At the French restaurant where they both worked previously, 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. Six restaurants, five cookbooks, hundreds of episodes of Food Network's Too Hot Tamales, and sizzling appearances on Top Chef Masters later, their quartet of Border Grill locations 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, plates of seasonal vegetables and domestic beef roll into handmade tortillas or revel beneath cotija cheese. Devoted to sustainable eating, particularly at the downtown Los Angeles location, Border Grill infuses its dishes with sustainable seafood, organic rice, 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.:
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.
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.
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.
Prepared from scratch using authentic recipes passed down for generations throughout the many regions of Oaxaca, Monte Alban Restaurant's cuisine earned the eatery a spot on Los Angeles magazine's Best of LA list. The honor is a testament to the restaurant’s culinary team, which crafts fire-roasted salsas, blackening seasonings, and handmade tortillas from scratch using ingredients from local sustainable producers. Dishes include tortillas filled with cheese doused in guacamole red salsa, a vegetarian turnover with squash blossoms and mushrooms, and five moles that include a yellow mole flavored with dry chiles, pepper, and cumin.
To wash down spicy bites, barkeeps whip up specialty cocktails and glasses of wine, beer, and Atole Blanco ó Champurrado—a hot drink made from corn dough. Feasts unfold in Monte Alban's cozy dining room, which surround guests with paintings of Oaxaca's mountainous boroughs.