The Eats: Mission Latin Restaurant & Lounge, 2325 California Ave. SW, West Seattle, 937-8220.
The Mission's dim lighting may obscure the look of these sauteed vegetable tacos, but not the taste! Savory, smoky, vegetarian, muy bien!
The Deets: Specializing in the flavors of Oaxaca, Spain, and the Yucatan, this upscale Latin bistro doesn't offer vegetarians run of the menu, but their herbivore-friendly options, from starters to entrees, are all excellent. Hand-in-hand with the venue's seductive ambiance--richly colored walls offset by warm candle lighting, rustic wood work, and gorgeous hanging lamps--Mission is a feast for the eyes as much as the belly.
Mission hosts a young, 30-something Admiral District-abiding crowd, and the adjoining bar accommodates its share of California Ave bar-hoppers and beer-swilling bachelors, but the dimly-lit, two-tiered dining room is actually family friendly with a kid's menu to boot. There's no denying, though, Mission was designed with the adult in mind. Margaritas are good and strong; the Cadillac, served on the rocks with coarse salt and a float of Grand Mariner, will satisfy any thirst, and the twice-daily happy hour, from 4-6 p.m. and 10 p.m.-12 a.m., is an excellent value.
The Beets: Pork and chicken may be favored ingredients here, but vegetarians are not missing out a bit. For appetizers, the Mission Nachos are a meal in themselves, and next to the $4 happy hour meat upcharge, a steal at $5. Piled precariously high like a corn-chip Jenga stack, the chips are loaded on a cast iron skillet with black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and crème fresca, glued together with gobs of gooey cheese. Presentation tends to change depending on the meal period and the chef, as with the portobella mushroom quesadilla (the happy hour version of that dish is served sans red chili adobo, but still tasty), yet flavor is consistently uncompromising.
Vegetarians would be remiss to leave Mission before trying the two vegetarian taco entrees: the sweet potato and the sauteed vegetable. The sweet potato tacos are precisely that: sweet and starchy, served on housemade masa tortillas, rounded out with crème fresca and strong hints of chipotle. The savory option, with mushroom, red bell peppers, onions, and corn, is smoky and sauteed to perfection. Red rice and black beans are available on the side for $2 more, but after a few appetizers, don't bother. At Mission, from the fresh chips and housemade salsa to the tacos, you'll want to save room for every flavor.
The Tweet: Mission's sumptuous interior and exotic vegetarian flavors make up for quantity with artful quality.