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Long Island's best tacos: Critics' picks 

Chicken tacos al pastor at Taqueria de Sabor Poblano in Hicksville. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Incredible Mexican tacos can be found in unexpected places. Driving along Fifth Avenue in Bay Shore, a roadside banner reads "Para que ir a Queens?" ("Why go to Queens?"). There, in front of a storage facility, a Los Angeles transplant is cooking some killer Tijuana-style tacos at his colorful truck, Taquero Mucho. 

Meanwhile, who would think that the Hamptons would boast not one, but two incredible Mexican restaurants? One of New York's most innovative Mexican chefs, Julian Medina, plays with Japanese flavors at his new Southampton spot, El Verano. You've got to try the lobster tacos topped with dollops of spicy togarashi mayo. 

And Mala Madre, a strip mall taco joint in Westbury, totally wows with its Yucatan-style cochinita pibil. The slow-braised pork is brimming with achiote spice and little crispy bits that make you want to eat more. And speaking of Westbury, the NYC-based chain Tacombi expanded to Long Island with an open-air space that transports you out of the Walmart parking lot and into a picturesque taco stand on a Mexican country highway. 

And since Long Island is a melting pot of Latin American flavors, Guatemalan tacos are included here as well as a great place to get Honduran tacos (catrachos) which are fried much like Mexican flautas. Long Island is still building up its regional Mexican cred, but this selection of 15 taco spots is more innovative and more delicious than ever. As they say in Spanish, "¡Que rico!".

NASSAU COUNTY TACOS

Mala Madre Taqueria

1610 Old Country Rd., Westbury

The baja taco is a battered and fried Cod fish loin taco served with chipotle mayo, coleslaw and cilantro at Mala Madre in Westbury. Credit: Randee Daddona

Named after a leafy succulent plant that's found across Mexico, this chic taqueria gets all the details right. Salsas are chunky and properly spicy, tortillas are made inhouse and the tacos arrive scattered with wisps of radish and micro cilantro. Owner Alejandro Nava hails from Puebla and makes a mean mole Poblano, but the taco selection spans across Mexico and includes a standout Baja fish taco with beautiful bulbous cod. A slow-braised Yucatan pork dish, the cochinita pibil, is some of the best on the Island. More info: 516-502-1277instagram.com/malamadretaqueria

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano joined Newsday food writer Andi Berlin at Mala Madre Taqueria in Westbury to talk about Long Island's best fish tacos. Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday archive

Tacombi 

1226 Old Country Rd., Westbury

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano tried tacos with Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez at the new Tacombi in Westbury. The taqueria, which originated in Mexico, also has locations throughout New York City.  Credit: Newsday/Drew Singh

Started in a vintage Volkswagen bus on the streets of Playa del Carmen in 2006, this small chain riffs on the roadside taquerias of Mexico. The open-air venue in Westbury boasts a bar and outdoor picnic tables that look like they were taken off a beach somewhere, worlds away from Old Country Road. The Mexico City-style al pastor taco’s succulent meat is freshly sliced from a twirling trompo. A Yucatecan chicken taco is flavored with achiote and oranges, while a beef birria taco features brisket from Jalisco and cheese from Chihuahua with a long-simmered consommé for dipping. More info: 516-216-9851, tacombi.com

Salvadoreños & Mexican

166 Long Beach Rd., Island Park

Tacos Catrachos are Honduran-style fried tacos at Salvadoreños & Mexican...

Tacos Catrachos are Honduran-style fried tacos at Salvadoreños & Mexican restaurant in Island Park. Credit: Newsday/Andi Berlin

Skip over the typical taco varieties and go straight to the Tacos Catrachos, a style of rolled tacos that are fried and often bathed in a light tomato salsa. These beauties are iconic in Honduras, where owners Rosa Mcdermoth and her husband Oscar Moreno are from.  Stuffed with saucy shredded beef and chicken, the rolls of crispy corn tortillas are topped with a flurry of chopped cabbage, crumbly white cheese, chopped tomatoes and adereso, a Central American pink sauce. Each bite is faintly softened by the mild tomato broth, but retains its earthy corn crunch. Mexican or not, they're some of the best fried tacos on Long Island. More info: 516-208-7308, instagram.com/salvadorenos_and_mexican_grill 

Taqueria El Sabor Poblano

60 E. Marie St., Hicksville

The birria taco with consommé at Taqueria de Sabor Poblano...

The birria taco with consommé at Taqueria de Sabor Poblano in Hicksville. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Maria Gutierrez and her family run this lively spot, complete with all-day telenovelas on the flat-screen and a rainbow wall of backlit Jarritos bottles that dazzle and dance. Everything from lengua to cecina and cabeza (tongue to cured beef and cow’s head) is served on terracotta plates just like you’d find in Puebla. Gutierrez sources her tortillas from La Guadelupana, a Mexican grocery in Queens. Her salsas are fresh and fiery, and her cemitas — a Poblano-style sandwich we couldn’t help but sample — are equally off the charts. More info: 516-605-1670.

SUFFOLK COUNTY TACOS

Tommy Tacos

821 New York Ave., Huntington Station

Pork carnitas street taco at Tommy Tacos in Huntington.

Pork carnitas street taco at Tommy Tacos in Huntington. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

“In tacos we trust,” announces a pink neon sign at this thoughtfully designed taqueria complete with murals and a steady rock soundtrack. The chef-driven spot is run by Tom Stein, who started as a dishwasher in his father’s Florida restaurant, rising within NYC’s Tao Group before moving to Long Island. Corn tortillas, sourced from La Milpa de Rosa in Westchester, are paired with fall-apart tender pork carnitas. Vegetarian offerings like the Papa Chulo with potatoes, corn and poblano peppers change monthly, and the shop offers lots of vegan alternatives, like plant-based Soyrizo.  More info: 631-982-8022; tommylovestacos.com

Ruta Oaxaca Mexican Cuisine

30 E. Main St., Patchogue (929-205-9645) and 8025 Jericho Tpke., Woodbury (516-515-9620)

Three tacos at Ruta Oaxaca, clockwise from left: New York...

Three tacos at Ruta Oaxaca, clockwise from left: New York strip steak with queso asado, the crispy pescado and the slow braised cochinita pibil. Credit: Newsday/Andi Berlin

In a trendy dining room lined with mezcal and bright folk art paintings, pale corn tortillas lay flat on the plate, accentuating their griddle marks. Crispy strips of fish are streaked with pineapples and a funky red coleslaw. A plump nugget of New York strip steak with grilled Oaxacan cheese gets slapped with a shockingly orange chili de arbol salsa. And the taco to write home about, a snappy cochinita pibil, is slow-braised for hours in citrus and banana leaves. More info: rutaoaxacamex.com

Hermanas Kitchen & Cocktails

136 S. Wellwood Ave., Lindenhurst

Hermanas Kitchen & Cocktails in Lindenhurst serves up a trio of tacos: roasted rainbow carrot, fried avocado and the Pernil taco.  Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Owned by three women partners, Hermanas is quietly classy, with a marble bar and bleached white-on-white dining room. Chef Edwin Corrado’s tacos exude laser-attention to color, texture and composition, and he serves each one flat (even when they are taken to-go) so that their beauty is part of the experience. The lineup of vegetarian and vegan tacos is strong, with baby rainbow carrots roasted to subtle sweetness and racy curtido slaw, Brussels sprouts drizzled with blackberry vinaigrette, or crisp fried-avocado with smoky aioli. Pernil tacos show off how roasted pork can become almost delicate in the right hands. More info: 631-991-8999, hermanaslindy.com

Taquero Mucho

1654 Fifth Ave., Bay Shore

Max Carballo, owner of Taquero Mucho in Bay Shore, serves a taco from his food truck. Credit: Randee Daddona

West Coast transplants, this is the taco truck for you. Max Carballo hails from Los Angeles and is cooking some fantastic Northern Mexican fare in front of a storage facility in Bay Shore. He and business partner Enrique Guerrero work 12-hour days preparing all of the ingredients fresh in the morning, like housemade tortillas (available upon request) to some legit fiery salsa. On the weekends, the rotating trompo of al pastor pork is a must. And even in the rain, people line up in their cars to get it. The carne asada is available every day of the week and it is some of the most flavorful steak you'll find here. Don't sleep on the pollo frito chicken taco, which is fried fresh to order and feels fancy for comfort food. More info: 631-299-1391, instagram.com/taquero.mucho5

NZgrei Taqueria Gil Mexican Food

134 N. Carll Ave., Babylon

There’s quiet star power behind the tacos at this unassuming deli across from the Babylon LIRR Station. It's owned by Oaxaca native Jose Gil, and the kitchen is manned by Santiago Barragan, who got his start at NYC's La Esquina and worked at Tortilleria Nixtamal before decamping to Babylon. Birria tacos showcase precision with a masterful fry technique that cradles the velveteen short ribs spiked by fresh and pickled onions. Ditto with the al pastor, which is expertly prepared on a trompo before it’s shaved off into the juiciest of bulbs, some of the best found on Long Island. More info: 631-893-4333. 

Cochinita Porky

1068 Long Island Ave., Deer Park (in Amm Renew Auto Collision lot)

Maidy and Katherine Estrada, owners and sisters of the Cochinita...

Maidy and Katherine Estrada, owners and sisters of the Cochinita Porky Food Truck on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 is parked in the lot of an auto body shop in Deer Park. Credit: Randee Daddona

Along the body shops and salvage yards of Long Island Avenue, the air smells of grilled meat. Just past Commack Road, two Pepto Bismol-pink food trucks appear, one with a hood in the shape of a pig’s snout. A two-woman Guatemalan team holds court. Sisters Maidy and Katherine Estrada have been working the trucks for more than eight years, and their tacos are still killer. Whether you choose the sweet, chunky pineapple-heavy al pastor, the juicy chicken, the charred carne asada, or the soupy birria, your lips will glisten with fat and your taste buds will thank you. More info: 631-877-2728, cochinitaporky.com 

Garcia's Taco Bar

920 Crooked Hill Rd, Brentwood

Asada, chonzo, al pastor and piña, and camitas tacos from...

Asada, chonzo, al pastor and piña, and camitas tacos from Garcia's Taco Bar in Central Islip. Credit: Randee Daddona

Now in Brentwood, a bright red school bus decorated with sexy decals and Guatemalan flags. You’ll probably smell it before you see it, because right next to the bus there’s a line of smokers that fill the neighborhood with savory meat aromas. This is the playground of Roberto Garcia, who showcases his childhood flavors from a Central American “chicken bus” that he named Gisele. Guatemala shares a border and an ancient Mayan cooking tradition with Mexico, so tacos are part of the culture. But Garcia’s gives them a cheffy spin with excellently smoked carne asada and masterful carnitas, full of juice with all kinds of crispy bits. More info: instagram.com/garciastacobar

Newsday food writer Andi Berlin checked out Guatemalan-style tacos at Garcia's Taco Bar, a former school bus turned food truck in Central Islip. Credit: Randee Daddona; Photo credit: The Associated Press

EAST END TACOS

Casa Dorado Deli Taqueria

221 E. Main St., Riverhead

Taco placeros with chile relleno at Casa Dorado in Riverhead...

Taco placeros with chile relleno at Casa Dorado in Riverhead on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Credit: Randee Daddona

Poblano cuisine from the Central Mexican state of Puebla is the predominant regional style on Long Island, but until recently it's been difficult to get one of its most iconic tacos. The taco placero is a super-sized taco that's popular in the market plazas of Central Mexico. And you'll find a destination-worthy version on the menu at this new taqueria in Riverhead. Raul de Jesus and his wife Elizabeth Guevara — along with two brothers and a sister who commute from Queens every day — load half a dozen ingredients into two large housemade corn tortillas. This includes an entire chile relleno stuffed with queso fresco, hard boiled eggs, rice, French fries and peppers. It's an entire meal in one taco. More info: 631-591-0553, casadoradony.com

El Verano 

10 Windmill Lane, Southampton

Long Island duck carnitas served with butter lettuce wraps at...

Long Island duck carnitas served with butter lettuce wraps at El Verano in Southampton.  Credit: Newsday/Marie Elena Martinez

From Mexico City-born chef Julian Medina — known for his NYC spots Toloache and Coppelia — El Verano has elevated take on coastal Mexican on a prime corner location in Southampton. Expect high-end versions of classic flavors, like a short rib braised in chile coloradito, a rich mole sauce, or ribeye in a molcajeteada sauce of ground tomato, garlic, and chiles. But the clear standout was a meaty lobster tossed with spicy togarashi mayo, avocado and a crunchy peanut salsa macha on a paper-thin corn tortilla. The quesadillas, laced with huitlacoche, or corn fungus, were another home run. More info: 631-377-3050, elveranony.com

La Fondita

74 Montauk Hwy., Amagansett

The carnitas taco as served at La Fondita in Amagansett,...

The carnitas taco as served at La Fondita in Amagansett, Feb. 5, 2022. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

For more than two decades, La Fondita has set the bar for tacos on the East End. Suites of flavors — orange, chiles, cumin, herbs — taste effortless but mask years of refinement. Tortillas are made fresh, for fish tacos that feature a hunk of cod sheathed in Negro Modelo beer batter and fried to a shattering crisp. But don’t pass by the carnitas. Each drop of adobo-stained, citrus-tinged fat underneath the taco feels deliberate, not gratuitous, the pork having half-melted during an hours-long braise. There are no seats inside, but a substantial garden with picnic tables can be found around back. Expect waits during the bustle of summer. More info: 631-267-8800, lafondita.net

Maria's Kitchen

55 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island

Hop on that ferry, because after the short voyage across the water you’ll find gorgeous Puebla style tacos piled high with glistening chili sauces and a shimmer of chopped tomatoes and onion. They’re found at a juice bar called Maria’s, owned by Maria Serrano Torres, who makes an impressive variety of taco styles including pig’s ear and salt-dried beef cecina, all on housemade corn tortillas. Alambre tacos, a Mexico City street food with Arabic origins, are a wave of sliced beef with chorizo and bell peppers brightened by a scatter of cilantro. More info: 631-749-5450, mariaskitchenshelterisland.com

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