The party’s over for chef Danny Bowien’s perpetually-shapeshifting Lower East Side restaurant Mission Cantina. People have been posting final goodbyes on social media. As of Thursday, the gates are down at the restaurant during normal business hours, the Caviar page has been deleted, and the phone line isn’t working.
Mission Cantina, located at 172 Orchard St., first opened in 2013 as a Mexican restaurant, buoyed by hot celebrity chef visits while in preview mode. But since then, it’s transformed too many times to count. Over the years, the restaurant's served pumpkin congee, rotisserie chicken, burgers, Vietnamese breakfast, fried rabbit, animal-style fries, chicken pho, and fried chicken. At one point, Bowien even got rid of everything but burritos, whose fillings ranged from fried chicken to cumin lamb. The menu called the place a "House of Mexican and Chinese Food."
It’s been more like the chef’s personal test kitchen than a restaurant with a singular identity, meaning that any specials or menu items could disappear within hours. The constant changes made Mission Cantina one of the city’s most unpredictable restaurants. It was frustrating to many diners, but the chameleon nature also led to creations like a truly delicious green chile cheeseburger.
No word yet on why Bowien decided to close or whether he plans to do anything else with the space. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.