New York City

Like a Local: The 10 Best Mexican Restaurants in Manhattan

by Holly Riddle  |  Published October 9, 2018

When you think Manhattan, you likely don’t think Mexican food. While the borough doesn’t boast an affinity for tacos (like it does for, say, hot dogs and pizza), you can still find amazing Mexican eats, from fine dining to affordable.

At Empellón, find far from average Mexican fare (Photo: Lou Stejskal)

There are certainly other cities you could go to for the best Mexican food outside of Mexico. Texas offers a slew of options, as does California. But what if you’re in Manhattan and craving tacos or guac? There’s no need to sorrowfully schlep your way to the nearest Chipotle. Just try one of these 10 amazing options. Whether you want a sit-down, date night-worthy experience or a quick fix on the go, you’ll find something that’ll hit the spot.


Tostada with avocado, bone marrow salsa and cucumber vinaigrette (Photo: Lou Stejskal)

Located in the Flatiron neighborhood, Cosme is fine-dining for sure. You can easily spend over $100 on your meal, but diners agree that you won’t regret it. The environment is contemporary and sophisticated, just like the dinner and cocktail menus. Both are filled with modern offerings, with fun twists, but nothing strays too far from the flavors you crave. One thing’s for sure—you’ll be in good company when you make a reservation here. Previous diners have included celebrities like the Obamas.

35 E. 21st St.


Nearby, Atla is another favorite sans the modern contemporary feel of Cosme. Instead, expect the more low-key and relaxed ambience you might find in a typical Mexican restaurant—just a touch more upscale and refined. This all-day option satisfies regardless of when you go, but if you want to avoid crowds and still get the best off the dinner menu, go for lunch. From tostadas to avocado toast, everything looks all the more delicious in the sleek environment, with its huge dining room windows.

372 Lafayette St.

Los Tacos No. 1

Chelsea Market is a mecca for foodies visiting New York (Photo: Elke Hautala)

Any foodie visiting Manhattan should make a trip to Chelsea Market. The delightful itinerary stop is filled with crave-worthy eats of all kinds, but if it’s fun, affordable Mexican dining you’re looking for, Los Tacos No. 1 is the perfect pick. Here, you’ll find traditional tacos made with fresh ingredients without a hefty price tag attached. You know this is the real deal, too, thanks to the brains behind the brand—one of the partners is from SoCal and the other is from Tijuana. Tip: Carefully choose the time of day you visit, as you don’t want to get stuck in the Chelsea Market crowds.

75 9th Ave.

Dos Toros Taqueria

Hearty portions served with a frosty Coke. What more could you want? (Photo: Holly Riddle)

A tiny taqueria near Central Park, Dos Toros is an affordable option that’s likewise convenient if you’re trying to see the sites on a budget and in a short amount of time. Service is quick: they make your order right in front of your eyes, before you pay and take a seat at one of the few tables available. Menu items are typical—burritos, quesadillas, burrito bowls and tacos—but with naturally-raised proteins and vegan-friendly options. Beyond Manhattan, there are other locations around the city and in Chicago.

1111 Lexington Ave.

The Black Ant

In the East Village, The Black Ant is only for the adventurous eaters in your travel group. There are, as you might expect, ants on the menu, along with some of their friends—worms, grasshoppers and more. It’s all Mexican-inspired, though, as is the cocktail menu (which, yes, you can find some insects on as well). Don’t worry. If bugs aren’t your scene, you can find a few non-insect-ridden dishes on the menu as well.

60 Second Ave.


Light, airy, with a lot to look at, Empellón is almost as pretty as its food (Photo: Lou Stejskal)

Empellón is all character, spread over several floors. Think interesting color patterns, curvaceous lines, light wooden features and some spectacular tile work. The menu offers the favorites, but with flavorful flair. How about nachos with crab and sea urchin? Or tacos that are more “haute” than “hot”? Pair whatever you fancy with a margarita, rumored to be especially strong here.

510 Madison Ave.

La Esquina

Serving fresh food in a casual atmosphere, La Esquina is a small joint that will surely hit the spot. On the dinner and bar menus, find the classics you crave, with just enough kick to make them interesting, alongside new inventions that are perfect for the on-trend eater. Be forewarned—actually finding the restaurant can be a bit of an adventure. The restaurant is located underneath another business in a subterranean, speakeasy-style setting.

114 Kenmare St.