Gourmet Chilaquiles

There are some questions that are rather tough for me to answer. One of those is, “What’s your favorite Mexican restaurant?”

Honestly, I have no idea because the ones I enjoy going to often have something in common: great happy hour deals or some strong connection to my family and loving the restaurant is more about sentimental attachment than good food.

I went to Border Grill in Santa Monica on Wednesday night to celebrate a classmate’s upcoming wedding. The food was good, but as a Mexican who grew up with working class immigrant parents, I’m somewhat cheap. When I caught site of the $17 chicken chilaquiles on the menu, I almost had a fit.

The first time I had chilaquiles as a kid my mom called them “ropa de gato” (cat clothes) or “poor people’s food.” I love chilaquiles and often eat them for breakfast, but had to pass up on them because I’m morally opposed to paying $17 for a dish I grew up thinking of as “poor people’s food” and a way to get rid of old and stale tortillas.

When I told my Chicana/o friends about the $17 chilaquiles they were equally surprised. One laughed and said, “gourmet Mexican food is just wrong.” I couldn’t disagree. Perhaps it’s ’cause we’re just cheap, or more likely because we know really good Mexican food does not have to come at such a high price.

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7 Replies to “Gourmet Chilaquiles”

  1. $17 for chilaquiles? That’s insane… Don’t worry, you are not cheap… us Mexicans know that good food doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

  2. I would say Border Grill is a little more Tex-Mex than Mexican. Ciudad at 5th and Figueroa downtown is less on the Tex, but is more pan-Latin. It’s equally expensive, although the happy hour menu is cheap.

    I’m not a huge fan of Mexican food, but I’ve heard lots of good things about La Serenata de Garibaldi in East LA. And though not in LA, Julia Child loved La Super Rica in Santa Barbara.

  3. I ate at The Border Grill a few years ago. I had taken my niece there for her birthday. I really wanted to love the place, since I was a big fan of KCRW’s “Good Food” back when Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger hosted it (I’m still a fan with Evan Kleiman at the helm).

    Anyway, what I remember most was the noise! All those hard surfaces and sharp edges created such a cacophony that my niece and I ate in silence, since we couldn’t hear each other, even over the small table.

    As for the food, it was surprisingly unremarkable. Her nopales tacos were okay, but unsatisfying (we went out for snacks later). I don’t even remember what I had. I only remember my ears hurt.

    I too have a problem with expensive “poor folks” mexican food. It’s okay to spend a few bucks for a good ceviche, or Pescado Borrachos. But when I hear of $12 bowls of menudo, or $5 for a “gourmet” taco de seso, I just chuckle and head over to El Mexicano.

  4. I cannot condone a visit to the border grill. Totally agree w/. the comment re: NOISE factor above – ludicrously loud interior! Ludicrously, ludicrously expensive too.

    As for the S d G…There is actually a serenata di girabaldi right across the street from the border grill on 4th. No need to go all the way to east LA, although that’s the ideal one to visit.

    Anyway, if you’re near the promenade (sorry to hear) and absolutely intent on spending border grill prices, please, just head to the serenata across the street on 4th. Your ears at least will thank you, if not your wallet.

  5. Yes, there is one across the street. But I seem to remember a lot of Chowhounds saying the East LA location is the only one worth going to. I live a lot closer to East LA than to Santa Monica anyway.

  6. Driving over to East LA is a lot more convenient for me than Santa Monica which might be closer, but I just feel more at home in East Los.

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