Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Border Grill: Small Plates Sunday

Okay, I’m going to come right out and say it: I love Border Grill. It’s one of my favorite restaurants not only in L.A. but period. The food is amazing and so are all of the people who work there. The service is always first rate and you’re always made to feel welcome.  (

Border Grill serves up modern Mexican cuisine and is co-owned by Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. You may know them as the Too Hot Tamales from their Food Network days. You know, back when Food Network actually showed programs about cooking and not people running around in a kitchen like they’re on fire screaming “Where’s the coriander? I need the coriander!”

Not only do they have Border Grills in Santa Monica, Downtown Los Angeles (that’s DTLA for those who are down with the town) and Las Vegas (with a restaurant soon to open at LAX), they also have a food truck. That’s a lot of Border Grill goodness. 

Recently, they started Small Plates Sunday at DTLA. For $25 a person, you get unlimited small plates. I think it should be called Medium Plates Sunday cause there’s nothing small about them. Believe me, you’ll be plenty full by the time you’re done.

I’m not going to lie, Small Plates Sundays are awesome. It takes place on the patio so you’re outside enjoying the cool, downtown breeze. Sometimes I find myself staring at the Westin Bonaventure and imagine Clint Eastwood has just sent John Malkovich plunging to his death, other times I think of Arnold riding a horse through the lobby.

Papas Con Queso: That's Spanish for amazing French fries. If not, then it should be.
Tacos de Alambre

Ever since I discovered the Minty Lime Cooler at one of Border Grill’s cooking classes (more on that later), it’s become my drink of choice whenever I’m dining there. What is the Minty Lime Cooler, you ask? Why it’s the most refreshing beverage ever. It’s fresh lime, mint and a splash of soda. As Ferris Bueller would say, it is so choice. You don’t need Calgon to take you away when you have the Minty Lime Cooler.

Sure you like to drink but you want to know about the food, right? Where do I start? How about the Negra Modelo Braised Short Ribs? They are so slap-you-silly delicious, I had to have two servings. The short rib is so tender, it practically melts in your mouth. And let’s not forget the mashed sweet potatoes that are kind enough to cradle the short rib. It’s like a succulent angel floating on a creamy cloud. Throw in the roasted tomato salsita, caramelized shallots and negra modelo reduction and your taste buds are going to ride that cloud straight to heaven.

Negra Modelo Braised Short Rib: Drool much?

Then there’s the Tacos de Costillas. That bad boy is a honey glazed pork rib, with avocado and a pineapple jicama salsa. The salsa is the bomb. And it turns out I like jicama. Who knew? That’s one of the many things I love about Border Grill. Not only are the main dishes delicious, so are the accouterments. As a matter of fact, they’re better than most restaurants’ main courses.

Tacos de Costillas
For example, at their Summer Grilling Class (yes, yes, I’ll get to it. Be patient, will ya?), Chefs Susan and Mary Sue prepared cumin glazed ribs with grilled corn esquite. Now I love ribs but I found myself scarfing down this corn esquite before even eating the ribs. I could eat it as a meal. Same thing with the charred corn relish they serve with the skirt steak at the Santa Monica restaurant. I mean it’s just corn. How do they make it so mother-loving, freaking delicious? Is it magic? Is it voodoo? I need to know! Okay, I don’t need to know. Just give me some more.

Mexican Chopped Salad: Yum to the Me
I know what you’re saying: Did you eat any leafy, green stuff? Why, yes, I did. Thanks for asking. This is another example of how incredible Border Grill is. While I like veggies, I am not a salad eater but their Mexican chopped salad convinced me otherwise. The seared Brussels sprouts also kick major buttocks.

Brussels sprouts you'll want to eat.

Finally there was dessert. It’s the Chef’s seasonal dessert platter and the day we went it included guavas empanadas (Oh. My. God.), mini-banana pudding, brownie bites and my favorite: churro tots. No matter what Border Grill you go to, you must, must, MUST get the churro tots. If there’s a bucket list for desserts, those churro tots should definitely be in your top three.

Okay, so we lost self-control and took the picture after a few bites. Sue me.

Now that you’ve been so patient, I will tell you about the cooking classes. Every few months, they have a cooking class at DTLA where Chefs Susan and Mary Sue pick a theme (such as brunch or summer grilling). Not only do they show you how to prepare the courses, you also get to taste them. It is the most fun you’ll have without getting arrested.

First of all, Chefs Susan and Mary Sue are hilarious. I could listen to them tell stories all day. You can also feel how passionate they are about food and see why the food at Border Grill is as excellent as it is.

They are also the nicest people you will ever meet. After the cooking class, they stay and answer questions, sign cookbooks and take pictures. They don’t leave until the last book is signed and the final picture is taken. They’re not only Too Hot Tamales, they’re Two Classy Ladies.

Chef Mary Sue Milliken, my lovely wife, Julie, yours truly and Chef Susan Feniger

So whether it’s lunch, dinner, brunch or small plates, get yourself to Border Grill. Sit back, chillax and get your yum on.