How This Chef Got in Touch With His Mexican-American Roots for His New NYC Restaurant


When the pandemic hit, Henry Zamora found himself feeling frustrated. The French Laundry and Quince alum was stuck at home in New York, unable to cook with the cutting-edge techniques he had mastered in California. So, he went in the other direction.

“I got more in touch with my roots,” the Mexican-American chef said. “I made the food I grew up eating where I’m from. It’s very similar to what my mom taught me how to cook as a kid.”

Raised in California’s Salinas Valley, the chef was accustomed to eating Mexican dishes at home, so he tapped into his culinary memory to recreate the comforting cuisine as an adult. This time though, he added in ingredients he has grown to crave—like Japanese yuzu kosho, a citrus-chile pepper condiment—turning classic, traditional meals into a new kind of refined fare.

Zamora knew he had come up with something innovative and was sold on building a simple, counter service-style spot to share his concept with fellow New Yorkers. He connected with restaurateur Kerem Bozer (STARR Restaurants, BR Guest Hospitality), who was looking to open an upscale Mexican place at the time; they put their ideas together and built a modern, sit-down taqueria they named Tacos Güey (pronounced “whey,” Spanish slang for “dude”).

On June 8 they opened in New York’s Flatiron District.

The restaurant occupies the former Flatiron Lounge space, which was completely renovated by Cass Calder Smith Architecture + Interiors (who also did Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s The Fulton) to make way for Tacos Güey. The warm, 72-seat restaurant now features earthen tones, natural wood tables and chairs, clay pottery, Oaxacan tapestries, custom blue-gray tiles, exposed brick walls and murals from renowned Mexican artists like José Guadalupe Posada.

Tacos Güey marks the first time Zamora is cooking Mexican food in a professional kitchen.

“I just never really thought about [doing it before],” he said.