Modern Mexican Restaurants

Modern Mexican Restaurants: El Toro Blanco, New York
Photo: Photo © Daniel Kreiger

Perhaps inspired by their own late-night cravings, chefs are opening Mexican restaurants all around the US that focus less on authenticity than on innovation and great ingredients.—Kristin Donnelly

01 of 15

Bandolero, Washington DC

15 Modern Mexican Restaurants Where You Can Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

At his new DC restaurant, Bandolero, Top Chef All-Stars runner-up Mike Isabella serves his takes on classic Mexican dishes, like a Yucatán pumpkin spread that he spikes with orange zest and jalapeño, and tacos stuffed with suckling pig, apple and habanero mustard.

02 of 15

La Condesa, Austin

Best Taquerias: La Condesa
Photo © Jody Horton

Mexico City street food reimagined is what's on the menu at Rene Ortiz's popular Austin restaurant, like his warming tortilla soup enhanced with butter instead of the usual tortilla chips, and pastrami tacos wrapped in rye tortillas and topped with mustard crema.

03 of 15

Salvation Taco, New York

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Salvation Taco, New York
Photo courtesy of Salvation Taco

F&W Best New Chef 2007 April Bloomfield joined forces with Roberto Santibanez of New York City's Fonda to dream up tasty tacos, like the usual al pastor, as well as rather untraditional ones, like Worcestershire-and-Dijon-mustard marinated skirt steak and served with a thick pecan salsa.

04 of 15

Comal, Berkeley, CA

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Comal, Berkeley, CA
Photo courtesy of Comal

Matt Gandin adds a California twist to Oaxacan-inspired dishes at Comal, from tamales made with local Fulton Valley chicken and sauced with mole negro to snapper served alongside a grilled vegetable salad. Mixologist Scott Baird of the Bon Vivants created a mezcal-laden lineup of cocktails.

05 of 15

Pulqueria, New York

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Pulqueria, New York
Photo courtesy of Pulqueria

Hidden among the noodle shops in Chinatown, Pulqueria stands out, thanks to Steve Menter's Mexico City market dishes. He uses local and seasonal ingredients for his versions on the classics, like Berkshire pork confit carnitas and chipotle guacamole sweetened with mangos.

06 of 15

The Painted Burro, Somerville, MA

Modern Mexican Restaurants: The Painted Burro, Somerville, MA
Photo © Kristen Teig

From Yucatán-inspired meat loaf to chiles en nogoda, Mexico's vibrant regional cuisines get a modern update from Joe Cassinelli and Danny Bua. For their take on Puebla's emblematic dish, they roast, instead of fry, poblanos to go with their sherry-spiked walnut sauce.

07 of 15

Taco Bamba, Falls Church, VA

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Taco Bamba, Falls Church, VA
Photo © Jeff Martin

Victor Albisu shared a sneak peek of his tacos, like his signature skirt steak, chorizo and chicharrónes, at pop-ups in DC, and they're here to stay at his forthcoming restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia. Not only are traditional tacos on the menu, but ones filled with sweetbreads and wood-fired bone marrow are too.

08 of 15

Empellón Taqueria and Empellón Cocina, New York

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Empellón Taqueria and Empellón Cocina
Photo © Daniel Krieger

At Empellón Taqueria, chef Alex Stupak revamps Mexican standbys, making queso fundido with black trumpet mushrooms and adding cucumber to lamb barbacoa tacos. He treats Empellón Cocina as his showcase for imaginative Mexican-inspired dishes, like mezcal-cured trout and toasted vermicelli with green chorizo. For both restaurants, he crafts fiery salsas, like one made with 50 árbol chiles and seasoned with sesame seeds, and an habanero-based salsa cooled with fresh orange juice.

09 of 15

Antique Taco, Chicago

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Antique Taco, Chicago
Photo © Ashley Ortiz

Former event planner Ashley Ortiz designed this cute taco spot using her antique finds. Her husband, Rick Ortiz, serves seasonal tacos like grilled rib eye tacos with caramelized poblanos and Cheez Whiz, and fun drinks, such as a refreshing horchata milk shake made with vanilla ice cream and bananas.

10 of 15

Bar Amá, Los Angeles

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Bar Amá, Los Angeles
Photo © DYLAN + JENI

Josef Centeno goes Tex-Mex at his newest Los Angeles restaurant, taking inspiration from the family matriarchs. He serves updated versions of the comfort food he grew up eating, like queso fresco-stuffed enchiladas topped with a slow-cooked carrot sofrito, Frito pie filled with lengua and mulato chile, and chicken and Jack cheese enchiladas with tomatillos.

11 of 15

Gran Eléctrica, Brooklyn

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Gran Eléctrica, Brooklyn
Photo © Noah Fecks

Local artist Dan Funderburgh designed the wallpaper of bearded, suspender-wearing skeletons for Brooklyn's Mexican spot, Gran Eléctrica. Chef David Goody serves a rotating menu of tacos as well as superb ceviches, including sea scallops cured in lime juice and drizzled with aguachile, a spicy condiment made of cucumber, garlic and fresh herbs.

12 of 15

Copita, Sausalito, CA

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Copita, Sausalito, CA
Photo © Michael Mindel

Joanne Weir and Gonzalo Rivera take a lighter approach to Mexican cuisine, often using fruit and vegetables right from the restaurant's garden. California cooks that they are, they design dishes around their incredible ingredients, for example, showcasing local citrus with avocado in a lime-and-cilantro-dressed salad or crusting Point Reyes oysters simply in polenta before frying and serving with a chile de árbol tartar sauce.

13 of 15

Comida, Longmont, Colorado

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Comida, Longmont, Colorado
Photo © Comida Cantina, LLC

From first serving her tacos—including her culty bacon-jalapeño one—from of her hot-pink truck, Rayme Rossello is creating a Mexican restaurant mini empire. She already has one brick-and-brick mortar location and another due to open at the Source, a forthcoming indoor artisan market in Denver.

14 of 15

Nido, Oakland, CA

Modern Mexican Restaurants: Nido, Oakland, CA
Photo © Japheth Gonzalez

Cory and Silvia McCollow, the husband-and-wife duo behind Nido, bring farm-to-table sensibility to Silvia's family recipes. They turn to local ingredients for their fantastic dishes, like lovely shrimp-and-potato cakes floating in a spicy chile and kale broth, and grilled skewers of spicy pork, pineapple and spring onion.

15 of 15

El Toro Blanco, New York

Modern Mexican Restaurants: El Toro Blanco, New York
Photo © Daniel Kreiger

At this trendy New York restaurant, chef Josh Capon creates elevated versions of regional Mexican dishes, like Veracruzan red snapper with tomato, olive and pickled jalapeño sauce and a pizza-like Sonoran quesadilla topped with roasted tomatoes and poblanos.

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