Photograph by Curtis Cartier
Mission accomplished: La Mission's simple storefront has welcomed many fans.
Laid Back La Mission
Famous for its sensuous housemade tortillas, La Mission still packs some spice.
By Christina Waters
AFTER MANY terrific meals at La Mission over the years, a recent breakfast and lunch left us with mixed feelings. We enjoyed our classic huevos rancheros ($7.95), topped with a very tangy chile sauce and accompanied by oceans of voluptuous refried beans. The eggs in my order were perfectly cooked over medium, allowing all that rich, yellow yolk to run into the beans and salsa.
This dish could just be Mexican cuisine's all-time gift to the world. Not much beats a fresh corn tortilla covered with beans, eggs, salsa, cilantro and sour cream dusted authentically with crunchy shredded cabbage. Add some fresh orange juice and coffee and you have an excuse to get out of bed. Our main caveat was the long wait for our order. We went early on a Sunday morning, and there was only one other table filled at the time. Still our breakfast took two coffee cup refills from order to delivery.
Lunch the following week suffered the same inexplicable lag between ordering and eating. Crisp chips and excellent salsa helped tide us over, as did a beer--nonalcoholic O'Doul's for Jack. (O'Doul's may help the consumer go back to work with a clear head, but it is arguably the least impressive of all the N.A. brews. St. Pauli Girl, yes. O'Doul's, no.)
The mahi mahi taco special that day was rich and generous, everything a taco should be ($12.95). My a la carte order of La Mission standards--a chile relleno and a chicken sope ($10)--both failed to offer much in the way of either flavor or texture. A paltry portion of refried beans accompanied Jack's taco. The waitress noticed it--she graciously asked if he would like more beans--but the kitchen didn't. In a tight economy, every restaurant should be eagle-eyed as far as providing maximum value for the price. Slow kitchen turn-around and missteps with portions tend to put consumers in a bad mood.
The taco itself--intensely flavored grilled fish wrapped in sauce, cilantro and a supple, freshly fired tortilla--was lavish. Every bite was a trip to Zihua. Over at my plate it was a battle for which item was the mildest. In the end I'd have to say that the sope won.
I had memories of sopes past at La Mission (which once upon a time spun off from El Palomar, home of amazing sopes). The ones I remember were ethereal, delicately fried, paper-thin puffs filled with succulent meat, cabbage and plenty of spicy flavors.
This one sorely lacked the tantalizing texture and flavorful punch of its predecessors. The gooey relleno sat there without any moistening sauce, a mere cheese-stuffed, cheese-topped chile: a chile without a mission.
La Mission has excellent huevos rancheros for breakfast and can turn out a very tasty lunch special. It's too bad it takes so long to arrive.
Address: 1719 Mission St., Santa Cruz
Hours: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily
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