The Mission Restaurant

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The Mission Restaurant sits nestled at a bizarre four-way intersection in downtown Syracuse, as if ensconced on an urban island, commanding attention from around Columbus Circle. The Mission’s unorthodox surroundings are fitting. Its picturesque location highlights what is arguably the prettiest and most historic dining establishment in the city. The building does not resemble a restaurant, for it was once the Syracuse Wesleyan Methodist Church, which was constructed in the 1840s. It’s worth journeying to The Mission just to see it. And it turns out the food isn’t too bad, either.

When to Go: The Mission’s unusual weekend hours (5-10 p.m. Saturday, 5-8 p.m. Sunday) mean finding a time to go is somewhat complicated. Since the restaurant is open only for dinner on the days most suitable for college students, the opportunities to make the trek downtown from campus are limited. The obvious answer is to reserve trips to The Mission for birthdays and special occasions, but consider sneaking away for a midweek lunch. The prices are dramatically better, and it’s like a vacation between classes. The bottom line: Lunch at The Mission when it’s quiet is a real treat, plus it offers free chips and salsa Monday and Tuesday.

On Tap: The Mission offers a full bar stocked with beer offerings from both the United States and Mexico, including Pacîfico and Modelo. The beers run from $2.75-$4 per glass. But the best part is the margaritas, available frozen or on the rocks in a variety of fruit flavors, including pineapple, papaya and guava. The bottom line: Skip the beer. Go for the margaritas or share a pitcher of sangria with friends.

Blue Plate Special: The real draw is the tasty, albeit standard, Mexican offerings, including burritos, tacos and enchiladas, which range from about $6.95 (lunch) to $11.25 (dinner). Those with adventurous palates will appreciate the more authentic and uncommon Latin American fare, including anticuchos (Argentinean kebabs) and creative entrees, like sea bass and scallops. The bottom line: The basic Mexican food is safe and tasty. Most dishes come with one of four homemade salsas. Try the roasted tomato chipotle.

The Scene: The real attraction of The Mission is its décor, which is gorgeous and unusual. The interior is dotted with relics hearkening back to the building’s days as both a church and key station for The Underground Railroad. The bottom line: Bring your camera when you eat here. You will want to take pictures.

The Crew: The place is small and fills up quickly, so the servers often have a lot of responsibilities at once. But everybody is friendly, professional and willing to suggest their favorites from the menu. The service is especially quick at lunch, when the place is inhabited by professionals looking for a respite from the workday. The bottom line: If you are having trouble choosing from the lengthy menu, ask your server. Everybody is willing to help.

The Deets: The Mission Restaurant is located at 304 E. Onondaga St. Just look for the red church building. You can’t miss it. The restaurant accepts all major credit cards. It is open 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 5-10 p.m. Saturday and 5-8 p.m. Sunday. The bottom line: Sure, you can find tasty Mexican food closer to campus, but the atmosphere makes The Mission a one-of-a-kind dining experience.

Review by Jared Diamond


304 E. Onondaga St.
Syracuse, NY 13202
(315) 475-7344

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