New York City often gets slammed for its lack of quality Mexican food, and when compared with cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, we can’t help but cede the point. At the same time, however, Mexican restaurants in NYC are opening with a steady vigor, and with the latest slate of openings, it seems like the good ole folks of New York are trying to change that pesky perception. Like your best restaurant-going friend, TLK has done the research and scouted the best of the lot. Here’s our list of the latest (and greatest) New York City restaurant openings for your Mexican food fix.
Chef Roberto Santibañez, teacher, author, and award-winning chef, is a beloved part of the Mexican community in New York City. Raised in Mexico City, he has worked to acclaim in Austin, Texas and as culinary director of New York’s Rosa Mexicano franchise. However, it was upon opening his Fonda restaurants in Brooklyn and the East Village that he finally hit his stride.
Now, Chelsea’s Mexican food fans can rejoice; the latest Fonda branch has landed on 9th Avenue (at 21st Street). With a streamlined décor sourced and designed specifically for the restaurant by Mexico City artisans, locals can enjoy Mexican staples like mushroom tlacoyos, duck zarapes, Yucatan-style grilled shrimp, achiote-marinated chicken smothered in Chihuahua cheese, and the best cochinita pibil north of Merida. And don’t miss weekday happy hours where drink specials on favorites like the Spicy Blood Orange (serrano chile infused tequila, blood orange juice and triple sec) and Tamarind (tamarind, silver tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, pasilla rim) will abound.
Though the name might not entice the wary diner, The Black Ant is one of our favorite new restaurant openings this year. The team from Ofrenda (Jorge Guzman, Chef/Partner Mario Hernandez) has elevated their menu, cocktail program, and overall ambiance with their latest project, now open and offering modern Mexican in the East Village.
A darker, sexier version of Ofrenda’s space, The Black Ant is named for one of the star ingredients in many of its dishes: ants, dehydrated and imported from Mexico. Long used in Mexican cuisine, and much more than a gimmick, the insects actually enhance some of Hernandez’s flavor profiles, including the Black Ant Guacamole which is laced with chicatana (or flying ant) salt, the Tacos Enchapulinados, where shrimp are coated in a grasshopper (chapuline) crust, and the Tlayuda con Chapulines, a protein-heavy alternative to tlayudas de res, or any other meat-filled snack. Other menu standouts include the rabbit enchiladas and the short ribs, and be sure to sample multiple cocktail creations sanctioned by the talented Jorge Guzman.
Stephen Starr, the Philadelphia restaurateur behind such behemoth New York spots as Buddakan and Morimoto, has finally brought his Mexican concept El Vez to New York’s Battery Park City. No longer will BPC-living foodies need to cross West Street for their taco fix, as the gargantuan menu has something for everyone from tacos to tostadas, quesadillas to queso fundido, enchiladas to elote.
The name of the restaurant is a play on Elvis (get it, El Vez…), and the space is a cavernous homage to the king by way of Mexican dishes. An odd combination, we agree; but if you’re downtown and craving something south of the border, the over 100 tequilas and mezcals, as well as solid offerings like the snapper aguachiles, the mole sampler, and the guacamole will definitely hit the spot, as will the many variations of tacos. On weekdays, expect a throng of suited financial types letting off steam; on weekends, be prepared for families with (multiple) kids in tow.
Tacombi diehards have something new to celebrate: the brand’s third restaurant in New York, Café El Presidente. Joining their Fonda Nolita and Montauk locations, the all-day Mexican cafe and dining room offers coffee from Veracruz, made-to-order agua frescas, and of course, Tacombi’s beloved tacos. Led by chef Jason DeBriere, formerly of Peels, and chef Luis Aguilar, head chef at Fonda Nolita, the menus are focused on sustainably sourced ingredients, including fresh corn and flour tortillas from their on-site tortilleria, Vista Hermosa.
Hungry diners can anticipate snacking from one of the many market-style stalls within the space such as Tacos Madison, a Mexico City style taqueria and cantina; Cafeteria La Antigua, a Veracruz-style Mexican Coffee shop serving carry-out breakfast and Jugos Lupita, a Tulum-inspired juice bar. Coming soon onsite at El Presidente? A Mexican food retail store and private event spaces.