A taste of Mexico in WAG country

“It’s Playa del Carmen meets New York City in the 914.”

That’s how the owners of Mission Taqueria, the new Mexican fusion restaurant at 472 Bedford Road in Pleasantville, describe the eatery that opened this spring.

“The concept in terms of the design was creating a home on an agave farm,” says Mitchell Dennis, one of the restaurant’s owners. “At the end of the day, workers come together and share the fruits of their labor.”

Launched by Dennis and partners Tony Fortunate and Andrew Kotchen, the 1,600-square-foot eatery features wooden tables and industrial-style seating, along with a bench dotted with plush pillows that wraps around one side of the restaurant. The other side is occupied by a bar with a blue-tiled backdrop lined with 16 beer taps and 92 types of tequila and mezcal, an alcoholic beverage made from agave. Decorative touches range from small, planted cactuses to a longhorn cow skull.

“As a team, we envisioned a design that redefines the perception of most Mexican restaurants,” says Kotchen, who is also founding principal of the Manhattan design firm Workshop APD. “We embraced the architectural aesthetic and historic tradition of Mexico’s rural region and enhanced that provenance with a contemporary flair.”

Dennis says he hoped to incorporate the feeling of “eating together under the stars” by stringing lights across the ceiling. 

Similarly, menu items are designed to share, with a range of seafood, salads, steak, tacos and rotisserie chicken.

“We wanted to create something for everyone,” says Sheryl Dennis, Mitchell’s wife, who helped with the restaurant’s marketing. A public relations guru for more than two decades, Sheryl was also instrumental in creating the restaurant’s menu, one that she says places an emphasis on healthy, authentic ingredients, features many vegan options and is 98-percent gluten-free.

“It’s authentic in its roots, but it’s modern in its presentation,” she says.

Salads include a kale salad with pumpkin seeds and a chipotle-date vinaigrette. A Mission salad mixes red quinoa, cherry tomatoes and French lentils. There’s also a vegan pozole, a hearty stew with seasonal vegetables and a New Mexican chili broth.

An order of fish tacos features beer-battered Mahi with pico de gallo, a scrumptious avocado salsa and a cabbage slaw. Perfect for the summer months, a lobster taco is topped with toasted corn and chipotle aioli and garnished with crispy potato threads.

For those looking for a lighter option, any taco can be served in a lettuce wrap. We try that option for our crunchy Brussels sprouts taco, which features pistachio salsa and pickled red onions.

“My vision of the menu is that you could dine here multiple times in a week and not feel that it’s repetitive,” Mitchell Dennis adds.

A colorful shrimp ceviche with pickled chili, pineapples and Persian cucumber is both fresh and flavorful, topped with radishes and cilantro. A delectable tuna poke is served over crispy corn tostadas and topped with avocado. Other starters include mussels with chistorra, grilled Mexican street corn with lime aioli and a pumpkin seed hummus.

Even an order of wings is given a Mexican flair, tossed in a hazelnut salsa macha. With a crispy skin and juicy interior, the spicy appetizer was a surprise highlight of our meal.

Both Fortunate and Dennis are also the men behind the popular American cuisine restaurant 105-Ten Bar & Grill, an eatery that opened in 2014 at 127 Woodside Ave. in Briarcliff Manor. At 105-Ten, the duo say they had a vision of creating a restaurant where members of the community could come together and share a meal.

“You’re sitting amongst your neighbors,” Dennis says. “We used communal tables.”

For the new restaurant, “modern Mexican was the desired fare, but it’s still the same kind of feeling” that the two created at 105-Ten, “where we’re bringing people together to have an experience.”

“The menu is different but it’s the same spirit,” Dennis says. “We still want that feeling of you walk in and you may know your neighbor. Or if not, you meet people.”

During a recent visit, we witness exactly that. A number of customers enter the doors of the eatery and quickly begin chatting with their dining neighbors, both those they know and those they don’t. 

For now, diners will have to enjoy that menu during dinner hours, though the owners say the restaurant is slated to open for lunch service in the coming weeks.

Mission Taqueria has been open only a short time, but Dennis and Fortunate are already planning for the future.

“We’re looking to grow,” Fortunate says, adding of 105-Ten and Mission Taqueria, “we like both concepts.”

The duo already have plans to open a second outpost of their Briarcliff eatery in Croton-on-Hudson. Deriving its name from the new restaurant’s ZIP code, 105-Twenty will open at 120 Grand St. in the former home of French restaurant Tagine Restaurant and Wine Bar later this summer.

For more, visit missionpleasantville.com.

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