Birria tacos at the new Viva Tulum in Baldwin.

Birria tacos at the new Viva Tulum in Baldwin. Credit: Newsday/Marie Elena Martinez

Neighborhood Mexican restaurants are popping up with greater frequency across Long Island, with splashy openings like the new Mesita in Port Washington coming on the heels of Dirty Taco and I Am Nacho Mama expansions earlier this year. The Ruta Oaxaca outpost that opened in Woodbury earlier this month is yet another example.

Folks on the South Shore can’t seem to get enough tortillas either, with two new spots opening within the last month: Mateo’s Cantina in Wantagh and Viva Tulum in Baldwin. Mateo’s festive décor — colorful paper flags, a gold-accented bar, black tin ceilings, and the lively “La Cucaracha” playing along with other Mexican-inspired classics — begs a sit-down dining experience, while Viva Tulum is a more casual takeaway spot. Both are loaded with classic Mexican plates, from tacos to enchiladas to requisite guacamole.

Mateo's Cantina, Wantagh

Just one month old, Mateo’s Cantina sits in the same retail strip as its sibling restaurant, Vincent’s, a low-key steakhouse.

“I have two sons. Vincent’s was named for one of them, and now Mateo’s is named for my other,” owner Vincent Luna explained.

The menu is substantial, but not overwhelming, with portions on the heartier side. The usual suspects make a showing: quesadillas (from $12), smothered enchiladas, hefty chimichangas ($19), meaty tacos (from $6) and DIY fajitas (from $24). More upscale flourishes include grilled skirt steak ($39), shrimp aguachile ($18) and a red snapper Veracruzana.  But it was the loaded chicken tortilla soup ($10), chock full of chicken, black beans, corn and avocado, and fragrant from chiles, that really hit the spot on a recent cold day. The back of the menu is full of cocktail options, from margaritas to micheladas, wine and an array of Mexican beers.

Tacos, chips and the chicken chimichanga at the new Mateo's...

Tacos, chips and the chicken chimichanga at the new Mateo's Cantina in Wantagh. Credit: Newsday/Marie Elena Martinez

Mateo’s Cantina, 1929 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh, 516-214-0958, mateoscantinawantagh.com; Open Monday through Thursday from noon to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m., Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

Viva Tulum, Baldwin

At Viva Tulum, an immaculate storefront on the south side of Merrick Road, with seven tables, four bar seats and a flat-screen TV at top volume, the offerings exceed the usual Tex-Mex fare by adding American comfort classics to the mix. In addition to the tacos, nachos ($14.95), and burritos (from $16.25) there’s also mozzarella sticks ($12.95) and potato skins ($9.95). Here, you’ll find French onion soup ($9.95) next to a crock of chili ($12.95); penne alla vodka ($15.25) beside crispy chicken flautas ($15.95) with all the fixings — sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, and a healthy portion of rice and beans. The standout was the trio of birria tacos ($20.95) with dipping consommé alongside. Don’t miss the aguas frescas, with hibiscus being the table favorite.

Manager Hilario “Larry” Turcios exudes positivity as he walks the space, checking in with diners. The Salvadoran-born Turcios came to the United States at 14, became a busser at 16 and spent his whole restaurant life working at B.K. Sweeney’s in Garden City. “I always wanted to do something on my own,” he explained. With financial backers who “saw no viable Mexican spots in Baldwin,” Viva Tulum was born.

Chicken flautas with rice and beans at the new Viva...

Chicken flautas with rice and beans at the new Viva Tulum in Baldwin. Credit: Newsday/Marie Elena Martinez

Viva Tulum, 844 Merrick Rd., Baldwin, 516-208-7075, vivatulumny.com; Open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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