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Eat This Now—Tacos Take Manhattan

Otto's Tacos by Otto Cedeno

There once was a time in New York City when “taco” was short for “Taco Bell.” And for authentic Mexican fare it was Queens or bust. Not anymore. In the last year the taco has officially taken Manhattan, and taquerias everywhere are firing up their grills to sling up real-deal Mexican and So-Cal-style tacos. Here are some of our favorites.

Los Tacos No. 1
Housed in the Chelsea Market, it’s easy to find Los Tacos No. 1: just follow the scent of barbecued pork and smoked meat. And while the taqueria fills its corn and flour tortillas with your choice of chicken, steak, and nopal (cactus), the absolute must is the adobada, otherwise known as pork al pastor. The juicy, flavorful meat, carved from a spit upon each order, is accented by a tangy, spicy salsa, making this hands-down one of the best tacos in the Big Apple right now.

Otto’s Tacos
Otto Cedeno, the namesake behind this diminutive East Village taqueria, modeled the place after taco joints from his hometown, Los Angeles. The chewy, thick corn tortillas are made right behind the counter, and they’re some of the best tortillas this side of Tortilleria Nixtamal in Queens. As for fillings, there are the usual suspects—pork, steak, chicken—but the best here is the dazzling shrimp. The subtle serrano cream is the secret to what makes this taco a standout.

Sembrado en Nueva York
Diminutive and sleek, Sembrado wears its Mexico City roots on its sleeve—or, rather, on its tortillas. Tacos here are minimally dressed, placing the emphasis on the star of the show, whether it be carnitas, cecina, chicken, etc. But the real showstopper is the costra, a streetside staple in the Mexican capital—caramelized Chihuahua cheese is grilled on top of a tortilla, then topped with your choice of meat. The cheese adds an extra level of flavor, making for a deeply satisfying taco.

Tacos Morelos
The first brick-and-mortar shop of the wildly popular taco cart from Queens, Tacos Morelos (438 East 9th Street) gives diners a choice of homemade tortillas or “tacos from the bag.” Definitely choose the former, and do yourself a favor by ordering the very good chorizo tacos—the grilled Mexican sausage is particularly good with the pipian (pumpkin) salsa that accompanies it.

Taqueria Diana
Nachos fanatics crush all over Diana for the East Village eatery’s mountainous nachos, but don’t skip the tacos here. The carnitas version, laced with a mild green salsa, accentuates the flavor of the barbecued pork.

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