Mission Cantina South Amherst anyone been?
I recall this place got sort of written off when it opened, but a few people have been really talking it up to me lately. South Amherst is a bit off my regular route these days, so I was curious if the tacos were as worth the drive as I've heard.
Finally got around to trying Mission Cantina last night. Was not impressed. Maybe I shouldn't base my assessment on one visit but nothing much happened to make me want to go back. I really wanted to like it and it seems a lot of people do so good for them I guess. As mentioned, it's a tiny place but I liked the atmosphere and the decor. Just a handful of booths and some bar chairs. The service couldn't have been better. Everyone was friendly and accommodating.
Chips and salsa are often complimentary at Tex-Mex restaurants, but not here. Not all that expensive ($4 or so) and they were quite good, even if a bit oily (see photograph). There were 3 salsas - a regular tomato salsa, a chipotle and roasted ingredients salsa with a smoky flavor, and a sweet salsa with pineapple. One of our servers agreed with me that the sweet one was kind of out of place with chips, but my husband liked it okay.
I ordered the Grilled Chicken Burrito (you get a choice of beans) ($7.25 + .75 for sour cream) and my husband had 3 Chicken Enchiladas w/Beans and Rice ($11.95). Right off the bat I was surprised by the side salad that came on the plate with my burrito. It was as American as you can get with romaine, tomato, cucumber, and red onion. It just didn't work. Salads are one of my favorite things but this one remained on my plate. The burrito was big and fat and the tortilla was stretchy and kind of gummy for some reason (microwave? not sure). I could barely see or taste the chicken and what I did see was not big chunks of grilled white meat like I prefer, but tiny bits of mixed dark and white meat. Not very tasty and not very high quality. You couldn't taste the grilled aspect of the chicken at all. There were semi-melted clumps of cheese inside the burrito along with the rice, beans and ROMAINE. Maybe it's just me, but I prefer iceberg lettuce with Tex-Mex food. It's crisp and has just the right texture. The romaine was torn in rather large pieces and was kind of tough, and again not very tasty.
My husband had similar problems with the enchiladas. The chicken was not high quality and he kept drowning it in hot sauce to give it a flavor he could stand to eat.
After we left the restaurant and started assessing our experience, my husband brought a key piece of information to my attention. The plates were cold!! How many authentic Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants have you been to where the plates were served cold?! Maybe they have to be cold to accommodate those romaine lettuce salads!
Oh how I long for a burrito I can hold in my hand, made West Coast style!!
I've been here a few times-- once with enthusiasm as I love good Mexican food, and twice additionally, begrudgingly, as friends wanted to go.
the atmosphere is very cool; there's not a whiff of being in a strip mall once you're there. but I'm not overly impressed with the food. and I do agree, it is pricey for not having my huaraches knocked off. the carnitas is ok. the al pastor was so salty as to be almost inedible. temporary glitches? maybe. but if I'm going to splash out dinner menu prices for this type of food, I'm gonna want to be impressed consistently. the second time I was there the hostess seemed more concerned with having a laissez faire "cool" attitude than actually doing her job: she skipped over our party who had been waiting there to waitlist another party that came several minutes later. again, big issue? no, not at all. but when there are better options within a very short drive away, I'm not going to go back.
Mi Tierra on route 9 in Hadley? now that's a different story. always solidly awesome.
It shocks me to say this, but it's excellent: the fish tacos are as as good as any that can be found in the La Jolla or the gaslight district in San Diego. The pineapple salsa is a savory-sweet combo that's remarkable, and the enchiladas are always perfectly done, whether with carnitas, carne asada, or chicken. It's also possible to get a very spicy chipotle (seriously) salsa. I think the prices are much better than Veracruzana (and the food is incomparable). Veracruzana is a ridiculous excuse for Mexican food. The tab gets pricey when ordering wine or beer or their excellent margaritas or other original cocktails--but the wine and beer list are, again, shockingly, very good, especially for a place this small. The locals (like me) love it (and I am a California girl who badly misses decent food, Mexican or otherwise here in Amherst/NoHo), and there's always a wait. They are as surprised by their own success as the rest of us (they had thought it would be a good take-out joint), but the decor is original and funky, as is their music selection (from Johnny Cash to Blondie to the best of Motown). They're going to expand into the former liquor store next door.
I love Mission Cantina- have been numerous times. I especially like their mole and the Al pastor and fish tacos.
Great salsas, margaritas, and their spicy tequila drink with St. Germain is pretty unique.
My only complaint is the guacamole could be a lot better...
Just plan on a wait, because yes, it is very tiny and very popular.
Caughtstars, I'm just curious- I'm not going to turn this into an argument, but do you find the pricing reasonable given the quality of the food? I have never been to a Mexican restaurant in a strip mall (or really, anywhere worth its margarita salt) where the bill for two has come to $55 before booze and leaving with no leftovers. On my last visit to La Veracruzana I had a nearly identical meal with one specialty drink and with tip it came out to $30. We made two meals out of it.
I just don't see how the poor quality of the food justifies the price.
The bill for your dinner keeps rising. In your now deleted "review" you said it was $50, including tax and tip. That means the food was actually $21 per person for chips with a trio of salsa, a massive (your words) chicken mole dish, and an overflowing (again your words) plate of 6 tacos. My calculation puts that cost at roughly $3.00 per taco , which is cheaper than our local fast food taco joint, and about half that of our "hi-end" restaurant.
A quick review of the two restaurant's on-line menus don't support your claim that Mission is more expensive. Yes, their mole dish is $15 vs. $12, but their tacos max out at $2.95 whereas La Veracruzana's are $4 to $6, almost twice the cost. So, if you really want to compare apples to apples, your 6 tacos, chicken mole, chips and salsa trio, specialty drink, tax and tip could not possibly cost $30. Sorry.
The strip mall thing seems to bother you, yet you knew before going in that they are located in a strip mall. Some of the best restaurants I have ever eaten in had strip mall locations. I'm talking about high end fare not "hole-in-the-wall" establishments. Not sure why the distaste of strip malls, but it sounds like you have other alternatives. By the sounds of it, this place has quite a busy following.
We like it alot. You need to remember that it is a bar with a very good restaurant operation, so there is limited seating. Perhaps 6 tables and 12 spots at the bar. We've been at several different times and have always had to wait. The food has been very tasty, the service friendly and the portions generous and plenty of Vegetarian options. I hate to venture further into it as I can not answer the question "is it authentic" I have no idea, but I like it. We also like Mi Terra and Bueno Y Sano (for what it is, which is certainly not authentic mexican, from what I've been told)