Tacos are great: eat one, and you still have room for a burrito or a tamale or an ice cream sundae. Eat several, and you’re sated until the next mealtime. New York City has experienced a boomlet of great taquerias in recent years, especially in Manhattan. Herewith, our five favorites. By Jessica Allen.
Despite its name, Brooklyn Taco Co. is a proud food stall inside historic Essex Street Market, on the Lower East Side. Among its specialties are the cola-braised pork, in which pork shoulder that’s been braised in a citrus and cola broth gets topped with cheese, habanero sauce, crema, and pineapple salsa. For health freaks, there’s a kale and potato, with sweet corn and roasted poblano peppers along with cheese, crema, and habanero sauce. But the menu changes daily.
In 2011, pastry chef Alex Stupak switched his cooking gears and opened Empellón Taqueria, dedicated to high-end Mexican food. His philosophy is simple: “most ingredients worth eating can benefit further by being placed atop a well-made tortilla.” Taco choices include shortrib pastrami, pickled cabbage, and mustard seed salsa, and brussel sprouts, hazelnuts, and malted hummus. It’s all working: in 2013 he won “Best New Chef” from Food and Wine magazine.
Guelaguetza is a taqueria, a bodega, and a deli combined into one. Here, you can get your standard egg on a roll or BLT while stocking up on paper towels, chewing gum, Red Bull, and various jerkies. Not bad for one-stop shopping, especially if you also hit up the menu’s “fresh fast Mexican food” side, including fajitas, burritos, tacos, sopes, and even Mexican nachos. Among our favorite tacos are the spicy pork, chorizo with potatoes, and rice with chicken. At between $2.75 and $3, you can’t beat the price either.
Bounding into Chelsea Market late last year was Los Tacos No. 1, an immediate success story. (The lines still haven’t abated.) Run by three friends from Mexico and California, this stand sells four types of tacos: pollo, nopal, adobada, and asada. You get to choose handmade corn or flour tortillas, as well as whether you want each one “con todo” (guac, onions, salsa, and cilantro). There’s a salsa bar for scooping, a small area for standing and gobbling, and authenticity in every bite.
Each and every day the folks at Oaxaca Taqueria make the food from scratch, including bright, splashy tacos that evoke both the flavors and colors of southern Mexico. We’re enamored of them all, but we especially like the marinated, tangy fish, piquant chicken mole, smooth potato, peppery chorizo, Korean (an occasional house special, with barbecue pork and kimchi), and salty, slightly sweet braised pork. With several locations around town, you’re probably close to one right now. Go.