I already forewarned you in Diablo Royale back in October of 2011. There are plenty of good (alternative) Mexican places to visit here in the Big Apple and I claim to have found at least four other decent ones.
My friend and I came here straight from Germany with practically no previous knowledge of good Middle-American food. Taco Bells and some disappointing Mexican joints on the German economy weren’t really a great hit to both of us.
He was the first one to discover the small spot Dos Toros right next to Union Square. I imagine he just came across it on a random weekend day, as Union Square used to be our favorite spot to hang out in the Spring of 2010. Either way, Dos Toros has still proven to be a representable food place when it comes to the Tex-Mex cuisine. Their serving sizes are pretty huge compared to what you would get elsewhere. And instead of making up the size with high prices or crappy food quality, you actually do purchase a good tasting piece at a reasonable price. Dos Toros was mentioned in the New York Times and Time Out New York in 2010 – in this case it was for a good reason.
I still like to go back once in a while just to taste their delicious tacos or burritos when the appropriate appetite overcomes me every so often. Their menu is easy to oversee and even though the line can be quite long during certain hours, there is no reason to be discouraged of trying this place out.
A second, really nice, quick dining spot I’ve only discovered a couple of months ago is what I like to call the hidden gem of the East Village: The underground taqueria called Snack Dragon! While going on a pubcrawl through this part of Manhattan, my friend recommended the sweet joint to me. It is indeed so inconspicuous that I would have stumbled past it, not even paying attention to this Taco Shack. A variety of sides for the total amount of 12 bucks bought each of us a meal that filled our bellies and left us with the feeling that we had indeed feasted on something special. I call the Snack Dragon the alternative choice to Mexican cuisine as you order dishes as exotic sounding as Quinoa Pilaf and Quack’-n’Cheese. The dishes might seem like a culinary adventure to you but I encourage you to go down this road, you will be positively surprised. So I’ve come to see that I really like to feast on tacos filled with Quinoa, cilantro, and a great mix of vegetables once I am in the area. Luckily, the Snack Dragon is open quite late and it is worth the stop if you’re stumbling out of an Irish, German, or any other pub, searching for an edible midnight meal.
A highly recognized place in Manhattan has also opened up in Brooklyn and can now be found in both boroughs: La Esquina! Yes, the spot where celebrities go and where you can only sit downstairs when you made your reservation well in advance (at least two weeks ahead of time). I really don’t know how my friend heard of this one but one summer day in June I found myself sitting with him there and simply enjoying the best of spicy side dishes served on the upstairs level. The price is okay for this spot, but what can be rather annoying is the amount of scarcely dressed girls who are trying to get in to the downstairs area by sweet-talking the bouncer (at least in the Manhattan location). I highly recommend this place on Kenmare Street. It’s close to the Canal Street stops and would make a fantastic detour from a trip to Chinatown or Little Italy.
Another restaurant to recommend is seated in Williamsburg: la Mesa Coyoacan (yes, it has the exotic name dreamt of). I’ve fallen for their four dishes of Salsa which are served at every entrée you order. The servers actually take their time and willingly explain them to you once they notice you’re new to the place. Of these four, one is the least spicy and one is very spicy, so be careful not to confuse the two. I recommend their Tacos De Camaron, three shrimp creations which can very hot, so prepare for it. Their Enchiladas Verdes are equally fantastic and might be the better option if you’re really hungry, as they are served in big portions.
In general, it’s more about the seemingly unimpressive places that will blow your mind when it comes to tacos, quesadillas, and decent Mexican cuisine in New York. I will always remember one hella birthday in December during which my German friend and I sat in the most disgusting looking spot in Williamsburg on the border to Bushwick and couldn’t comprehend how this little taco shop could have the best burritos we’ve ever eaten to that date. Europeans and maybe even fellow Americans might think that a place that looks rundown from the outside is most likely not worth trying out but my experience has taught me different in New York. I would suggest to go for it, try out some of the food, and indulge in the culinary experience brought to you!