Since its opening in 2008, the flagship Old Town location of The Mission has earned a reputation as one of the preeminent upscale Mexican restaurants in the Valley. Nestled inside of an actual old, historic Spanish mission, this Scottsdale staple from Chef Matt Carter and renowned restaurateurs Brian Raab and Terry Ellisor is one of the most reliably excellent dining experiences in town.
The concept began as somewhat of a joke, Carter tells me over dinner. The chef loved Mexican pork tacos so much that he expressed interest in opening a “taco shack” (a surprising thought at the time from a man best known for his French cuisine and the Parisian Zinc Bistro he opened in 2001). But then fellow chef Douglas Rodriguez gifted Carter with a traditional Mexican pig-roasting box and the rest is history. Fast-forward a decade later, and The Mission is one of the most successful spots in Scottsdale.
It’s only a matter of time that a hit as big as The Mission inevitably receives a second location, and so in 2016, The Mission Kierland was born. The décor of this two-story location trades some of the charm and nostalgia of the Old Town iteration for opulence and grandeur. As soon as you step inside, your eyes go straight to the towering, ten-foot-tall, blood orange crucifix glowing behind the bar. Marble abounds. The massive staircase only adds to the feeling of luxe modern grandiosity.
Because of its location, this Mission inherently attracts some of the upscale, middle-aged Kierland Happy Hour crowd. On most nights, from the late afternoon on, that magnificent bar is a hot spot, teeming with folks who desire a more mature cocktail experience. But just as with the original location, the real draw here remains the food.
Carter’s menu is marketed as “Modern Latin Cuisine,” and encompasses flavors from Mexico, Spain, and Central America. Each dish exemplifies the passion, skill, and knowledge of a man whose diverse, twenty-something-year career includes time spent at Napa’s famed French Laundry in its heyday. There’s ingenuity in every dish, and everything from the ingredients to the meats to the cocktails is incredibly fresh and bursting with flavor. The hand-pressed tortillas, guacamole, and salsas are made fresh daily and you can taste the difference.
Every single thing on the Mission menu is pretty darn tremendous, but a few items must be tried. Be sure to start your meal with some guac prepared tableside in front of you; it stacks up against any you’ll find in the Valley. The Pork Belly Pibil comes with pickled red onion, avocado crema, and banana habañero aioli and melts in your mouth.
The tacos are among the best in town. The Pork Shoulder is kind of what started it all, and it’s hard to leave without experiencing it. Smoked and slow braised for 12 hours, it comes with a pineapple habañero glaze and is enough for two. Carter’s personal favorite is the Pollo a la Brasa, a delectable number complete with aji rocoto, oregano, lime, and a white bean puree. The biggest surprise? The Brussels Sprouts Taco. Served with sesame, chile de arbol, apple, toasted peanut, and cotija, it is one of the most delicious and inventive tacos I’ve ever encountered. Order several.
The menu is complete with sumptuous entrees like an 18 Oz. Bone-In Ribeye, Prime Flat Steak, and New Bedford Diver Scallops. Each is delicious and unique in their own right. The Chorizo Porchetta is definitely a standout and comes with that delectable pork shoulder, house made chorizo, rosemary, cotija, white bean puree, sweet garlic crema.
If you save room for desert be sure to try the Espresso Churros or Pumpkin Bread Pudding; each is nothing short of delightful.
In summation, if you are looking for an upscale Mexican dining experience, complete with delicious cuisine, impeccable service, and lavish modern décor, you cannot do any better than The Mission Kierland.
For more information and the complete menu, visit themissionaz.com.
|About Author Ty Fahlman
The former Managing Editor of Jetset Magazine, Ty Fahlman has earned a stellar reputation for his probing, introspective interviews of celebrities, as well as his in-depth profiles of resorts, restaurants, and destinations. With over 150 articles published, Ty has ghostwritten for New York Times bestselling authors and celebrities, and given thoughtful and in-depth profiles and interviews of dozens of A-List celebrities including Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and Leonardo DiCaprio. He currently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona but travels as much as he can.