Border Grill

BorderGrill1445 4th Street | Santa Monica | (310) 451-1655
Border Grill is the vibrant setting where Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Food Network’s “Too Hot Tamales”, present the bold foods and flavors of Mexico. With decor as wild and bright as a fiesta, the flagship Border Grill restaurant in Santa Monica is described as “a stylishly funky, pleasantly raucous place,” (Travel & Leisure), where Mary Sue and Susan have become two of Mexican food’s “pre-eminent American translators” (New York Newsday).

Ironically, it was in French restaurants where the chefs first tasted Latin foods. While guests were dining on brioche and escargot out front, in “the back of the house”, Mary Sue and Susan were discovering the home cooking of Oaxaca and the Yucatan at staff meals prepared by their fellow cooks from Mexico. Unlike anything they had ever tasted in Mexican restaurants in the United States, the authentic dishes were as varied and complex as the French fare the chefs were serving out front.

In 1985, Mary Sue and Susan packed a VW bug and took a road trip far south of the Mexican border. Never setting foot in a “fine restaurant,” they learned the recipes and techniques of market vendors and home cooks, from street corners in downtown Mexico City to back road family barbecues and taco stands along the beach. When they returned, they opened Border Grill and “applied the same intelligence,” noted Los Angeles Magazine, “to green-corn tamales and cactus-paddle tacos that other chefs might to a lobe of foie gras.” Border Grill established a new standard for gourmet Mexican fare in both its first location on Melrose Avenue and in its current home on 4th Street in Santa Monica, where it moved in 1990. Sister restaurant Border Grill Las Vegas opened at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in 1999, and in 2010, along came Border Grill Downtown LA. And like sisters, the restaurants are everything alike and nothing alike–Santa Monica is the brunette, Border Grill Downtown LA is the blonde, and Vegas is definitely the redhead. With the onset of the gourmet truck phenomenon in metropolitan America, Mary Sue and Susan launched the Border Grill Truck in 2009, and continued the trend toward non-traditional locations, opening the Border Grill Stop kiosk in 2010.

Looking back, Mary Sue and Susan’s success with Border Grill seems like it was a foregone conclusion, but as chefs, cookbook authors, and restaurateurs, they were truly risk-taking pioneers. Their first restaurants, City Café and then CITY (1981-1994), featured a menu of rustic, home cooking from all over the world, not the classical French fare of most celebrated chefs at the time. That tradition continued at Ciudad (1998-2010) with Latin food from the entire world. At CITY, Ciudad, and now at Border Grill, Mary Sue and Susan are unusually approachable, winning over a broad clientele not only with their cooking, but with their warmth and casual interaction. They swap recipes, answer cooking questions, and get guests to try something different. Natural teachers, they make the world of Mexican ingredients and authentic dishes completely fun and accessible.