My friends from back home regularly decry the state of New York Mexican food. Being natives of Los Angeles, the only thing we’re genuinely uppity and territorial about might be tacos. We grew up eating them: They’re a staple of the Angeleno diet and a ubiquitous fixture of the city’s culinary scene. The smell of charred tortillas flowing out of taquerias and the high-decibel sizzle of searing animal flesh are both things we got used to pretty early on. But when I moved to New York, I found that much of that vibe was actually here too, only hidden in pockets and corners of the city that weren’t necessarily boasted about in the pages of Zagat. It takes time to find the less-fabled taco gems scattered throughout Brooklyn—they’re not exactly slapping you in the face at every turn.
So, if you’re the kind of person who’s robotically habituated to scarfing down Mexican food whenever you can, here’s a guide to some of Brooklyn’s best taquerias.
Taqueria Nortena: This little outpost on Manhattan Avenue, is pretty ensconced in the densely packed neighborhood, so it might be easy to miss. But once you order something like the Tortas Piernas (pork leg) or one of their hefty dinner entrees (the Plato De Steak A La Mexicana is not to be trifled with), Nortena should forever be on your Brooklyn Taqueria GPS. Also worthy of mention: Basically anything on the menu will get you full for less than seven bucks. That’s a value we can all cherish in this ultra-expensive city.
668 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint
Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos: This place has a few names, colloquially, but the spot also known as Tortilla Factory and Los Hermanos has a singular identity on the inside. Its first nickname is an apt one, being that tortilleria essentially means “place where tortillas are made,” and the massive steel mechanism that shapes the taqueria’s raw maize into its delectable, soft tortillas is as loud as it is interesting. But that’s not where the intrigue stops. The tacos here are some of the best I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy on either coast. Oh, and another bonus: Basically everything is under $3.50.
271 Starr Street, Bushwick
La Superior: La Superior has bright red walls and a penchant for flashy presentation. The full brunch, lunch, and dinner menus give you a broad gamut of Mexican cuisine to choose from. It’s the kind of place with dishes you won’t see hawked out of the taco trucks that line Bedford Avenue. This is a place to go for cheap tacos but also for the kind of risk-taking modern cuisine typical of a full service restaurant. Try the Taco De Pavo En Escabeche (turkey cooked in escabeche, served with black bean paste & house cured onions) to see what we mean.
295 Berry Street, Williamsburg
Oaxaca Taqueria: Oaxaca has been able to expand its stronghold on New York’s taco scene simply because it’s so consistently good. Critics have routinely raved about this place. One thing that caught my attention was the use of pickled onions–they’re presented in a neon pink hue and don’t fail to activate your salivary glands upon taste. Check out any location in the city (obviously), but Oaxaca holds down Brooklyn locations in Park Slope, Bed-stuy, Boerum Hill, and right next to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Various locations throughout Brooklyn, for more info, visit oaxacatacos.com
Taqueria Cocoyoq: El Cocoyoq on Wyckoff peddles burritos that are literally too big for most humans to devour in a single attempt. They’re flavorful and absolutely crammed with simmering ingredients; too crammed to be eaten in a hand-t0-mouth kind of traditional sense, actually, so we recommend you take one home to be eaten with a knife and fork. The Al Pastor (marinated pork) absolutely explodes upon sliding over your taste buds, so come hungry and come often.
211 Wyckoff Avenue, Bushwick
Maya Taqueria: This joint is situated on a quaint little block in Prospect Heights and offers the kind of neighborhood vibe that might be missing from other noisy taco establishments. The salsa bar is extensive and the backyard patio offers a pristine place to sit amid some sunshine when the weather is warm.
637 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights
Taqueria El Fogon: There’s much to be said about the overwhelming number of taco joints in Bushwick, but if your establishment stands out amid the pack, there’s something to said for that. El Fogon is great because they serve Mexican breakfast, a delicacy that taco-newbies probably aren’t lucky enough to know intricately well. The best part of this situation is that you don’t even have to wake up early to get your Huevos a la Mexicana or Chilaquiles, because they serve these dishes all day.
1050 Flushing Avenue, Bushwick