If you have never tried elote before, then you are missing out on a cultural treat and a culinary gift that keeps on giving. This traditional Mexican dish — a street corn smothered in delicious sauce and cheese — is so good that it has crossed the border into the US and is now available at virtually every Latin restaurant (and other cuisines and dining establishments as well) in every major metropolitan city. Add this to the long list of cultural and epicurean treasures that has come from Mexico, much to the dismay of a certain political leader who has a slightly different take on the Mexican cultural impact on the US… but we digress.
Elote is the Mexican street food you didn’t know you needed. Imagine if corn on the cob and creamed corn had a baby, and then that baby got rolled in a spiced sauce and sprinkled with cheese. That’s elote. The corn is first roasted over an open grill, and then it is doused in a sauce made from butter, lime juice, mayonnaise (or crema fresca), salt, chile powder and cotija cheese. There are several varieties to choose from based on your preferences — some recipes pack a little more spice, some use ricotta salata cheese or Parmesan, some call for boiled corn instead of grilled, some keep the corn on the cob and some remove the kernels. No matter how you prepare it or how you eat it, elote is the culinary bomb.
This magical corn skewered on a stick really is a treat for your taste buds. And while it’s a fairly easy recipe to master at home, sometimes it’s best to let the masters do their thing and just enjoy the fruits of their labors. So if you’re looking to enjoy elote at a restaurant, here are the best places to find the most delicious elote in the top metropolitan cities from coast to coast.
Disclaimer: this list is not all encompassing, but if we really wrote about every delicious elote we’ve ever had in every major US city we could be talking for a long time, and eating is way more fun.
New York City, New York
If you’re roaming the streets of Manhattan looking for some legit Mexican street food, then you’re in the right city, you just need to know where to look. La Esquina has been around for years, but it still delivers if you’re looking for authentic Mexican street food that is both modern and traditional. The flagship location in Soho features a street-level taco stand looks like a casual place to grab an elote and take it on the road. And while the taqueria is hard to beat, if you enter through the kitchen (yes, walk downstairs through the kitchen) you’ll find yourself in a buzzy brasserie with the same authentic Mexican food. Wherever you eat it, the elote is a must-have.
Another casual, straight-from-the-streets-of-Mexico spot to try a life-changing elote is at Cafe Habana in NYC’s NoLita neighborhood. This culinary institution is modeled after a storied Mexico City hangout, featuring the best Mexican street food mixed with traditional diner fare. The elote is so good that Chef Tyler Florence named it the best thing he ever ate on a stick for the Food Networks’ “Best Thing I Ever Ate” show.
Considering the rich Hispanic culture and Latin influence in Miami, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of delicious spots to choose from if you’re looking for mind-blowing elote. Coyo Tacos in Wynwood has generated lots of buzz from foodies and food critics, as well as attention from some famous fans (former President Obama visited the taco stand last year). It’s known for its locally sourced and farm fresh ingredients, and for serving fresh, authentic Mexican street food. The elote is simple and classic, but so mouthwatering you’ll need more than one order.
Another hotspot to taste delicious elote is at the Hot Lime food stand at St Roch Market, an upscale global food hall in Miami’s Design District. The craft taco stand comes from three best friends from high school on a mission to offer a global menu that reflects the city’s diverse cultural scene. You can find everything from Peruvian ceviche to Argentinian tacos and of course, the best Mexican street corn.
Los Angeles, California
78 percent of the Hispanic population in the greater Los Angeles area is of Mexican descent, so it should be no surprise that LA is a great city to find some of the best Mexican street food around. At BS Taqueria the corn on a stick is taken to another level thanks to the smothering of smoky chile-infused butter on the fresh grilled sweet corn. The restaurant prides itself on demonstrating elements of long-established tradition, paired with contemporary approaches, and local flavors to Mexican cuisine, and where the elote is concerned, it nails it.
And if you’re looking for amazing elote dishes, it’s not strictly about traditional Mexican fare. At 189 by Dominique Ansel, yes the world-renowned French pastry chef, the elotes milk bread is well worth a trip and a taste. With this dish Ansel is paying tribute to his favorite Mexican street food by creating a pull-apart bread dish that is filled with sweet corn pudding and stuffed inside a cornhusk. The dish is topped with traditional cotija cheese, chili powder, and lime juice. Far from the traditional corn on the cob you might find at a food cart in Mexico City, but it is delicious and unique while preserving the flavors you know and love about elote.
Chilango is a restaurant that specializes in Mexican street food, so it makes sense that they not only have elote on the menu, but that it is epic. While empanadas are what they are most famous for, their elote is also spectacular, and it can be ordered either on the cob or in a cup, another well-known method of serving this dish that is equally yummy and slightly less messy.
And if traditional elote isn’t your thing, then the street corn dish at Sunda is for you. Don’t be fooled by the fact that this restaurant is noted as new Asian cuisine. While the menu may primarily feature Asian dishes, it also includes plates that are influenced by other culinary styles and cuisines. The street corn is a perfect example — it takes a traditional elote ingredient (grille sweet corn) and adds a new Asian twist (coconut cream and toasted coconut).
In Dallas the elote gets a snack size twist, and it is most often served in a cup rather than on the cob as it is traditionally served on the streets of Mexico. You are likely to find street carts serving elotes all over Dallas, from farmers markets to outside gas stations. At Ricos Elotes Fanny, a street cart located outside of Friendly’s Grocery, you’ll get a real-deal elote, straight from Mexico. The stand serves a secret recipe that has been recognized as serving Authentic Prepared Elote within the United States.
At Meso Maya the elote contains roasted white corn (a change from the traditional sweet yellow corn) that is cut off the cob and combined with crema, chile piquin, queso fresco, and lime.
Hands down, the best elote in Washington D.C. is at El Chucho, a staple on the Mexican culinary scene in our nation’s capital. The street corn is served on the cob, partially charred, doused in a brown-butter aioli, and covered in crumbles of cotija cheese and cilantro. And it doesn’t suck that the restaurant also has an adorable patio for nice days of eating street corn in the sun.
While Boston isn’t always known for its authentic Mexican cuisine, there are a few spots that continue to deliver, especially where elote is concerned. At Lolita Mexican, a bustling neighborhood cantina, you get a nice combo of a buzzy atmosphere with genuine Mexican street food. The space is dark, sexy and very modern, but the menu offers playful interpretations of traditional Mexican dishes. The elote is smothered in chipotle torta mayo and then instead of lime juice, it is topped off with chile-lime salt.
At Chilacates, even those who *think* that Boston doesn’t have much great, authentic Mexican food to offer will find that the elote is tops. The food at this small, super casual establishment is made with passion by food lovers, for food lovers. It is inexpensive and served without frills, but the Mexican street corn is so delicious you won’t mind.
The city of brotherly love has become quite a food mecca in recent years, with a bustling dining scene and tons of great restaurants to choose from, including several delicious Mexican spots. At El Vez, a Mexican hotspot from restaurateur Steven Starr, you can expect an experience that is as much about the bright, colorful decor and eclectic style as it is about the food. The menu features unexpected interpretations of Mexican classics, and the elote does not disappoint. It’s served as a side dish, though if we’re being honest, it’s good enough to deserve it’s own course.
For a more low-key, food-focused and traditional Mexican street food experience, Luca Cartel in Old City Philadelphia offers all your classic Mexican favorites with a modern spin. The restaurant’s mission is to serve the food that they themselves want to eat, and since we clearly all love to eat a perfectly prepared elote, this restaurant is for you (and for all of us).
And lastly, the Mexican style street corn at Lolita Philly is simple yet spectacular. It’s spiced to perfection with an extra dose of ancho, and it’s creamy but not overly sauced.
Rico’s Elotes is a famous food stand in Houston, where people flock from near and far when they are craving the famous corn in a cup. If you’re more of a do-it-yourself kinda corn-eater, then Jose’s Roasted Corn is your spot. Here the corn is always roasted fresh and cut to order, but then you get to add all of the extras/seasonings/toppings you like, so your dish can be as spicy, salty or sweet as you want. It’s the ultimate elote spot for anyone who likes things done a certain way, and is tired of trying to ask the chef to go light on the sauce.
And at the Elote Spot, a no-frills Mexican street food snack shack, you can get your Mexican corn cup and add the hot sauce or lemon juice to your liking. They also have the famous elotes covered in Cheetos, Doritos and more.