photo credit: EMILY SCHINDLER
Finding a spot that has both great tacos and a mezcal and tequila rotation that beats the local Premium Fine Wine & Good Spirits is rare. Thankfully, we have Mission Taqueria in Rittenhouse. They serve everything from juicy carnitas tacos topped with a spicy salsa roja to esquites with a queso fresco that’s so good we’d spread it on everything if we could. All of these details make it one of our go-to Mexican restaurants in the city.
With a center courtyard in the dining space, a buzzing open kitchen, and a playlist that gives off endless cookout energy, Mission Taqueria is one of the most comfortable spots in Philly to grab a meal. Their long picnic tables are perfect for groups, and so are their pitchers of mango-pineapple margaritas, glasses of mission-wides (their mezcal spin on the citywide), or any of their other fresh juice-infused cocktails.
In terms of their tacos, they might seem a little pricey—they come two per order and range from $8-$14. And yet, the tacos are so generously packed that we need both hands to grab them. They also can be topped with any of their four salsas, including our favorite: coconut-hazelnut. It adds a nutty, sweet, and toasty flavor to everything they put into housemade soft masa tortillas.
When they reopened in 2021, they got rid of a few shareable plates and the three-course tasting option. When we first heard this, we thought we’d be aimlessly looking around their menu like Vincent Vega in Mia Wallace’s apartment in Pulp Fiction. But they always have seasonal specials like butternut squash tamales and a summer seafood ceviche that’s overflowing with shrimp, calamari, mussels, and other things that we’d usually find at their sister restaurant Oyster House. When we order any of these specials, we leave as satisfied as Vincent after sipping that $5 milkshake.
Do they have the best tacos in town? No, for that you’ll want to visit South Philly Barbacoa, Juana Tamale, or Mi Pueblito. But they’re good enough that we’d drive across town during a so-so rainstorm to grab some. Plus, there are so many situations that Mission Taqueria fits: casual date night, plantain-filled birthday brunch, and a lively Happy Hour (it can get as busy as the BSL on game day and includes everything from $2 tacos to $6 margaritas). And if you plan even just a little bit ahead, you’ll never have to struggle with reservations or a long wait—unlike the checkout line at Premium Fine Wine & Good Spirits on a Friday night.
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Stuffed with grilled plantains, poblano peppers, and queso Oaxaca, these creamy warm pockets could draw a bigger applause than people crossing the finish line of the Broad Street Run. They’re crisp on the outside, mushy on the inside, and we could (and often do) eat them by the handful.
If we could invent a new sport, it would be watching how fast the broth disappears each time we order this soup that's filled with tender roasted chicken, grilled cactus, and mounds of tortilla strips. With each spoonful, we get a spark of fresh pepper heat. And since they plop a mound of crema in the center, the spice isn’t too overwhelming.
The cauliflower taco has more seasonal outfit changes than an award show host. In the summer, they come with a refreshing blend of turmeric-coated roasted cauliflower, pickled beets, avocado, and sunflower seeds. And when it’s time to carve a pumpkin or two, the cauliflower has a coconut milk glaze and is topped with a peanut-achiote salsa macha. No matter which version they’re serving, this is a must-order taco.
Wild Shrimp Taco
The wild shrimp taco here is so good that we couldn’t care less if our car is in jeopardy of getting a ticket—we’d rather keep eating this mix of jumbo shrimp, chipotle mayo, and serrano chiles and take the fine. The heat of the peppers get balanced out with a creamy mayo, and all of the elements make a great taco.
Summer Squash Tamales
The tamales here are only available during fall. They’re coated in goat cheese crema and swim in an ancho-chile salsa that gives it a subtle smoky aftertaste that we can’t get enough of. Served in orders of two, it’s a dish we don’t want to share whenever we bring a group of friends here.
Fried Mahi Mahi Tacos
These tacos have thick cuts of fish in them. It’s like what would happen if frozen fish sticks hit the gym for a year and then took “after” photos. Topped with jalapeño mayo, avocado, and cabbage that’s been pickled in habanero vinegar, the flavorful dish always has us bargaining with ourselves about how many we’re going to eat now and how many we can save for breakfast tomorrow.