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.
Fiesta Cantina serves up a menu of tasty Mexican-style eats and throat deparchers in a festive space lined with high-definition TVs. Fix competition-craving eyes on a sportive game or a live UFC fight while mouths focus on chicken-filled Santa Monica rolls ($6) or the tres amigos dip platter, a posse of guacamole, queso, black bean dip and hot or mild salsa served with fresh corn tortilla chips ($8).
El Taco Llama crafts authentic, quick-serve Mexican fare that folds traditional and exotic meats into tortillas, gorditas, and hard taco shells. Proteins from chicken to barbecue pork to beef tongue fill burritos, sopes, or quesadillas. Orders of nachos supreme can come topped with shredded beef or ham, and special platters of five tacos populate shelled empires with fish, beef cheek, or breaded meat. The tortas plate serves up rice, beans, and tortillas, and combination plates mix and match menu items to make tiny tostado-taco or gordita-taco hybrids that can be used to power fuel-efficient dune buggies.
For over 45 years, thickets of ivy have climbed their way above the pink fa?ade of Los Toros Mexican Restaurant, where the Monta?o 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 remodeled bar. Here, UFC, boxing matches, and Dodger games play from their TVs; mariachi bands coerce toes into tapping during brunch; and 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 16 beers on tap and more than 60 different types of tequila that pour into signature margaritas.