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The Border Grill? Anything better?

We'll be in LA and Santa Barbara in April and are looking for upscale Mexican/SW inspired restuarants.

How is the Border Grill?

Is there any place better?

We really like both Mesa Grill in LV and Doña Tomás in Oakland.

Thanks for any suggestions!

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  1. Hi, you will want to post a query on the California board specifically for chow in Santa Barbara County.

    L.A. locals should have a lot of reccos for the greater L.A. area for you here, though.

    1. What's a Border Grill? (That's a joke. ;-)

      Try searching the boards for a phrase like "best Mexican" and you'll find many, many discussions. One of my favorites is http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/540566 -- 163 comments, many on non-upscale restaurants, in case you're willing to try just great food.

      When you post to the California board, I'll give you the sad news about Mexican food in SB.

      1. Where in LA? I mean, it's a huge place.

        Babita, La Huasteca, La Casita, even Frida's are better than Border Grill.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          Ditto on those, and I'd add La Serenata (Boyle Heights location only).

          La Serenata De Garibaldi
          1842 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033

          1. re: sbritchky

            Good call. I'd skipped that one. To the OP -- we mean it about the Boyle Heights location only. The Westside outlets will do you wrong (except the flan. the flan at the Pico Blvd location is one of the few TRULY orgasmic dessert experiences I've had).

            Links to my prior recommendations:

            1823 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

            La Casita Mexicana
            4030 Gage Ave, Bell, CA 90201

            La Huasteca
            3150 E Imperial Hwy, Lynwood, CA 90262

            236 South Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              I think La Huasteca is a great bet,given your location and destination.

            2. re: sbritchky

              I actually liked Border Grill better than this place. While La Serenata is more authentic, I think what the person wants is more upscale. The food at BG is a lot better quality in terms of meats and freshness of fish.

              Plus, Border Grill has one of the best banana cream pies I have ever had. : )

              (shows how authentic BG is) LOL

            3. re: Das Ubergeek

              Thanks for all the tips.

              We're staying in Long Beach, but we'll have a rental car and will be looking for dinner on a Thurs night after driving down from SB.

              I stayed away from a "best Mexican" search, because on the Pacific NW board that always turns into a "my taco truck is better than yours" discussion.

              1. re: GreenLakeDave

                For Long Beach, I'd steer you to Enrique's. Definitely try the braised pork shank and the carne en su jugo.

                6210 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90803

                1. re: Professor Salt

                  Oh me oh my I can have dreams about Enriques and the pork shank and the crazy blue roof of the temple nearby all mixed together!
                  Actually anything I've had there.

                2. re: GreenLakeDave

                  Enrique's, 6210 E. PCH at Loynes. Enrique and Michelle Pérez serve up the best in cocina jalisqueña (he's from Guadalajara) in the area. The pork shank is justly celebrated (my mouth is watering as I think about it now!), but there are other treasures there as well (grilled pork chops with cheese tamales, citrus-glazed ribs with hand-cut French fries, filet mignon with tiger shrimp, etc., etc., etc.). NOT upscale, no hard liquor (so no tequila-based margaritas)-- but the best Mexican food in Long Beach. And they catered my wedding! Best choice of the evening (well, after the choice of spouse...!)

                  Running a close second (mostly because of the wonderful owners) is Baja Sonora, Clark at Spring. Fast-food Mexican, nothing avant-garde or stylish, just ****ing delicious Mexican grub. Sometimes I just have to have a heaping plate of chile colorado, rice and beans. Mmmmmmmm.... ¡¡qué gozada!!

                  (The fact that I find chile colorado to be supreme comfort food just confirms it-- after 24 years, I'm a Californian through and through!!)

              2. I think that we are sometimes too dismissive of our trailblazers and veteran classics. The Border Grill, while no longer the innovation it was two decades ago, still has its place and can be fun. It is bright and during happy hour has crowds and a buzz, both figuratively and literally. Some diners have seen Feniger and Milliken, the "Two Hot Tamales," or read their books and would like to try their restaurant. Yes, some of the others mentioned thus far have their supporters and may be more "authentic," but by and large they are just as expensive and if a visitor is staying on the westside, I'm not sure they'd appreciate the inconvenience and hassle of an hour drive each way in traffic to E.L.A. and finding these other places.

                4 Replies
                1. re: nosh

                  nosh, in what sense do you see the Border Grill as a "trailblazer"?

                  1. re: sbritchky

                    I see it as one of the first upscale Mex/Latin/SW bigdeal restaurants on the westside. I could be wrong, but I think Milliken & Feniger's Border Grill predates Flay's Mesa Grill in NYC.

                    1. re: nosh

                      Westside? I agree it was one of the first upscale....w hat you said and is older than Mesa Grill. But unless I'm suffering early-onset whatever..............Border Grill opened downtown in 1985 (according to their site); Mesa Grill in 1991. I haven't been near the place in years but I think Ciudad is now in the space that began with Border Grill (Union Bank Bldg.?).

                  2. re: nosh

                    Nicely said. While I haven't been to BG in over 15 years, it used to be one of the places I frequented back in the day when my hangout was in those neck of the woods....

                  3. Since the OP doesn't say where they're staying geographically in this sprawling megalopolis we call ElLay, let me go out on a limb and posit that Downtown might not be out of reach. In which case there are 3 newcomers, all fitting the "upscale Mexican/SW inspired" request. Casa, Provecho, & Rivera would all seem to be in the mold of Border Grill... Not to mention it places the OP near to the Tamales other resto, Ciudad.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: FranklinJefferson

                      Of those three downtown, I would recommend Rivera. Casa has already lost their opening chef and I've not yet read any reviews since he left. Yxta Cocina Mexicana is also opening downtown tonight and that might fit the bill, although again, can't vouch for the food.

                      1. re: mollyomormon

                        I agree with the Rivera recommendation. Had dinner there last night, and lunch a couple of weeks ago. Both times the food was innovative and very good. The space is really interesting, and service is top notch. The wine steward recommended a very nice bottle that I would not have chosen on my own, and the cocktails were fresh and very tasty.
                        Also a fan of the infused tequilas....especially the vanilla!

                    2. I really like Border Grill. It has a very lively, fun atmosphere. The margaritas are strong, and the veggie plate is wonderful. You can walk around before, and work up an appetite, or walk off all that food afterwards. Free parking structure across the street.

                      1. If you're looking for good Mexican (and LA is definitely the place to find it), you'll probably find it out of a truck or hole in the wall rather than a higher end restaurant. Check out this blog for some great places...


                        El Parian and Carnitas Michoacan are two very good places.

                        When you go to Santa Barbara, you MUST try the Palace Grill... http://palacegrill.com

                        Enjoy your trip!!

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: mrshankly

                          You got me so hopeful -- I love Carnitas Michaocan -- their hot sauce is the best in town -- and I respect El Parian. So I click on your link cuz my brother is going to travel through Santa Barbara, and I get a New Orleans restaurant imitation in Santa Barbara? With extensive menus but NO prices?! Bad website.

                          1. re: nosh

                            My apologies for the misdirection... should've warned you about the departure from mexican food on the link. Pricing is about normal for an upscale restaurant and the food is second to none outside of New Orleans proper. Just thought I'd throw a recommendation out there on the board about good eats in SB since Chowhound has no way of sending private messages.

                            1. re: mrshankly

                              It takes a lot for a restaurant to remove the bad taste in my mouth when they don't put the prices on the website. What are they hiding? "Normal" for a Santa Barbara restaurant has a wide range, and if a New Orleans type of place isn't posting prices, I'm scared. It would be the California wine-country nouveau organic sustainable heirloom kind of place that i'd expect the huge pricetag, especially if they had a degree of view or whiff of scent of the shore.

                              1. re: nosh

                                I may be feeling grouchy myself, but I do not like a wine list without prices, and I can't stand an online menu without prices :-)

                                1. re: nosh

                                  My sister's lived in Santa Barbara since the late 70s. I don't recall when The Palace opened, but she has said for a long time that it's been in the top five of a lot of eaters' lists up in that area. We ate there (I think it was) back in the mid-90s and found it pretty good, but I think the hype factor kinda killed the experience.

                          2. You would probably want to check out John Sedlar's new restaurant, Rivera



                            Rivera Restaurant
                            1050 S. Flower Street, #102, Los Angeles, CA 90015