Mission Cantina

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I’ve said it once, twice, three times a lady, or man, and I’ll say it again. I could eat Mexican food, just about every day. And, yes, Mexican food here in the states varies, where you’ll get authentic Mexican cuisine, to Tex-Mex, and, a chef’s interpretation of Mexican food. Which ever it is, I usually love it all. And, when you can also find Chinese influenced dishes on the menu as well? I’m intrigued, and in. So, I went to Mission Cantina in the Lower East Side. 

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Although the restaurant itself isn’t large, it packs in a lot of personality. Even though the lighting is dimmed, there are electric colored lights and bright decor to make the space more dynamic. Throw in a big screen playing movies (Clueless was the selection on my evening) and an “open kitchen” (closed in, but only by a glass window to watch the magic happen), and we’re having a party. Ok, so, we’ve got Clueless playing and a menu with Smashing Pumpkins on it, I was thrown right back to my childhood. And then I saw a group of 19 year olds sitting across from me and realized they probably have no idea what any of this is. Sad. Anyway, to drink away my sorrows of feeling old, I ordered the 49ER (tequila blanco, lemon, smoked habanero, honey). This drink was amazing. It had the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, making it somewhat of a spicy margarita, with a twist. 

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To start, I had their Sunflower Seed Guacamole. I really loved this, especially since I’m a real fan of foods with different texture components. You have the freshness of the diced tomato, creaminess of the avocado, and the crunch from the sunflower seeds. The chips were awesome too, blue corn, thick and crisp, with a nice sprinkling of spice on top.  

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For my entree, I opted to go for the Chinese menu side, and went for the Salt and Pepper Fish Filet Over Rice. I was really pleased with my decision on this one. First off, the portions here are huge, which is pretty awesome, since I’d say it’s near to impossible that you’ll leave feeling hungry. In fact, you could probably pack up half of it for another meal. On top of a large bed of sticky white rice, is a generous portion of fish, lightly battered and fried, liberally seasoned with salt and pepper. The pieces of fish are delicate in flavor, but super delicious. Slight caution with this one though, it’s pretty spicy, which, I loved, but, should be thrown out there. A good cure is to fight spice with spice, so, just take a few extra sips of a 49ER.

The Shorts:
Name: Mission Cantina 
Location: 172 Orchard Street, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Definitely. And when I do, I’ll switch it up and order some tacos or one of their massive burritos. 
Would I recommend it? For sure. The service is great, the food is delicious, they’re throwing 90’s all over the place, what’s not to like?

 

Balaboosta

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I love Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. And any place that’s serving it with a creative twist, well, I’m automatically intrigued. So, I knew I had to go to Balaboosta in NoLIta. The husband and wife duo who own Balaboosta definitely pay homage to their heritage and family throughout the restaurant, from the pictures on the wall and the backs of the menus. Now, before going, I honestly had no idea that these were the same brilliant minds behind Taim, which I had just recently gone to and had the most incredible Falafel Sandwich. Well, it explains a lot, and these guys are absolutely doing things right. 

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To start, I had a cocktail, Camelia (Pimm’s no. 1, strawberry, cucumber, mint, ginger ale). It was a little fizzy, a little sweet, refreshing, and a little bit strong. No complaints here. 

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Then, we were kindly given a complimentary appetizer along with some friendly conversation. These personal touches really go a long way and bring in an added connection to the restaurant and full experience. I had their Fried Olives with house made organic labne. Oh. My. Goodness. So, I could probably eat these all day, all the time, they were delicious. There’s a common idea that everything is better fried. Well, I’ve never had a fried olive until now, and, yup, it’s way better. The labne, similar to a yogurt, was creamy and delicious and really balances out the saltiness of the olive. 

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For my meal I had the Shakshouka (baked organic eggs in spicy tomato sauce, spinach, grilled sourdough). I loved this. I’ve had Shakshouka before, but this might have been the best one. It’s fresh and healthy, but still has a spicy, comfort food quality that really hits all marks. The sourdough on the side is crunchy and makes for the best little spongy scoop to spoon up all of the tomato goodness.

The Shorts:
Name: Balaboosta
Location: 214 Mulberry Street, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Without a doubt. Fun fact, Balaboosta is a “Yiddish term meaning the perfect housewife, homemaker, wonderful mother, cook and gracious hostess. She does it all and she does it well!”. And yeah, she’s killin it! 
Would I recommend it? Oh yeah, food so good, even if you don’t know any Yiddish, you’ll be saying “oy” at how delicious it is.