shell out some serious dough for this dough. Among all the various fillings to choose from, one major fan-favorite is the barbacoa. The spicy chicken taco has juicy, layered tomato undertones, and the savory al pastor combined with their handmade tortilla truly transcends your tastebuds to taco-nirvana. They also offer several different sauces that add further pizzazz to their flavors, including chile de arbol and habanero.
3. Empellon Taqueria
Experience special, only-in-NYC flair at Empellon Taqueria in West Village. Featuring one of the most unique taco menus in the city, foodies will love the breadth of rotating daily taco specials, including fish tempura tacos and the extraordinarily decadent short rib pastrami tacos served with a spoonful of a mustard seed salsa (yes, we lost our minds too). Allow us to recommend a few of Empellon’s best: The chile oil on the red chile duck taco soaks with just enough heat into the tortilla and is topped only with shredded radishes to keep the focus on the tender duck itself. The brussels sprouts taco stands as strong as any meat-based taco. It is profligately crispy, herby, and creamy, with slivered almonds that really take it over the edge. Finally, the short rib pastrami is almost obnoxiously good, proving one of New York’s most iconic staples hardly deserves to be pigeonholed as a sandwich filling.
2. Taqueria St. Marks Place (TEMPORARILY CLOSED UNTIL APRIL 31)
A must-have in many guides to the best tacos in NYC, Taqueria St. Marks Place is an East Village favorite, recently expanding to their newly finished sister restaurant Taqueria Gramercy near Union Square. Their unfussy method comprises profuse fillings on a single soft corn tortilla that are equally bold and memorable. Despite an expansive selection, each filling really holds its own, rather than just one or two rising notably in rank. The bistec is one of the best steak tacos we tried out of any taqueria, the beef head is a buttery, delicate stand out, and the barbacoa lamb is smokey, rustic, and solidly delicious. You’ll be impressed by how distinct and striking each of the individual flavors are, hitting the coveted fat-acid-salt trifecta with an ease that speaks to the restaurant’s expertise.
1. Los Tacos No. 1
After topping list after list of the best tacos in NYC, is it truly a surprise Los Tacos No. 1 nabs the number one spot on our guide? There’s a reason the menu at this Tijuana street-style purveyor is short and sweet (and why the line tends to build formidably during the dinner rush). Every single taco is like its own epiphany. Any sort of deviation is simply unnecessary. The just-made corn and flour tortillas are as authentic as you can get, becoming the perfect vessel for your choice of steak, pollo asado, marinated pork, or grilled cactus. Whether you choose the punchy carne asada, the zingy chicken, or the odiferous adobada (the crowd favorite), you will absolutely luxuriate in bold flavors, textures, and general satisfaction. Just remember to order your tacos “con todo” to get all the fixings.