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September 16, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Mission Taqueria mixes Mexican, family feel in Pleasantville

Owners Mitchell Dennis and Tony Fortunate stand with chef David Santiago in their new eatery, Mission Taqueria. Photo by Aleesia Forni.

“Playa del Carmen meets New York City in the 914.” That’s how the owners of Mission Taqueria, the new Mexican fusion restaurant at 472 Bedford Road in Pleasantville, describe the eatery that opened this spring.

“The concept in terms of the design was creating a home on an agave farm,” said Mitchell Dennis, one of the restaurant’s owners. “At the end of the day, workers come together and share the fruits of their labor.”

The 1,600-square-foot eatery features wooden tables and industrial-styled seating, along with a bench dotted with plush pillows that wraps around one side of the restaurant. The other side is occupied by a bar with a blue-tiled backdrop lined with 16 beer taps and 92 types of tequila and mezcal, an alcoholic beverage made from agave. Decor items range from small, planted cacti to a longhorn cow skull.

Dennis said he hoped to incorporate the feeling of “eating together under the stars,” so strings of lights were installed to hang along the ceiling. Menu items are designed to share, with a range of seafood, salads, steak, tacos and rotisserie chicken.

The restaurant was launched by Dennis and partners Tony Fortunate and Andrew Kotchen. Fortunate and Dennis are also the men behind 105-Ten Bar & Grill, an eatery at 127 Woodside Ave. in Briarcliff Manor.

Fortunate has worked in the restaurant industry for more than two decades, beginning as a server and moving up the ranks. He later met Dennis, whose background lies in construction and development, through their children who played soccer together. The two quickly hit it off and soon began talking of opening an eatery together.

“I’m in the restaurant business, he’s a builder,” Fortunate said. “It’s like peanut butter and chocolate, you know? We work well together.”

Fortunate said he had long dreamt of opening a restaurant in his hometown of Briarcliff Manor.

“There was a need for it, and we live there, so we knew it,” Fortunate said.

The two opened 105-Ten in 2014, a restaurant that offers American cuisine like burgers, sandwiches and wraps. At 105-Ten, the duo said they had a vision of creating a restaurant where members of the community could come together and share a meal.

“You’re sitting amongst your neighbors,” Dennis said. “We used communal tables.”

The two said they had been searching for space to open another  restaurant for years and finally got their chance when touring the vacant former bar along Bedford Road.

“I literally said to Mitchell when we came in here, ‘We’re going to take this space. I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet, but we’re going to take this space,’” Fortunate recalled.

The two then “threw around some ideas,” Fortunate said, but it was Dennis, who said he has traveled extensively through Mexico, who came up with the idea for Mission Taqueria.

“I thought there was a void in the market for the kind of modern Mexican we wanted to deliver,” Dennis said.

For the new restaurant, “modern Mexican was the desired fare, but it’s still the same kind of feeling” that the two created at 105-Ten, “where we’re bringing people together to have an experience.”

“The menu is different but it’s the same spirit,” Dennis said. “We still want that feeling of you walk in and you may know your neighbor. Or if not, you meet people.”

For months prior to the restaurant’s opening, the company would post photos on Instagram, from creative cocktails to ceviche. The photos left many commenters repeatedly questioning when the eatery would finally open.

“It got people’s attention,” said Fortunate of the Instagram push. “It created a buzz.”

Fortunate and Dennis both thank Dennis’ wife, Sheryl, for that buzz. A marketing and public relations guru for more than two decades, Sheryl Dennis not only planned the marketing campaign, but was also instrumental in creating the restaurant’s menu, one that she says places an emphasis on healthy, authentic ingredients.

“We wanted to create something for everyone,” she said, adding that the menu features many vegan options and is 98 percent gluten free. “It’s authentic in its roots, but it’s modern in its presentation.”

“My vision of the menu is that you could dine here multiple times in a week and not feel that it’s repetitive,” her husband added.

For now, diners will have to enjoy that menu during dinner hours, though the owners say the restaurant is slated to open for lunch service in the coming weeks.

Mission Taqueria has been open only a short time, but Dennis and Fortunate are already planning for the future.

“We’re looking to grow,” Fortunate said, adding of 105-Ten and Mission Taqueria, “we like both concepts.”

The duo already have plans to open a second outpost of their Briarcliff eatery in Croton-on-Hudson. Deriving its name from the new restaurant’s ZIP code, 105-Twenty will open at 120 Grand St. in the former home of French restaurant Tagine Restaurant and Wine Bar later this summer.