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Splurge or Steal? Tacos

People from the West Coast can say whatever they want about Mexican food in New York. Those of us that live here know that now is an excellent moment for tacos. From the forward-thinking options at stylish sit-down restaurants like Empellon to the slow-cooked temptations coming out of Brooklyn Taco in the Essex Street Market, tacos today — cheap and cheerful or worth a splurge — are rivaling the best other cities have to offer. Here are some of our favorites.


Empellon Taqueria's lamb barbacoa tacos (Photo: Courtesy of Empellon)

Empellon Taqueria’s lamb barbacoa tacos (Photo: Courtesy of Empellon)


••• SPLURGE •••

Lamb Barbacoa Tacos at Empellon Taqueria, $14 for 2
A splurge taco is more than just a four-bite meal — the atmosphere and service matter too. These tacos are best enjoyed alongside a cocktail, preferably with the kind of company that likes to share. At the dimly lit Empellon Taqueria in the West Village, there are almost a dozen tacos to try, but the lamb barbacoa with cucumber and salsa barracha is a must-order. If price is really no object, order the lobster, field corn, and epazote tacos, too ($26 for 2). 230 West 4th St., 212-367-0999,

Market Fish Tacos at Gran Electrica, $11
Summer is the time to wander over to DUMBO and savor a leisurely evening in the back garden of Gran Electrica. Here, tortillas are hand-pressed and crema and queso fresco are made in-house. Sip a tequila cocktail or two alongside some tacos, such as the market fish tacos with cabbage, crema, and avocado salsa. A side of plantains completes the meal. 5 Front St., Brooklyn, 718-852-2700,


••• SAVE •••

Braised Brisket Tacos at Brooklyn Taco Company, $4
Manhattan’s Essex Street Market is full of tempting bites. If you make it past the allure of the cheese stand and the spanakopita, the braised brisket tacos at Brooklyn Taco Company make one satisfying meal. Braised beef brisket is topped with chilorio sauce, pineapple salsa, cheese, crema, and red hot sauce. This informal stand also has vegetarian options, such as a kale and potato taco with roasted poblano peppers. Essex Street Market, 120 Essex St., 646-820-8226,

Pollo Adobo at Tacombi at Fonda Nolita, $3.95
Not all affordable tacos must be ordered from a stand or truck and eaten standing up — Tacombi at Fonda Nolita has actual tables and chairs and serves great cocktails too. With the feel of an informal backyard party, Tacombi serves all their tacos on two freshly ground corn tortillas. The crispy fish and maiz y poblano variations are stand outs, but don’t miss the satisfying pollo adobo. 267 Elizabeth St., 917-727-0179,

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