Rosa Mexicano: New York’s First Mexican Fine-Dining Experience

For years it’s been said that you can’t get good Mexican food in New York. As a girl who grew up on Tex-Mex and Mexican food in Texas, I admit that it can be a challenge to find good Mexican grub in the city.

It’s ironic that Mexican food in NYC gets such a bum rap, because the culinary history of the city has a different opinion. In 1984, chef and restaurateur, Josefina Howard, opened Rosa Mexicano and introduced fine-dining Mexican cuisine to critical acclaim. While Howard was Cuban and grew up in Spain, she lived in Mexico for  27 years. She considered it her home due to her love of the people, culture, cuisine, and spirit.

It was her idea to have tableside guacamole. Clearly it was a success, Rosa Mexicano still does it to this day and other Mexican restaurants have added it as an option. We also have Howard to thank for pomegranate margaritas. She had pomegranates flown in from Mexico for their juice specifically for the drinks. It’s hard to find a spot that makes a pom margarita as good as Rosa Mexicano. 

Earlier this year at a luncheon, a painting of Howard was revealed at their location on 1st Avenue to celebrate 35 years of business. It was a day filled with stories and memories of Howard and the restaurant. I was surprised to find out that Melba Wilson of Harlem’s world famous, Melba’s, use to work for Josefina.

While Howard passed away 2005, she has left her presence through food and community. Her techniques and recipes are still being used at the restaurant today. There are plans to open up more locations in the US, but if you ever make it to NYC stop by any of the three locations and make yourself at home.



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