Best Mexican Food in Syracuse
Where would you want to eat your burrito? At work or on a beach? Steve Morrison, chef and owner of Mission Restaurant, started his business in an old church in downtown Syracuse. He wanted to share his passion for Pan-American, specifically Mexican culture, with the town.
Morrison, who describes himself as a spicy food addict, opened the restaurant because he thought Syracuse didn’t have many opportunities for people to experience Latin American food.
“Back at that time, there weren’t too many Mexican restaurants in town,” Morrison said. “I felt [I needed to] fill a niche and also [I’m] just very passionate about this cuisine,” he said.
A native of New Jersey, Morrison’s passion for Mexican food started when he was in high school in the late 70s. After high school, Morrison was introduced to salsa by a friend who moved to California. The two began to make it along with fresh chips and tortillas and he fell in love with the food.
Morrison, who has a B.F.A. in sculpture from Syracuse, found the church on E. Onondaga Street and knew this was where his restaurant would be. One of the city’s oldest churches became a found object that allowed Morrison to put his work with found objects to use.
“I saw this church sitting here empty. It really was kind of an epiphany that the idea of putting a restaurant in a church was a bit like a found object,” Morrison said. “That’s one of the wonderful things [about us]. I basically tried to recreate a courtyard and the facade of an actual southwestern church within the context of this church.”
“So from the outside, it’s this old historic building. And when you walk inside, hopefully, you’re completely transported to somewhere in Mexico or the southwest when you’re struck by the colors and the architecture and the stained glass windows and so forth,” he said.
The chef’s artistic vision also plays a major role in his cooking. Although patrons often order tacos, burritos and enchiladas, Morrison is always excited to create new appetizers and entrees for his seasonal dinner menu.
“Some of them are traditional, but others are kind of fusion of Latin styles,” Morrison said. “A lot people come in for that and look forward to the seasonal changes.”