This East Harlem hole-in-the-wall may serve the city’s best al pastor tacos, sliced to order from a rotating spit crowned with a hunk of grilled pineapple. The tortilla-to-meat ratio is perfectly balanced.
Brave bugged-out snacks like the tlayuda con chapulines ($14). Crispy, chili-spiced grasshoppers smother a toasted tortilla, punctuated with cooling dollops of queso de rancho and avocado cream. And insects don’t stop at the plate: the salt rim of the sweet-corn-and-tequila Yum Kaax ($12) hints at chipotle, but ask the bartender, and you’ll learn that smoky bite actually comes from grated ants and Maguey worms. Those averse to Timon and Pumbaa–style feasting can opt for pest-free plates like punchy papaya ceviche de jurel ($13) with yellowtail tuna, blanched sea beans and minced serrano peppers, or hearty enchiladas de conejo ($24), which blankets tender braised rabbit in a velvety, tomato-chile sauce and lime-splashed figs.
A boldfaced date. Along with the daredevil bites and mescal-heavy quaffs like La Santa Hormiga (fresh cucumber, minty hoja santa leaves), the dark, moody den is a fun house of Aztec-patterned booths, black-and-white desert landscapes, bolero ballads and a rainbow-kissed Dalí-esque ant mural. If the buggy botanas don’t seal the deal for you, the caliente digs should nab you some bedroom brownie points.
A soon-to-be-unveiled garden is home to large Terracota pots of Mexican herbs and cacti, ideal for both scenery and a fresh supply of bar garnishes. Iron tables and chairs in the ceramic-tiled patio will offer 40 extra alfresco seats on warm-weather days, so that sun-soaked southern border won’t feel a ways away.