Any fan of the New York City culinary scene can probably agree that there is one category in which the Big Apple lacks: Mexican food. Chipotles decorate the city and various taquerias serve some pretty decent tacos, but authentic, home-style, and tasty Mexican food is not easy to come by.
Far east on Houston Street, rainbow woven curtains and festive lights call you into family-owned Mexican restaurant, El Maguey y la Tuna. Originally in Williamsburg, the 20-year old establishment moved to the Lower East Side in 2003, and has thrived with locals and those craving a bite of authentic Mexican salsa and tamales ever since.
The menu includes rustic, regional favorites, created from family recipes by husband-wife team Leonides and Manuela Cortez. Appetizers like flautas, crispy chicken taquitos with homemade pico de gallo and guacamole have that dangerously addicting quality that can very easily have you ordering a second round before you even finish your first frozen margarita.
Entrees range from the expected tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, and fajitas-- all prepared flavorfully and with more than a hint of local intuition. But for a more memorable meal, focus on the house specialties, including five different types of completely homemade mole sauces, like the chocolate mole poblano, which Manuela spends days making by hand in the restaurant's basement. Other highlights include the chipotle-chile adobo sauce ("A recipe all women in Puebla need to master before they can get married," Maria says), and crispy, gooey chiles rellenos. Special occasions bring tamales from the kitchen, and the family is open to request by visitors who hail from or have sent time in Mexico, and crave food from other regions.
Good food in New York rarely comes cheap, but the prices at El Maguey seem almost incorrect—they’re practically giving away their delicious dishes, economically enough to easily make you a regular. Visit for the $11.95 Mexican brunch, which offers items like huevos rancheros and steak and eggs, with a brunch cocktail and cafe con leche.
Plans are in the works to start selling their renowned salsas and moles individually (regular customers already order the sauces for takeout and perhaps claim the homemade creations as their own...), so visit The Maguey y La Tuna and beat the salsa rush!