The Mission Mexican Restaurant
610 East Broadway
Eugene, OR 97401
Imagine two UO college undergrads. They’re friends, maybe really good friends, and they decide to go to Mexico for an “adventure”. Plus one of them is a Mesoamerican Civ major, so two birds with one stone, right?
Long story short, they meet interesting local people, get in a few whacky scrapes, spend 2 hours in a local jail, and learn 74 words of Spanish. But most importantly, they fall in love with the local food. So much so, that they decide to open a Mexican restaurant in Eugene after they finish school. (Surprisingly, after student #1 received no responses to the many resumes he sent out looking for work in the lucrative Mesoamerican Civilizations field). Now imagine what this restaurant would be like. Now upgrade that imaginary picture by one full letter grade. That’s The Mission.
Who cares if I made that story up. The Mission is a slightly kitschy, not quite authentic place, done by people who shouldn’t quite know what they’re doing, and…it works. It’s close, but I am going to call it the best Mexican restaurant in Eugene. Here’s why:
Decor: Think Marie Calendar’s Mexican cousin. It’s a little worn looking during the daylight hours, but looks nice enough in the evening. It’s fairly clean except for the grime-magnet grout between the tiles inlaid in the table tops. Plus they have lots of booths, even little booths for two people sitting face to face.
Service: No Spanish being flung around here. Those 74 learned words are long forgotten. One Latina lady on the weekends, and two middle-aged guys during the other hours. Could these be the two friends/founders from my fake story? I have no idea. But they fill up my Diet Pepsi over and over again, they bring chip refills without asking, and basically do a very capable job. Not in-your-face friendly, but that’s fine with me.
Food: The toughest dish to get right in a Mexican restaurant is carnitas. The meat should be tender, well-cooked, juicy but not fatty, and seasoned just right. That’s what The Mission delivers better than any other restaurant in Eugene. Other items like tacos are ok-ish and the burritos are sorta like a hippy version of a Mexican burrito, but everything has the right texture and flavor, albeit somewhat blander than the real version. Other than carnitas, it’s not a super flavorful place, and it would be crushed by the competition in Los Angeles, but still, it’s a winner in Eugene. Everything in life is relative, no?
Chips: The chips are free, and they come with decent red salsa plus a weirdly delicious yellow molten lava thing that probably packs 200 calories per tablespoon. Stay home and eat a Weight Watchers Smart Ones frozen dinner if you’re so worried about calories.
Summary: The little inauthentic Mexican restaurant that could. The Mission inexplicably wins top honors in Eugene.