168 Ludlow St., nr. Stanton St.; 212-780-0121
These rolled and fried tacos—a.k.a. flautas—are said to be a San Diego specialty, and come stuffed here with chef-approved proteins (Creekstone Farms beef, Berkshire pork) and dressed two ways: “classic” style, with shredded romaine, guacamole sauce, and grated cotija cheese; or “cheesy” (a tangy Cheez Whiz–like substance, sour cream, and a zingy pickled-jalapeño relish). Connoisseurs opt for “chronic,” an unholy mash-up of both.
- Otto’s Tacos
141 Second Ave., nr. 9th St.; 646-678-4018
San Antonio has its puffy taco; Otto’s, whose chef and owner both hail from Orange County, has its off-menu Gorgon, made from a supersize portion of excellent house masa that’s fried to order, then stuffed with carne asada, guacamole, chopped onion, cilantro, and a drizzle of serrano crema. It’s one of the best tacos in town.
- Mission Cantina
172 Orchard St., at Stanton St.; 212-254-2233
Inspired by a Mission District taqueria, Danny Bowien griddles his flour tortillas, then artfully fills them with avocado, Oaxaca queso, crema made from buttermilk, and Rancho Gordo pinto beans simmered in bay leaves. The protein fillings come in all sorts of varieties (skate, brisket, al pastor, lamb), but if you're getting them to go, we recommend those durable old staples, chicken and pork—especially if you factor in the long, meandering delivery ride.
- Taqueria Diana
129 Second Ave., nr. St. Marks Pl.; 646-422-7871
Nachos may be Mexican or Tex-Mex in origin, but Diana’s owner, Matthew La Rue, comes from San Francisco, and his version is one gloriously gloppy mess: the puffy, greasy chips strewn on a metal tray for maximum exposure, the meat (go for the tender carnitas) generously distributed, the customary toppings achieving a McDLT-like harmony of contrasting textures and temperatures.
- Los Tacos No. 1
75 Ninth Ave., at 15th St.; 212-256-0343
This Tijuana obscurity— as interpreted by a native of that city and his two SoCal partners—is essentially a quesadilla that’s made with two well-cheesed tortillas slapped together like a bologna sandwich, rather than one folded over on itself like a half-moon. Inside are all the drippy fixings plus your protein of choice—which, in this case, should be the stand’s signature pork adobada.
The Cal-Mex Conquest
Best new Mexican-ish imports from the West Coast.
From the 2014 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine