At the French restaurant where they both got their start, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger discovered decidedly un-French cuisine in the privacy of the kitchen: homespun Oaxacan and Yucatan recipes prepared by their fellow chefs. The duo promptly untied their aprons, loaded them into a VW Beetle, and took off for a road trip to Mexico in 1985, where they sampled and studied delicacies prepared at beachside taco stands and family barbecues. Three restaurants, two gourmet food trucks, five cookbooks, hundreds of episodes of Food Network's Too Hot Tamales, and sizzling appearances on Top Chef Masters later, their Border Grill eateries add contemporary twists to authentic Mexican cuisine. Guests are greeted by dining rooms originally designed by the architect Josh Schweitzer, who is Mary Sue's husband and Susan's childhood friend. Within their walls, healthful plates enhanced by seasonal fruits and vegetables and fresh salsas roll into handmade tortillas or revel beneath cotija cheese. Devoted to sustainable eating, Border Grill infuses its dishes with sustainable seafood, organic rice and beans, and hormone-free meats, as well as Good for the Planet, Good for You meals made from at least 80% plant-based ingredients, just like Captain Planet's faux-leather jacket.
Founded by connoisseurs of authentic Mexican street food, Benny's Tacos & Rotisserie swaddles its premium meats and fresh vegetables with handmade tortillas. Diners can settle down with a menu in front of the open kitchen and watch the spinning rotisserie slowly roast chickens as the cooks finely dice beef, seafood, and vegetables. In addition to its savory entrees, Benny's also caters to sweet teeth by crafting house-made horchata and freshly shucked churros. A covered patio allows visitors to sit outdoors without having to worry about the prying gaze of the homesick Hubble telescope.
Beginning a roadside stand in Guasave, Mexico back in 1975, the crave-worthy flavor of El Pollo Loco’s tender, flame-grilled chicken quickly spread—in between bites—by word of mouth. The marinate’s family recipe of herbs, spices, and fresh citrus juices was soon in production across a handful of locations in Northern Mexico, and by 1980, El Pollo Loco’s first location opened up across the border, in Los Angeles. Today, the process streamlined, El Pollo Loco’s same flame-broiled chicken populates burritos, tacos, and plates piled high with fresh salsa, rice, and beans.
Cabo Cantina serves up tasty Mexican-style eats and throat de-parchers in a festive environment lined with high-definition TVs. Fix your eyes on a sportive game or a live UFC fight while your mouth focuses on a basket of hand-battered jalapeño chips served with queso dip and ranch ($4). Salad choices include the macho salad, which comes with chicken, pico de gallo, avocado, corn, mushrooms, cheese, and ranch, and can be consumed as a regular salad or rolled up in a whole-wheat tortilla and served as a wrap ($8). To appease more ambitious appetites, feast on fajitas, a platter that’s prepared with your choice of chicken, steak, or shrimp sautéed with peppers, onions, and Cabo’s fajita seasoning; a host of sides are also included, such as Spanish rice, guacamole, and black beans ($11.50). Cabo's collection of tasty margaritas, tequilas, and beers provide plenty of glad gulps to pique the palate.
Over the last 45 years, thickets of ivy have climbed their way above the pink façade of Los Toros Mexican Restaurant, where the Montano family has been sharing its family recipes since 1967. Inside, aromas from the eatery's signature bean dip, burritos, enchiladas, and steaks waft past wall murals and mosaics that color multiple rooms including a garden patio, a dining area with big plush booths, and a bar dressed in printed tiles. Here, live musical acts coerce toes into tapping as a balloonist twists oxygen into a menagerie of animal shapes and presidential beards. Bartenders enhance the festive environment, which won a viewers' choice award from Best of LA TV in 2011, with 11 beers on tap and more than 60 different types of tequila that pour into signature margaritas.
Qdoba's burrito baristas handcraft a catering menu of Mexican-inspired cuisine, customizable with a panoply of fresh ingredients for a taco, nacho, or burrito bar. Qdoba's culinary crafters craft succulent fillings for burritos, tacos, nachos, and quesadillas, including protein-packing choices, such as slow-roasted pulled pork, adobo-marinated grilled steak or chicken, and spiced shredded or ground beef, with vegetarian options also available. Taste the gooey flavor accents of the signature queso sauce, a three-cheese blend with roasted poblanos, tomatoes, and jalapeños, the pinto or black beans simmered in cumin and onion, or the creamy, hand-smashed guacamole that's ideal for filling up Queen Elizabeth's diamond-studded guacamole chalice. Tortilla chips with salsa bar and desserts complete each catered event, and customers can opt for burrito-boxed lunches and any add-ons.