If your idea of celebrating Cinco de Mayo–it's coming up this Sunday–involves a plate of soft, tasty tacos and a margarita or two to wash them down, you're in luck: Harlem's taco game is strong.
But there have been some changes to report since last May. Two spots–the fast-casual Harlem Taco & Bowl at 2288 Frederick Douglass Boulevard and a sit-down version of Taco Mix at 1621 Lexingon Avenue in East Harlem–came and went quickly. And earlier this year Sexy Taco Dirty Cash at 161 Lenox Avenue abruptly shuttered.
Amid the closures, one new spot surfaced and another is on the horizon. Callie's Taqueria and Tequila Bar arrived at 547 Lenox Avenue between 137th and 138th Streets last summer. East Harlem's terrific La Chula will be joining the North End food hall on Broadway and 183rd Street later this year.
Not sure which spot is right for you? Start with these six sure-to-please destinations (listed from north to south):
3628 Broadway between 149th and 150th Sts
This Broadway taqueria is both spacious and laid-back, ideal for large groups or last-minute plans. Look for trivia nights and taco specials–the menu features no less than ten varieties, two of them vegetarian.
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) at this hip, intimate spot serving elevated Mexican street food. Then make sure to pair it with one of uptown's best margaritas.
• 329 Lenox Ave at 126th St
• 1838 Seventh Ave at 111th St
Come for the lively crowds, the 100 varieties of tequila and mezcal, and the wide choice of specials. The beef brisket taco is a winner–enjoy it al fresco on the patio of the Lenox Avenue location.
185 St. Nicholas Ave and 119th St
Nab a table on the balcony of this stylish Mexican restaurant for a side of summer breeze with your tacos. The carnitas (roasted pork) is particularly good, as are all the handcrafted cocktails–La Diagonal specializes in agave spirits: tequila, mezcal and more.
137 E 116th St at Lexington Ave
You won't find any fresher tortillas uptown–they're prepared from scratch right behind the counter and are the perfect base for the super flavorful, Mexico City-style tacos (Chef Julian Medina was raised there).
234 E 116th St between Second and Third Aves
The rotisserie in the front window beckons to passers-by with its endless layers of chile-marinated pork and roasted pineapple crown–both are used in Taco Mix's famous al pastor taco. There are only a few chairs, and there's no alcohol, so plan on a quick visit.