As the streets turn steamy and delirium begins to descend, a cry goes up from near and far: “Is there nothing new in the world of margaritas?”
Well, there is something new, a margarita ceremoniously topped with, as Mission Taco co-owner Andrew Affa put it to us, “housemade sea salt foam that comes out of a nitrous whipped cream gun that’s going to pile up about three inches high. It tastes just like salt water coming off the ocean.”
Whether that concoction ($14) turns out to be a revelation or a gimmick was not known at press time, but you have to give it to Affa and Steve Squitiro, whose Mission Taco begins later this week in Huntington, elbowing its way onto a stretch of Main Street already thickly populated with foodstuffs. Aware as they are that there’s no shortage of Mexican restaurants on the island either, the pair are staking their reputations, and no small amount of money, on a menu that will delight and surprise fans of south of the border cooking, and a vibe that ranges from family-friendly to cocktail loungey, depending on the hour.
“It’s kind of split between your traditional dishes such as chicken tingas and barbacoas cooked over an open flame … and trendy tacos that let our chef explore his cuisine,” said Affa of Mission’s food. That chef is Andy Nasifoglu, and some of his more intriguing explorations include a grilled octopus taco served over a tablecloth-stainer mole sauce ($9), as well as three vegan options: tacos of Brussels sprouts ($5), jackfruit ($6) and portobello mushroom ($5).
“Since we’ve started this, everyone’s been saying, ‘Oh, a Mexican restaurant. You’re gonna have A, B, C and D.’ Well, not necessarily,” Affa said, predicting that Mission would distinguish itself as much by its vibe and décor as its cooking. “People walk in and think they’re going to see sombreros.”
What they’ll see instead is an unabashed trendiness borne of neon, exposed brick, filament bulb lighting and custom metalwork. “We built everything — the tables, the booths, all of it,” said Squitiro. Indeed, the only thing the team didn’t do themselves is paint the enormous, wall-length mural that presides over honey-colored banquettes in Mission’s handsome dining room. Queens-based street artist Poor Rupert was responsible for that, and his 35-plus-foot-long work, which includes homages to Diego Rivera’s “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park,” is a bold choice as restaurant art goes, and almost makes Mission Taco worth a visit by itself.
As for the crowd, the men’s bet is that Huntington will need them more and more as evenings go on. Mission’s bar will stay open till 2 a.m., and its kitchen will offer a late-night menu from 11 p.m.
This is Affa’s and Squitiro’s first restaurant, but they are not new to food. Previously, Squitiro “opened restaurants for other people,” including Buddha Bar in Manhattan. He and Affa also own the Piermont, a popular waterfront wedding and events hall in Babylon (formerly John Anthony’s), as well as the site of a catering rags-to-riches story. “I started as a busboy there,” said Squitiro with a smile.
Mission Taco is at 371 New York Ave. in Huntington, 631-614-8226, missiontacoli.com. Initially, it planned to open June 12, but the opening was delayed. It plans to be open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.; and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to midnight.