Best Taco Tour Through Manhattan

Best Tacos in New York City A Taco Tour Through Manhattan

It’s not everyday one can claim to have a brilliant idea, but I had one the other week. I texted my friend Eric with this epiphany: “Taco Tour NY.” The mission seemed clear enough: to discover the best tacos in New York City.


But I realized that the wording of my message was problematic. Eric had once had a girlfriend nicknamed Taco. (Because she was from a country where they spoke Spanish–not Mexico–and her white classmates decided that the moniker Taco was apropos, which would be like a Mexican dubbing a British person Hamburger.) I worried that my suggestion to seek out the quintessential Mexican food would be misinterpreted as a bad joke. I pictured Eric reading the message and thinking that I was telling him that his ex-girlfriend was giving guided tours of New York. I did damage control with a clarifying text and Eric signed up for the adventure.


As you might expect, New York has a multitude of tacos shops. Some are trendy and filled with hipsters; some are food carts parked along the sidewalk; some are hole-in-the-wall gemstones; some feature the taco on the same menu as General Tsao’s Chicken. We nixed the Chinese-Mexican mergers, though one of the best restaurants on the Upper West is a Chinese-Dominican collaborative. To make things walkable, we also focused our taco tour to the Lower East Side of Manhattan.


In Search of the Best Tacos in New York City


On our journey from Midtown to find the best tacos in New York City, the craving for the folded appetizer overcame us and we stopped at La Posada Mexican Food on 3rd Avenue, just below 27th Street. “One carne asada and one chorizo.” The cashier looked at us strangely. He didn’t understand why two grown men would order one taco each. Even after we explained our mission, he appeared confused.


The $2.79 tacos at La Posada were phenomenal. The standard cilantro and onion mix topped the carne asada as did a a shot of guacamole. The spicy, minced chorizo was covered in slightly bitter cabbage, mingling the flavors expertly.


The Best Taco Tour Hits Alphabet City


We didn’t find another taco shop until we reached Avenue A, which, from 14th Street to 1st was loaded with more than half a dozen quality taco joints.


Best Taco Tour Through Manhattan


We began with a tongue taco and a roast pork taco at Zaragoza Mexican Deli, between 13th and 14th Street. This madre y padre taco shop, which is part Mexican grocery, features ancient civilization murals, Tupperwares of dried hot chilies on the table, pinatas for sale, and a cat lazing on an old jukebox. The pork taco was spiced well and further improved with a few dollops of the homemade red salsa. The tongue could’ve been crispier, as it too nearly mimicked the texture of pâté. The tacos, served on reusable plastic plates from the ’80s, ones that would be recycled into a camping mess kit, were $3.00, or $3.50 if you selected the slightly larger version.


A few blocks south on the avenue, near 9th Street, we stopped in at La Lucha, named after Lucha Libre, Spanish for freestyle wrestling. The taco joint pays homage to the masked Mexican fighters with action figures lining the door, shrines to the masked warriors on one wall, wrestling posters on the other, and a silent black and white film that plays in the restaurant. The tacos, named for the different wrestlers, come in many varieties. The best is El Espectro, the crisp, salted steak taco that is wrapped with that melange of onion and cilantro. Other fine opponents were the Dr. Wagner–a spicy Mayan-style pork taco with black beans–and the cold spicy cactus taco, which had the crunch of slightly cooked bell peppers and the pop of okra. La Lucha’s tacos range from $3.50 to $4.00. La Lucha, in an attempt to remain authentic, refuses to serve burritos. We learned this from our white waitress.


Best Taco Tour Through Manhattan


Best Taco Tour Through Manhattan


Best Taco Tour Through Manhattan


Even less authentic was Five Tacos, just one block down and around the corner. We entered to find Five Tacos’ Asian entrepreneur counting bills from the register and a steady flow of Alphabet City’s trendiest hipsters. And while the $3.67 tacos with a $.92 squirt of guacamole were the heartiest of the tour, the pulled pork and spicy chorizo were the least flavorful. However, if you’re looking to indoctrinate a non-taco eater on Mexican, this is a great place for cheap beers, giant burritos, and creative sauces like Coconut Masala and Hickory Bourbon BBQ, which were interesting attempts at uniqueness, but incompatible with my taco tastes.


Best Taco Tour Through Manhattan


The Best Taco Tour Goes Mobile


And just when I thought the tour to find the best taco in New York had run its course–Eric was full and we had somewhere to be–I found the Taco Morales truck parked on the corner of Avenue A and 2nd Street. I wanted another taste of tongue, so I stepped inside the plastic and cloth winter barrier set up beside the cart and ordered my $2.50 taco, the cheapest on the taco tour. Less stewed than Zaragoza’s, the tongue was garnished with slivers of radish, a drizzle of guacamole, and a slice of lime. The cart taco also took honors for being the hottest of the eleven tacos ordered. (The long journey from kitchen to table must have been detrimental to the heat retention of the tacos at the previous establishments.)


Best Taco Tour Through Manhattan


All up, the best taco in New York City on the East Side, wrapped between 34th and Houston, was La Posada’s. You won’t hear much about this taqueria because it lacks charm and it’s not as hip an area as Alphabet City.


Posted on by Noah Lederman in I Ate What?, New York, Or Bust

2 Responses to Best Taco Tour Through Manhattan

  1. Sam

    Tacos are really cheap eats.
    Bill maher sez that taco backwards is …..O cat

    • Noah Lederman

      Tacos are very affordable. O Cat would probably be an even cheaper eat.

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