It’s no secret I moved from Brooklyn to Texas. I married a Tejana, we had a child, and then we hightailed it here pretty much as fast as we could. Since then, we’ve built a life we could’ve only dreamed of back in New York. Before and after our move, though, several Texans insisted New York only had bad tacos. That wasn’t true then, and, thankfully, it continues to be a falsehood. The folks who made such claims simply weren’t looking hard enough.
These days a taco lover doesn’t have to comb the city for excellent tacos. Taquerias and taco trucks generally group in neighborhoods such as Bushwick or—surprisingly—along the streets of touristy Midtown. No matter what borough you happen to be in, you’re almost guaranteed to run into Texan-approved selections that run the gamut from breakfast tacos to tacos placeros, from the Mexican state of Puebla.
Aquí en Bella Puebla
There are so many Mexican immigrants from the state of Puebla serving their food that parts of the city are sometimes called Puebla York. Roosevelt Avenue—through the Queens neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Corona—is the epicenter of that community. It’s where you’ll find Aquí en Bella Puebla and Pueblan favorites like tacos árabes and tacos placeros. For the tacos árabes, chopped pork is covered in a lattice of chipotle salsa and served in rolled flour tortillas. Meanwhile, tacos placeros are a form of tacos de guisado that can have many different fillings. My favorite is the placero with chile relleno—a fat, cheese-stuffed poblano resting on yellow rice and punctuated with hard-boiled eggs. Blast it with salsa de chile de árbol and enjoy. Another great option is the taco de chivo. The juicy goat meat has none of the gaminess that puts off so many diners. 94-11 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights. 718-639-7300.
José and Jesús Moreno opened what many consider the first birria de res operation in New York in 2019. Since then the brothers, who, like many beef birria peddlers, hail from Coatzingo in the Mexican state of Puebla, have been raking in customers and accolades. Mouth-puckering braised meat is served in consommé-infused tortillas, with pickled onions adding an extra punch. Perhaps the best item on Birria-Landia’s menu is the consommé itself. Order a small container and slowly sip it beneath the rumbling, elevated 7 train and amidst the crowd-choked sidewalks of Roosevelt Avenue. It’s a quintessential Puebla York experience. If you can’t make it to Queens, there are locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. 77-99 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights. No phone.
Cruz del Sur
The narrow storefront of Cruz del Sur is a short walk from the Brooklyn Museum, and it’s worth a trip pre– or post–culture intake. Its nixtamalized corn tortillas hold generous portions of chicken en pipian verde, soft barbacoa de chivo, medallions of lengua, and a stellar taco dorado filled with warm mashed potatoes bathed in a mild salsa roja and topped with microgreens. 622 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn. 347-365-1618.
King David Tacos
You’d be forgiven for thinking this Brooklyn breakfast taco shop was named for the Old Testament monarch. But it’s actually named after the father of owner and Austin native Liz Solomon Dwyer. Seventeen years ago, she was showing her parents Times Square when her father had an epiphany. “Liz, you should open a breakfast taco joint, right here,” her father declared while surveying the advertisements and lights of the tourist mecca. While she didn’t open in Times Square, she did start off with a couple carts in Prospect Park and Madison Square Park. Solomon Dwyer now has a brick-and-mortar with patio seating and a production facility in Brooklyn. For Texpats, and particularly Austinites, King David Tacos offers a taste of home right down to the tortillas (chewy and a touch thick), which come from the Fiesta tortilla factory in Austin. The migas taco needs more salsa, but the bean and cheese is satisfying in the best possible way. I, for one, am glad Solomon Dwyer listened to her father. 611 Bergen, Brooklyn. 347-789-9408.
I happened upon this business at the Kings County Brewers Collective. Kings Kolache owners Paul and Sarah Ashley were only serving kolaches at the brewery pop-up, but a visit to their shop filled me up with tacos. I ordered the bacon, egg, and cheese taco and the potato, pepper jack, and poblano taco. The tortillas are very much like those used at King David Tacos. In addition to the tacos, load up on kolaches like the jalapeño and cheese and the lemon chess; each has its own special zing. 321 Starr, Unit F, Brooklyn. 845-614-3226.
Los Tacos No. 1
Perhaps the most famous of New York’s taquerias, Los Tacos No. 1 suffers no shortage of media attention or customers. The line is long at the original location, in Chelsea Market, and moves at a pace that would make barbecue lovers feel at home. The taqueria specializes in Tijuana-style street foods like tacos de adobada (the regional name for tacos al pastor) as well as carne asada. Los Tacos No. 1 is solid, but its tacos likely won’t change a Texan’s life. Check it out if you have extra time. 75 Ninth Avenue, New York. No phone.
Nuevo Tacos al Suadero
Another Roosevelt Avenue taqueria, Nuevo Tacos al Suadero specializes in its namesake preparation, lard-braised beef, which is soft, slightly pink, and ethereally juicy. But because of its location, Nuevo Tacos must also serve the Pueblan favorite, tacos placeros. Like all great tacos placeros, these are huge—nearly the size of a dinner plate. Instead of my usual chile relleno filling, I opted for cecina (salt-cured beef), which came with jalapeños, caramelized onions, sautéed potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs. 97-22 Roosevelt Avenue, Corona. 718-533-7727.
Walking into this five-year-old Greenpoint, Brooklyn, restaurant gave me Mexico City vibes. In fact, if Oxomoco were picked up and dropped there, you might walk by it without noticing. But Oxomco is worth seeking out. The Michelin-starred establishment—named after the Aztec goddess of astrology—is an airy and relaxing space tinged with smoke from the open kitchen’s wood-fired grill. The star is the nixtamalized corn tortilla, upon which salsa macha–topped hamachi is presented and vegetarian ingredients like asparagus and morels get their proper due. You’ll be seeing stars after snacking on these dishes. Reservations are strongly recommended. 128 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn. 646-688-4180.
This is not a taqueria, and that’s an important distinction to make. Rather, Sobre Masa, as indicated by its name, is a nixtamalized masa–focused restaurant. Most of the fillings I got came in small, shallow bowls with tortillas on the side for DIY tacos. My favorites included oyster mushrooms perfumed with hoja santa and lamb meatballs with toasted almond slivers. On the way out, I took a peek into the tortilla-production room, and my curiosity was rewarded with a fresh, perfect tortilla. 52 Harrison Place, Brooklyn. 347-844-2343.
This East Village watering hole bills itself as a Mexican American cocktail bar. It was recommended to me by a friend who owns a mobile craft cocktail school. Actually, my buddy insisted I go with him and a couple of other dear friends, and I’m glad I did. The flautas ahogadas were salty and quickly gobbled up, but the hit of the night was Superbueno’s Dashi Papi. The whimsical menu item consists of grassy raicilla (an agave spirit from Jalisco) served in a tiny bowl-like jicara, a shot of birria consommé, and a hot sauce–dressed can of Monopolio beer served on the side. 13 First Avenue, East Village. 347-866-7739.
Few taquerias advertising themselves as “Mexico City–style” taco joints truly are such. The descriptor is little more than code meant to telegraph a misplaced sense of authenticity. Luckily, Taqueria Ramirez is the real deal. During my first visit I stood in line in the rain, and once the host/bouncer allowed me in, I almost fell on the slippery floor. But the freshly sliced al pastor from a two-hundred-pound trompo, the delicate suadero, and the blowtorched tripas were worth the embarrassment. I returned the next day to a longer line and more incredible tacos. I’m not surprised owner Giovanni Cervantes was named a 2023 James Beard Awards semifinalist. 94 Franklin, Brooklyn. No phone.
The same folks who deride the tacos in New York are often the ones also moaning about the lack of decent Tex-Mex in the city. Yellow Rose, opened by Texans Dave and Krystiana Rizo in 2020, is more proof that those individuals are wrong. Here the flour tortillas are gauzy in appearance and buttery in flavor, ideal for pairing with the deeply spiced carne guisada. Don’t skip out on the peppy queso either. 102 Third Avenue, New York. 212-529-8880.