Each year, hundreds of thousands of people and millions of household plants are tricked into eating tasteless microwave burritos by smooth-talking hucksters posing as music professors. Treat your tongue to a true taste of Mexico with today's Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of authentic Oaxacan and Yucatan cuisine at Border Grill in Santa Monica. And if you redeem your Groupon from Monday through Wednesday, you'll get $50 worth of cuisine and drinks instead of $40.
Owner-operators Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger began their gastronomic adventures in 1985, when they cavorted across Mexico in a VW Bug and learned authentic recipes from the indigenous population of cacti. After returning to Los Angeles and opening the first location of Border Grill, they kept their vision as fresh as their menus. To that end, they recently created "Good for the Planet, Good for You" dinners such as the turkey tostada ensalada, with black beans, roasted corn, guacamole, Mexican cheeses, and tomato (starting at $16.50), and the special organic roasted-eggplant entree, which comes with curried-tomato jam, cilantro couscous, and feta cherry-tomato salad ($18.25). These dishes feature at least 80% plant-based ingredients to help reduce the greenhouse emissions stemming from livestock. Border Grill will happily tickle the tastebuds of carnivores, too, with hunger killers such as the adobo-roasted lamb tacos with manchego cheese from the platos pequeños ($8.75), specialty gaucho steak (a grilled rib eye with chilies, caramelized onions, and roasted garlic, $29.50), and grilled pork porterhouse with potato-chorizo hash ($27.75). Book-end your feast with platillos of roasted-plantain empanadas ($8.50) or wild-mushroom quesadillas ($14.50) and a dessert of pastel rufina ($7.50), a puff pastry filled with sweetened cream cheese, chunks of chocolate, and fresh berries.
Since Border Grill is usually packed with a pleasantly boisterous energy, you can pass the time waiting for a table in the lively company of a specialty cocktail such as the border shakers, which blends a martini-style margarita out of Cointreau orange liquor and freshly squeezed lime juice with either Cazadores Reposado ($24) or Blanco ($20). If the Mexican greyhound martini (Herradura Silver, grapefruit, California chile, fresh lime, and cane sugar, $15) takes you past your stop, a non-alcoholic refresher such as the liquado (strawberry, banana, milk, and honey, $4.25) will help bring you back.
With today's Groupon, you and up to three amigos can fill up on eco-friendly modern Mexican cuisine at Border Grill. Afterward, you'll have the option of either walking it off on the Santa Monica Pier (three blocks west), stalking it off by chasing Jack Nicholson up and down the 3rd Street Promenade (just one block west), or driving it off along the vivid blue water of the Pacific Coast Highway (five blocks east).
Border Grill has three stars from over 200 Yelpers and four from Citysearchers. Seventy-seven percent of over 100 Urbanspooners like it, and Gayot and LA Weekly add positive reviews to the mix. Some warn that though the waits aren't terrible, the place does get pretty packed.
- But while the chefs may not claim to redefine Mexican food, they do prepare it exceedingly well, using impeccable technique and first-rate ingredients to transform the taco, the tostada and the homely chile relleno into creatures almost unrecognizable if you're used to their Cal-Mex equivalents, as well as constructing scholarly takes on elaborate traditional foods like jet-black huitlacoche sauces... – LA Weekly
- For starters, the various ceviches, empanadas and wild mushroom quesadilla are terrific, and you can continue grazing---and saving money---on a selection of small plates: green corn tamales, black-bean-stuffed panuchos and griddled tacos...It's easy to fill up on the addictive homemade chips and salsa. – Gayot
- Service was excellent! I was torn between the lamb tacos and the gaucho steak. I got the gaucho steak and the waiter brought me the tacos anyway. Chips and salsa were very good and the guacamole was some of the best I have had. – Rob G, Urbanspoon
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.: