If your idea of celebrating Cinco de Mayo involves a plate of warm, tasty tacos and a drink or two to wash them down, you're in luck: Harlem has a greater variety of taco joints than ever. In fact, the newest, Buddha Taco Bar, opened just last month in Hamilton Heights.
(Craving a more cultural experience? Head to one of the biggest Cinco de Mayo festivals in the city–complete with music and dancing–on 116th Street between Second and Third Avenues tomorrow from noon-6pm.)
From north to south, here's where to find some of Harlem's best Mexican bites, and what makes them special.
Come for the tacos, but stay for...
...the four homemade hot sauces (ask a server which one pairs best with each taco) and the 12 rotating beers on tap, including IPAs, ciders, and ales at Buddha Taco Bar, 3628 Broadway between 149th and 150th Sts.
...possibly one of the best margaritas in the city and the stylish, intimate decor at Oso, 1616 Amsterdam Ave between 139th and 140th Sts. Don't miss the pescado taco (pan-fried porgy with pickled red cabbage, crispy onions and chipotle aioli), and make sure to start with the fresh guacamole.
...the happy crowds, the 100 varieties of tequila and mezcal, and the wide choice of specials at Cantina, 329 Lenox Ave at 126th St or 1838 Seventh Ave at 111th St. The beef brisket taco is a winner.
...the fast-casual vibe and the build-your-own menu at the recently-opened Harlem Taco & Bowl, 2288 Frederick Douglass Blvd at 123rd St. Don't know where to start? Try one of the many flavorful taco creations already on the menu, like the Crowd Pleaser: chicken, pico de gallo, queso fresco, spicy mayo, pickled onions, and avocado sauce.
...the huge, shaded sidewalk patio at Sexy Taco Dirty Cash, 161 Lenox Ave at 118th St. On top of the perfect warm-weather location, this festive spot boasts "the longest happy hour in Harlem."
...the tortillas prepared fresh in the open kitchen and the bright, Mexico City-style flavors (the chef/owner was raised there) at La Chula Taqueria, 137 E 116th St at Lexington Ave. The elote–corn on the cob slathered with mayo, cheese and Tajin spice–makes a great side.
...the rotisserie dripping with layers of chile-marinated pork and crowned with a roasted pineapple for the famous al pastor at Taco Mix, 234 E 116th St between Second and Third Aves. This narrow eatery only has a few chairs, and there's no alcohol, so plan on a quick visit.