Taquerias have become a lot like pizzerias, of late: there’s seemingly one on every corner. And while the menus are generally the same — think tacos, burritos and enchiladas — their vibe ranges from no frills takeout with Spanish telenovelas in the background to more sophisticated (but still casual) spots with outdoor seating, lots of cocktails, and a hangout-and-stay ambiance.
As for what makes them popular, diners rave about the price point (often $3 to $4 for a taco) as well as the fact that they offer simple, filling meals with lots of flavor.
In fact, according to research from TOP Data, the country’s appetite for tacos has risen 12.8% during the pandemic with 42% of us eating between four and 12 tacos per month. Statistics from Technomic’s 2020 Global Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report confirm the interest with Mexican food rating third among the country’s menu trends, just behind Italian and Chinese cuisine.
Lizzy Freier, Technomic’s Director of Menu Research and Insights, said consumers have been having a love affair with Americanized Tex-Mex fare for decades but lately, have been more eager to take a deeper dive into the authentic offerings that represent the true culinary traditions of Mexico.
As far as the types of foods that lead in appeal, it’s mostly handhelds: tacos (67%), burritos (61%) and quesadillas (60%).
If that news made you hungry, read on to see where you can find a taqueria:
Edgar Carrillo, a chef with two decades-plus experience including seven years as chef de cuisine at X20 in Yonkers, has always wanted to serve people the Mexican food he grew up eating. So, in January, he and his wife Norman Cuenca opened Coco Taqueria.
The taqueria, he said, features the flavors of his childhood (he’s from Puebla, Mexico) along with the foods his mom and grandmother would often make for him. Taquerias, he said, are the most representative foods of his country and his goal is to bring that authenticity to Westchester.
Along with birria tacos, carne asada and a chicken quesadilla — he braises his chicken for three hours before marinating with spicy Mexican dried peppers — the menu at this fast casual spot, which takes its name from the Disney movie “Coco,” also serves a host of American-inspired Mexican favorites, such as a make-your-own burrito bowl, fajitas, chimichangas and fresh juices as well as Mexican sodas. Other menu items include chicken and tortilla soup, sweet plantains, street corn, flan, churros and a Mexican hot chocolate.
Go: 84 Beekman Ave., 914-909-2057, cocotaqueria.com. Indoor and outdoor seating.
Good vibes and good tacos is the mantra at La La, where chef and owner Fabian Gallardo has combined the ambiance and “cool” of Los Angeles with the homey, family-forward environment of Larchmont. Opened in Dec. 2018 as Petite Taqueria Larchmont (aka PTL) but rebranded in Feb. 2019 as La La, Gallardo utilizes seasonal ingredients and blue corn, Mexico City- style tortillas.
The menu is varied but relatively short, geared to get you in and out at a reasonable price point. Expect six tacos — carnitas, asada, sweet potato, chicken, Baja fish and a seasonal special — as well as four kinds of quesadillas and six sides, including killer Brussel’s sprouts and a super addictive sweet corn with mayonnaise, piquin chili powder and cotija cheese. And, there’s plenty of seating, with room for 28 inside and 60 outside.
Go: 150 Larchmont Ave., Larchmont, 914-834-2244, lalataquerialarchmont.com; indoor and outdoor seating
Healthy street food is the emphasis at this 24-seat fast-casual Mexican restaurant, open since August 2020. All vegetables and meats are locally sourced and there are a variety of gluten-free and vegetarian options. Owner Jeevan Pullan, who also owns Vega Mexican in Hartsdale, offers a host of salsas prepared with fresh ingredients in house daily, including homemade red salsa, spicy Chile Arbol, Ranchera Salsa and Green Tomatillo Salsa.
Go: 1789 Central Park Ave., 914-652-7004, takomexican.com, indoor seating only
No doubt you’ve driven by this place a thousand times (it’s on a shortcut route to Marshall’s and Trader Joe’s) without stopping by. But stop by you should. Open since Oct. 2018, this intimate family-run taqueria, with a host of colorful flags and the melody of Mexican music, brings the flavors of Mexico City to Westchester using the owners’ original recipes. Dishes include al pastor taco (including a vegan version), birria tacos, and huarache, an oval handmade tortilla with a center filled with beans and topped with salsa, onions, sour cream, cheese powder and your choice of meat.
They also have an extensive Quesos Fundidos menu, basically a variety of cheesey tortillas reminiscent of what you’d find in Mexico City, albeit with their own names including the Gringo (meat, melted cheese on two flour tortillas, topped with guacamole) and the Nopalqueso (fresh grilled cactus with onions, melted cheese on a flour tortilla topped with guacamole). The eatery, with 10 counter seats inside and four outside, is owned by Jose, Diana and Roberto Navarro and their mom, Victoria Juarez.
Go: 257 Battle Ave., 914-607-7684, taquerialafrontera.com; indoor and outdoor seating
Taqueria San Antonio, New Rochelle
Family-owned, this taqueria has served the community for 11 years, not only at its restaurant — it previously had been down the street on Washington Avenue — but also at its popular taco truck, located at City Park Road in New Rochelle. Along with a robust menu of quesadillas, tacos, tortas, tostadas and entrees, the 30-seat eatery also boasts a separate ordering area for cocktails under the name Drinks De Sol featuring Instagram-worthy drinks, often with gummy candies and/or fruit on top.
Go: 252 Union Ave., 914-813-8331, indoor seating only
Open since May, this new spot, with extensive outdoor seating, is a long-held dream of owner Jimmy Rugova, who loves Mexican food and wanted to bring something different to the Yonkers waterfront. Rugova has redone the former Cafe Hudson space (he is the owner) to feature an airy indoor bar/dining area with a sleek, mod vibe, accentuated by water views and a menu featuring fusion flair. (The space had formerly been Cafe Hudson, which he also owned.)
Taco choices include a “Porky Pastor,” spicy marinated pork with pineapple relish and avocado cream; the “Shorty,” braised short rib, pickled onions, salsa rojo and cilantro; and the poached shrimp with Asian slaw, avocado, siracha mayo, sesame seeds, eel sauce and a wonton shell. Rugova says tacos “that you won’t find anywhere else” are in the works. The menu includes specialty cocktails including margaritas, mojitos and sangria.
Go: 1 Van Der Donck St., 914-207-0631, taquerio.com; indoor and outdoor seating
Jeff Kreisel’s first job after culinary school was at Mercadito, a high end NYC taqueria where everything was made from scratch using the freshest ingredients possible. The experience, he said, made a lasting impression on him. And though he went on to cook mostly French and American cuisine during his career, he always knew when the time was right he’d open a Mexican-inspired restaurant utilizing those same bold flavors and “fresh is best” philosophy.
He calls his 20-seat Craft Taqueria, opened in 2019, “Mexican-inspired,” because while Mexican cuisine is the foundation, he wants the freedom to go beyond that. Everything here is made in house, including hand-pressed, single origin, heirloom corn tortillas; all his meats, fish, and produce are sourced locally, as much as possible.
Among the taco choices: Goffle Road Farm organic chicken with roasted tomatillo salsa, grilled pineapple and pico de gallo; marinated shrimp with pickled vegetables, bacon marmalade and roasted garlic-chipotle mayo; and grilled octopus, with housemade chorizo, epazote crema and crispy sweet potato. Larger plates such as Black Angus skirt steak and roasted adobo chicken are also on the menu.
“People get tired of eating the same foods, myself included, and I saw an opportunity to give people in my home county something new and exciting,” said Kreisel. “We have a specials menu that we update daily where our creatively really takes off, so there’s always something new to try.”
Go: 170 S Main St., 845-499-2211, crafttaqueria.com. Indoor and outdoor seating.
Chef/owner Guillermo Zayas, who hails from Tlapa Guerero, Mexico, serves up a variety of tacos including al pastore, carnitas, carne asada and the Instagrammable birria. In business since 2016, El Cuñao Deli also features a host of Mexican groceries to the right, a counter to order straight ahead and about 15 seats on the left, all set against a vibrant backdrop of colorful murals. Zayas, who opened a full-service restaurant with the same name in August in Valley Cottage, said what sets his food apart is using good quality meat and traditional recipes.
Go: 233 Main St., 845-405-9086; indoor seating only
Taco Taxi, Pearl River
Mexican flags add to cheery vibe at Taco Taxi where Spanish music and an adjacent area for ice cream and sweets can’t help but transport you to another world. Open since November 2020, this 20-seat taqueria, with eight seats outside, prides itself on being quick and easy. The motto on its card reads “tacos at your door.” Among the choices: Pastor, carnitas, chorizo, chicken, steak, shrimp, tongue, and veggie. Being Tex-Mex, you can also create your own taco, burrito or bowl. There’s also an extensive toratas menu, basically various meats with mayo, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado and beans. In addition, you’ll find Americanized dishes such as chicken fingers and fries, chicken wings, nachos and mozzarella sticks as well as desserts, ice cream and cocktails.
Go: 89 E. Central Ave., 845-291-5481
Taqueria America, Suffern
The welcoming (and large) “Bienvenidos Taqueria America” sign to the right of the counter, with a menu written mostly in Spanish (with English translation underneath) is your first clue you’ve entered a spot dedicated to the true flavors of Mexico. The cafeteria-like decor of this five-year-old spot is basic, the tacos are perfectly seasoned, the tortas get rave reviews and the tortillas are fresh off the grill. Just don’t expect a menu that lists prices. You’ll have to ask before you order, though tacos are generally $3; and larger entrees are in the $12 to $14 range.
Go: 17 Lafayette Ave., 973-248-7570