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.
Chef Isabel Cruz's unique edible offerings are served straight from the Venn-diagram center of Latin and Asian cuisine. Vegetarians and omnivores alike can nosh healthy breakfast options such as the homemade Cantina croissant with scrambled eggs, cheese, tomatoes, and scallions ($8.25), or have a lunchtime-leaning crispy lettuce wrap cradling marinated chicken and tangy peanut sauce ($9.75). Toast with a fresh mimosa ($5 per glass, $20 per pitcher) or sweet thai coffee ($3.75). In the evening, revive flagging taste buds with palate-tickling plantains with sour cream and caviar ($9). Entrees include globetrotting, edible explorations such as the flat-iron steak with cilantro garlic mojo pico, which is accompanied by loyal cartographers portobello mushrooms ($20).
Since 1994, the chefs at Chacho's have been guarding the secrets of their time-honored family recipes for tacos, enchiladas, and burritos. They craft fresh ceviche, spicy salsas, and tamales from scratch as al pastor, chorizo, carne asada, and even soy substitutes sizzle on the grill. Outside the kitchen, bartenders concoct tangy margaritas, micheladas, and their signature chavelas upon a gleaming wooden bar, which reflects the star-shaped pendant lamps and thirsty ghosts that hang above.
The food and drinks aren’t the only thing that gives guests a taste of Mexican culture; Chacho's crimson-walled, loft-style dining room is at once both modern and rustic, breathing new life into old traditions through contemporary Day of the Dead–themed paintings, wall-mounted sculptures, and colorful sombreros.
Matthew Corrin was fashion designer Oscar de la Renta's marketing manager, which meant a lot of long hours and a lot of hurried lunches. After his umpteenth greasy sandwich, Corrin began wondering why there weren't more convenient, waistline-friendly lunch alternatives. This rumination—and a resignation letter to de la Renta—begot Freshii, a fast, casual eatery that serves healthy meals and has graced the pages of various publications, including the Chicago Tribune and Inc.’s 30 Under 30 list. Environmental awareness also plays a big part in the business model as the food packaging is made from eco-friendly vegetable starches.
Every Freshii kitchen is stocked with the base ingredients of brown rice, romaine lettuce, field greens, spinach, and rice noodles; toppings such as carrots, broccoli, grilled tofu, and candied walnuts; and an array of dressings and sauces. Using these ingredients, the chefs create bowls, wraps, salads, soups, and burritos for lunch and dinner. During morning hours when the sun is still busy curling its rays, they scramble eggs, serve housemade oatmeal, and top fat-free frozen yogurt with a choice of fruit. Customers can bring their own bowls, and the staff will wash and fill them with fresh ingredients hailing from environmentally responsible farms that fairly compensate their workers.
Raul and Maria Gutierrez were raised on fajitas in their native Mexico, where many families raise their own chickens and make tortillas by hand. After honing their culinary skills in several Houston restaurants, the couple chased their dreams to Fresno, where Fajita Fiesta was born. Instead of sprouting from a pinto bean, the eatery sprang from one of the Gutierrez’s favorite dishes: tacos al carbon, a union of handcrafted tortillas, fresh pico de gallo, and charbroiled steak, chicken, or pork. Made fresh every hour, the tortillas serve as a canvas for creativity by exhibiting savories such as grilled shrimp, onions, and poblano peppers. For deep-fried fare such as chimichangas and sopapillas, Raul and Maria use canola oil to minimize saturated fat. Margaritas add a heady kick to the evening's festivities, and horchatas end meals on a sweet cinnamon note, with textures smoother than a freshly shorn saxophone. The kitchen also caters feasts for a variety of events, filling bellies with hearty chicken moles and bite-size eats such as mini taquitos.
The techs behind Scrub Boys Car Wash polish cars of all shapes and sizes—as well as boats and RVs—with a combination of automated machinery and elbow grease. Their car-wash packages render interiors squeaky clean and lavish shells with clear coat protectant and Rain-X. They take the purification process a step further with detailing services, which include clay-bar treatments to remove tiny contaminants and high-speed buffing to diminish oxidation and scratches. When techs aren't lathering jalopies, they’re restoring plastic headlights, which tend to oxidize over time, helping remove the discoloration that makes it difficult to drive at night or through a nature preserve littered with black panthers. Frequent visitors can join Scrub Boys’ Scrub Club, which equips members with gift cards and free washes on their birthday.