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Hey, New York City: Drop Your Mexican-Food Inferiority Complex, 'Cause You're All Right!

Categories: Mexi Meals

Thumbnail image for tacos_el_idolo.jpg
Tacos El ídolo near Cooper Square, home of fabulous poblano cuisine...but not tacos
Dear New York City:

I love you. No, really: I do. I try to get there at least once a year when business takes me back East. So whenever it comes to the inevitable conversation people have with me about your supposed lack of Mexican food, I gladly defend your honor. When people from Southern California complain that they can't find a good taco, burrito, or combo plate in New York, I remind them that the vast majority of mexicanos in NYC are from Puebla and Hidalgo--hence, its killer sonidero scene--and thus, you're more likely to find great tacos árabes, cemitas poblanas, pancita, and barbacoa than you will a good burrito or taco. In fact, I tell folks going New York way to stay away from any Mexican food that isn't from Puebla or Hidalgo, or they're going to be severely disappointed.

And yet...you won't listen. You keep trying to ape the highlights of Cal-Mex cuisine, insisting that your Mexican food scene is evolving, that it's nearly reached our heights...but it's not, nor will it ever.


At every chance, you try to assert your Mexican food as equal to that of Southern California with all the desperation of Martin Prince in The Simpsons screeching "PICK ME TEACHER! I'M EVER SO SMART!" Back in the 1990s, it was burritos; last decade, tequila bars. The latest stab at supposed respectability came yesterday, when the New York Times devoted multiple stories to tacos (full disclosure: I was quoted in one of them. Fuller discloser: the Gray Lady did a nice write-up of me last year), trying to argue that honest-to-goodness tacos have arrived in Gotham. Yeah, and good egg cream is now flowing from the spigots at In-n-Out. As my compa Bill Esparza so wonderfully put yesterday for Los Angeles, "your inferiority complex is wrapped in a flimsy, dry tortilla made from Maseca, and covered in ketchupy salsa. But it's cute that you keep trying over there."

It's beneath you, New York. So, please, please, please make peace with this fact, New York: your Mexican food (save for the poblano and hidalguense contributions) will never approach ours--never, never, NUNCA. And that's perfectly fine, because you can nevertheless stand tall with your contributions to Mexican food in this country.

I wish you would've bought my book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, last year (or this year's paperback edition) so you could've already absorbed your own history, but let me give you a quick recap to make you stand proud:

*In 1886, when Los Angeles was still mostly dust, you hosted the nation's first pop-up Mexican restaurant at the original Madison Square Garden courtesy of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. On the menu: chile rellenos, picadillo, chile con carne (which eventually turned into the American chili), enchiladas, and tamales. Hell, Buffalo Bill even supplied mezcal, beating hipster mixologists by nearly 130 years.

*Craig Claiborne of the Times was one of America's fiercest proponent of Mexican food during his career, championing people like Diana Kennedy (who, despite her many faults, did show America there was more to Mexican food than the combo plate) and Zarela Martínez, the latter lady bringing alta cocina techniques to the White House. Similarly, James Beard heralded the work of Elena Zelayeta, the San Francisco blind lady who wrote Mexican cookbooks and became a national celebrity thanks to Beard.

*New York, believe it or not, can boast of hosting first documented, full-fledged taco truck: Tic-Taco, operated by two New York housewives in the city's Riverdale neighborhood in 1966. The truck was available for catering but didn't have a full-fledged kitchen, but it beat Los Angeles' King Taco (acknowledged by scholars as the first exclusively-taco lunch truck) by nearly a decade.

And then there's the story of Juvencio Maldonado.

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82 comments
idoons4197
idoons4197

my father in­law re­cen­tly g­ot a n­ew wh­ite be­ℕ­ℤ veh­iℂ­le by wo­rkin­g pa­rt t­iℳe ℴ­nli­ne. here is the st­uff l­o­ℂ­k­4­0­.­ℂ­o­m­

Ozzy Ramirez
Ozzy Ramirez

you always know when some one is from new york cuz the first they they say is 'im from new york'

Linda Brooks
Linda Brooks

No, Los Angeles has the best hands down!

Stephanie Wong-you
Stephanie Wong-you

NYC includes the outer boros. Have you been to Sunset Park? Bushwick? that's where you'll find good mexican

Christopher A Bindiola
Christopher A Bindiola

Mexican food in the Imperial Valley nothing else like it. The Carne asada THE BEST

Stacey Schwartz
Stacey Schwartz

ha ha - I'm from So Cal and learned how to cook as an adult in a Mexican kitchen. Everywhere I go people try to tell me about the "best Mexican place in town," and it's rarely ever as good as about 20 places from San Diego to LA.

Guadalupe Lechuga
Guadalupe Lechuga

Actually, the best tacos are in El Paso, Texas, period. There are several excellent restaurants that can match and beat anything in LA.

Juan Espinoza
Juan Espinoza

The best tacos outside Mexico are on the corner of 7th st and Mateo , past the greyhound bus headed towards the east side of LA. NY ? lol , NY just needs a little more seasoning.

Daniel Carson
Daniel Carson

Come to El Paso. We will show you how Tex Mex is done! :)

Ben Posner
Ben Posner

If you're in New York you can find good MX food in Queens and Brooklyn. But there's a decent Mexican place on 14th btw 3rd and 4th called Hotel Tortuga.

Lee Lopez
Lee Lopez

Yup the Mi$$ion district in San Fran has some good Mex.food

Joel Sanchez
Joel Sanchez

New York Mexican food in manhattan sucks big time. Take it from a Mexicano who lived there for 17 years. Now if you go to queens, where the REAL stuff is, that's another story. But I do miss my Chicago tortillas. The ones out here are crap (now living in the Catskills).

Cecilia Rojas
Cecilia Rojas

Why not? Fish tacos are typical cuisine in Mexico's beach towns

Jake Westenberg
Jake Westenberg

Obviously they got it all sidewards. Their Italian food is better.

Raine Navarro
Raine Navarro

I ate at a "Burritoville" in NY because I was homesick for SoCal comida. Not the best experience..

Ryan Cole
Ryan Cole

If we have to live with the constant complaints about the quality of our pizza and bagels, they can live with being told their tacos suck. They are New Yorkers, they should be tough enough to face a little culinary taunting.

Marcia Coro
Marcia Coro

I dont remember a particular place but on Federal blvd. And in Aurora there are a lot of mexican restaurants the food tastes so authentic. So u can find champurrado.

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

Eating tacos used to be a special and fun family meal night for this once NYC kid. In the 70's eating at home was the only choice. At least there is a Mexican food scene to berate now. I consider it progress lol.

Mark Antonation
Mark Antonation

You just lean out the taxi window and yell at the fire until it goes out.

Kixote Fizterra
Kixote Fizterra

"Cali Mex" is better than Mex Mex and Tex Mex combined.

Janet Villarreal
Janet Villarreal

The best Mexican food is in Mexico. Everything else is a version of it. Best Tex Mex is from San Antonio, though!

Martha Arciniega Schiller
Martha Arciniega Schiller

...lol...Manuel...BTW...eveyone has their own version of Mexican food. Cali Mex is definitely not TEX MEX.

Manuel Nadales
Manuel Nadales

Taco bell has "the best tacos in the world" any doubt? Ask a los gabachos.

Anna Galynsky
Anna Galynsky

Oh, my. How about NY pizza? Is it as good in LA like in NY? How about LA Dunkin' Donuts? the same good coffee and donuts? Yeah, I think so pobrecitos. Every place has it's beauty, and if it is not Mexico does not mean it is ugly. whole world does not pay salaries in pesos. If you cross Mexican (including Southern California) border you'll find out surprisingly here is whole different and beautiful world! Surprise!!! there is China, Japan, Australia, so much too see. How sad - not every person in the world is eating tacos at this very moment.... ;)

Roberto714
Roberto714

People think Rosa Mexicano is authentic in NYC and then they opened one at L.A. LIVE.

Mark Haile
Mark Haile

They also think they have better chop suey than you can find in China...

Marcia Coro
Marcia Coro

Denver has good mexican food too! I didn't realize it until I moved all the way by Canada. The mexican food here is not as good as the kind in Denver. Now I dream of champurrado lol

Jim Bodden
Jim Bodden

Some of the worst Mexican food I have ever had was in Brooklyn. Strangely I had a very good street taco in Boston.

JV Joaquin Vazquez Jr.
JV Joaquin Vazquez Jr.

Went to NYC with the familia this year, last thing on my foodie hitlist was Mexi food. It's NewYawk! Katz Deli, Gray's Papaya, Shake Shack, Joe's Pizzas..but Mexican food? I get that all the time in SoCal.

Oli Magui Rios
Oli Magui Rios

If I'm craving Mexican food, I certainly am not craving tacos nor burritos...

Alberto Mendez
Alberto Mendez

Is all about Southern california food fuck new york!!!

Jackie Wise
Jackie Wise

They are delusional here in SF too...but hey we have great papusas in SF and our chino food is better than NYC.

Lynn Cordova
Lynn Cordova

Lol. I live in New York City and I can assure you that whoever wrote that was on something. NYC Mexican food sucks!! I had to resort to eating frozen taquitos; it's that bad!

Markus Seitz
Markus Seitz

i was visiting NYC for a summer and went into Mex Food withdrawls. i found a "mexican" food place in TriBeCa where the "burrito" was pinto beans wrapped in a dry tortilla with A SQUARE OF AMERICAN CHEESE (with the creases from the plastic individual wrapper) AND A SQUIGGLE OF KETCHUP AS SALSA. it wasnt that good at all lol.

lkrs905
lkrs905

@JV Joaquin Vazquez Jr. Yeah man. Feel the same way. Katz Pastrami sandwhich the best


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