New York City’s Top Chefs Serve Tacos and Tequila

After 'Top Chefs bashed New York City’s taco scene, local chefs bring their best Mexican fare

Giada De Laurentis, Bobby Flay

After hearing former Top Chef contestants Dale Talde and Manual Trevino bash New York City’s taco scene on Saturday afternoon at The Braiser lounge, The Daily Meal headed over to Bobby Flay’s Tacos & Tequila event at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, where 32 of New York City’s top restaurants brought their best Mexican fare to the masses.

Several of the Food Network’s most famous celebs blended in among the thousands of guests at the sold-out event. While Giada De Laurentiis was anchored inside a circle of friends, Bobby Flay could barely snag two minutes away from frantic fans. We took our brief one-on-one to get his take on the taco debate and, while he seemed amused at the broad culture statements, he stood up for his favorite local spots.

Flay’s Mesa Grill is his first choice, of course, and Mesa Grill served shrimp tacos with toasted garlic, goat cheese, and thyme topped with a chile de arbol sauce. For those headed to his restaurant, Flay recommends the shrimp and roasted garlic corn tamale with cilantro sauce.

As for tacos, Flay’s local go-to places are La Esquina and Mercadito. Akhtar Nawab personally served costillas de cordero taquitos (lamb short rib taquitos) at La Esquina’s station, and The Daily Meal asked what makes his tacos stand out.

“Flavor first,” said Nawab with confidence. “You have such a small thing, so you try to pack in as much as you can. Then you try something different. This taco tonight was the most flavorful of our ideas.”

So what should we try next time we land a reservation at his basement dig? Carnitas taco, ceviche blanco, and steak tartar when it’s on the menu, said Nawab.

Armed with this advice we sampled more flavors and different offerings in the three-room smorgasbord. The Daily Meal also tried Saxon + Parole’s oxtail tacos and tequila-spiked watermelon; Buddakan’s peking duck tacos; Dos Caminos’ lobster tacos with jicama and pineapple slaw; and Ditch Plain’s pastrami tacos and homemade chips, which stole the show.