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BORDER GRILL (Santa Monica): Yay or Nay??!

Hello, Fellow Chowhounds!

I'm really confused about BORDER GRILL. I hear wildly conflicting comments about it from "It's fun and delicious" to "It sucks, big time!"

So...what is the scoop??

My cousin is coming to town. She loves Mexican food. She does not mind a trendy, festive scene.

Are we better off with LA SERENATA DI GARIBALDI?

(She does not really like the more run-down-looking places. For example, GUELAGUETZA would not fit the bill.)

Thanks for your comments!

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  1. Good atmosphere, if you like a loud and raucous crowd. Happy hour is always a blast.

    Margaritas are very good.

    Food is only so-so. To me the food screams "upscale Mexican at a very expensive price".

    Stick to the traditional fare and you'll be ok; venture into the more daring, fusion stuff and you're on your own.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Okee-dokee. As long as the wait staff isn't totally obnoxious or something...

      1. re: Liquid Sky

        Service can vary. We went last weekend with a $20 discount from Whole Foods and the waiter was pretty inattentive. The prior visit (also with a coupon) the service was good. If you do decide to go, you might want to pick one of these up at Whole Foods, if you ever shop there.

      2. re: ipsedixit

        totally agree. the daring stuff with a cavalcade of ingredients can just hit ya in the face in the worst way if you're not careful. Traditional things were ok. I'd go just to experience it I guess.

        Waitstaff screams actor/waiter...everytime I've been, they've been horribly inept.

      3. i agree with the good happy hour... it can be hard to find a seat towards the end of happy hour, but their margaritas and sangrias are great! and really reasonable happy hour menu.

        2 Replies
        1. re: tuttifrutti

          Do you need to sit at the bar to order from the happy hour menu? What's good, foodwise, for happy hour?

          1. re: Nicole

            yes, at least the bar and communal table side of the restaurant.

            it's been a while since i've been, but they had a special price menu for happy hour customers. generally, i remember liking everything i tried. their food is good.

        2. Food is definitely good there though service is generally horrible. The SM Seranata is decent but the atmosphere is better at Border Grill.

          1 Reply
          1. I used to love BG, but after they took away their rock shrimp w/spinach dish, the rest of the menu dropped to mediocre territory. Definitely stick with happy hour as it has a fun atmosphere, but the food has been a 6-7 out of 10 as of late.

            1. I've never had good service at BG. Always ranges from inattentive to "too cool for you."

              Serenata is more authentic, and the service is generally better.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cplourde

                La Serenata in Santa Monica is certainly not more authentic than Border Grill (the original one in ELA is light years better). Border Grill carries many more items & preparations that you would actually find in Mexico than La Serenta. Believe me Serenata is a complete waste of money.

                What about Border Grill? Yeah the service is mediocre, the place is trendy & hip... you can have a pretty fabulous meal there if you follow a few guidelines:

                > Do not order Entrees... they are bland & uninspiring.
                > The Appetizers are generally excellent as are the drinks & desserts. Its very easy to have a fun small plates meal there.

                I particularly like Friday nights at the Bar... when they have a good Latin Jazz Trio keeping it alive.

                However, if your friend wants truly authentic, outstanding Mexican cuisine in an upscale environment then you have to make the drive out to Frida in Beverly Hills... light years better than Border Grill or La Serenta. If you go, I wholeheartedly recommend:

                > Seared Tuna with Arbol Salsa, Lettuce Taco
                > Acapulco Style Ceviche
                > Pozole or Vegetable Soup with Dried Chile Broth (this one is off the menu)
                > Filet Mignon with Huitlacoche Sauce & Poached Chayote
                > Crepes with Cajeta-Walnut Sauce is not to be missed.

                http://fridarestaurant.com/

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  I totally forgot about Frida. Thanks for reminding me. They are better than border girls, location is better and it's not so loud. I haven't been there in a while, I hope it's still good.