A SSPNY Mexican fiesta! Chef Danny Bowien opens the excellent new Mission Cantina on Orchard Street 

A SSPNY Mexican fiesta! Chef Danny Bowien opens the excellent new Mission Cantina on Orchard Street

SSPNY visits Mission Cantina located at 172 Orchard Street

A SSPNY Mexican fiesta! Chef Danny Bowien opens the excellent new Mission Cantina on Orchard Street

Some of my favorite meals of 2012 were at Chef Danny Bowien's Mission Chinese Food, the San Francisco import that brought fantastically spicy Sichuan (with a twist... always with a twist) to a packed house nightly on Orchard Street. So when Bowien announced that, for his NYC encore, he was going to be bringing his amped-up take on classic Mexican dishes, opening up Mission Cantina just up the street in the old Noodle Bar spot, well... I guess you could say this was maybe the most eagerly anticipated new fall restaurant on my list. And, as it turns out, my excitement was not misguided. The Mission Cantina crew is cooking up some of the best, most interesting (and generously portioned!) tacos in town.                  

SSPNY loved Mission Cantina's generously portioned tacos! 

I went to Mission Cantina on a freezing night during its opening weekend, and, no surprise, the place was jumping. The Mission Cantina menu is appealing from start to finish, but I pretty much stuck with the appetizers and tacos. Mission Cantina tacos are all priced at $4 or $5, which is standard these days, especially when you go to any of the new "California-style" joints that are popping up all the over the place. The difference at Mission Cantina: Chef Bowien piles on the meat (or veggie, as the case may be), and, crucially, doesn't skimp on the ancillary ingredients either. For example, the Chicken Liver Taco features fat chunks of the rich, creamy offal, but also boasts a major schmear of sweet-ish white bean puree and a tangle of pickled chilis, carrots, and crunchy slaw. This is a major party for your mouth. 

 The crispy beef and pork belly tacos were a hit with SSPNY!

The same formula holds true in all four tacos I tried. The first-rate Crispy Beef Tripe delivered plenty of its star ingredient (cooked perfectly, I might add), but came equipped with more of those pickled veggies, as did the Al Pastor (pork belly, wickedly fermented pineapple). Despite my love of all things meaty, the Bitter Greens and Roasted Corn Taco was just as explosively flavored and satisfying as the rest of my tortilla-delivered feast. And the rest of Mission Cantina menu is just a great! I loved my ceviche starter, a relatively huge bowl of raw Hokkaido scallops and tender beef hearts swimming with capers and olives for a sweet, briny, acidic, earthy, mineral-y, rich festival of flavors and textures. The only semi-dud of the night was the overly-vinegary Charred Cauliflower Escabeche side, which I only panic-ordered because they were out of the amazing-sounding Scrambled Egg, Uni, and Trout Roe dish. Next time.

 SSPNY tried Mission Cantina's chared cauliflower side dish!

Mission Cantina is located on the corner of Stanton and Orchard Streets, and is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m., and for dinner at 5:30 p.m. to 12:00 midnight. Closed Monday. Mission Cantina doesn't take reservations, and the colorful lively space is small, so expect a wait. More information and the complete Mission Cantina menu can be found here. 

SSPNY will definitely be back to Mission Cantina, which is open for lunch and dinner!



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