Williamsburg’s understated star for superb Mexican

By Zoe Bullock

Papel picado in bright hues of pink, white, and purple adorn a loft-high ceiling, inviting you to feel as if you’ve just entered an outdoor Mexican street fair as you instead step inside this Mexican spot on South Fourth in Williamsburg. An impressive display of amber and clear tequilas glimmers behind the dark wood wraparound bar, while the service staff offer a smile to go with your unpretentious but perfect margaritas.

Opened in 2010, Cariño immediately established a reputation for subtly perfect classic plates that felt no need to impress with unnecessary flourishes. Following the same understated sensibility, the ambience is decidedly pueblo chic: where the walls are not exposed brick, they’re lined with photographs and decorative Mexican crafts. When the food arrives, you see that the cheeses and cremas luxuriantly blanket your meal, making beautiful decorative accents, while allowing the taste and textures of the meats, seafood, vegetables, and tortillas to speak for themselves in Cariño’s flavorful concoctions.
The tasting menu, regular menu items, and specials all equally capture a subtlety that is missing from many Mexican dining spots in the city. The shrimp enchiladas are delicately creamy, allowing the chewiness of the shrimp the come through. The stuffed peppers are impeccably spicy, while the cheese and vegetables provide a necessary and unmasked tang. And the dessert tower of churros is sublimely sweet, while the dough itself offers a rare and much sought after churro crunch.

A night out at Cariño delivers all the softness in texture and taste that you crave from Mexican flavors, balanced by a lightness and acidity that can be all-too-hard to find. There is magic happening here—a precious combination of affordable, delicious, and awesome.


Mon–Wed noon–11 PM; Thu noon–midnight; Fri noon–1 AM; Sat 11 AM–1 AM; Sun 11 AM–11 PM

price range

$9 (huevos rancheros) to $22 (roasted half chicken)