weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Border Grill duo heads off Strip with southwest valley restaurant

Updated March 5, 2024 - 6:48 pm

The new BBQ Mexicana location, which opened Monday, lies on West Sunset Road just north of the 215 Beltway. The restaurant offers fast-casual Mexican food made with sustainable ingredients. There are 10 tables for sipping a beer or margarita and grabbing a smoked brisket burrito. Outside, drive-thru adds convenience.

BBQ Mexicana feels like a fit for the neighborhood, a busily developing swatch of southwest Las Vegas with families. But this neighborhood spot also has some big names behind it.

As in: Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, the James Beard Award-winning chefs who created Border Grill, and who rose to TV fame cooking with Julia Child and starring in “Too Hot Tamales” on Food Network.

In 1999, the duo opened Border Grill at Mandalay Bay not long after the property debuted. In 2018, they launched the grab-and-go BBQ Mexicana there, eventually expanding it to Allegiant Stadium, T-Mobile Arena and Las Vegas Ballpark.

Their fifth Mexicana marks the first free-standing version of the restaurant.

“The idea of a drive-thru — that is a different level,” Milliken said. “There is a demand out there from the public for quick-casual food at the higher end. We’re very excited about this location being solid and proving this could be a great location and we could grow it.”

Feniger continued: “No matter what the food is we’re serving, we want things to taste fantastic and use high-quality product. Quick-casual is just another version of doing that.”

Smoke on the menu

The chefs’ signature approach unites a modern take on Mexican foodways, American barbecue techniques, bold flavors and ingredients like organic rice and hormone- and antibiotic-free poultry and meat.

Chicken, pulled pork and brisket, smoked over mesquite for 14 hours and served as bowls and burritos, anchor the menu at the latest BBQ Mexicana, as they do at other locations. But the new restaurant also features dishes not found elsewhere.

Smoked tofu, chicken, pulled pork and brisket are now offered as two tacos made with corn or flour tortillas. Chipotle mac and cheese and seasonal fruit cobbler empanada take their place among the sides. And a children’s menu showcases five items, including brisket taquitos and a black bean and cheese burrito.

Salads (look for the Mexican Cobb), snacks (like chile lime broccolini and barbecue chicharrones), and a dozen or so beverages (including agua frescas and Mexican Coke) round out the menu.

Taking it to the street

With this first free-standing BBQ Mexicana (8480 W. Sunset Road, Suite 200), “there is going to be a big learning curve,” Feniger said. “What will the demand be? What will be ordered? How do we evaluate if we take the next step?”

Even as the chefs celebrate 25 years on the Strip, where they said they hoped Border Grill would remain for many years, the next step for them in Vegas might be taking BBQ Mexicana on the road if all goes well in the southwest.

“This is a great opportunity for us, finding a place on a regular street corner to give it a shot,” Milliken said. “We’d be up for other locations in Vegas and other locations in other cities.”

Have mesquite, have brisket, will travel.

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JLWTaste on Instagram and @ItsJLW on X.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Top 10 things to do in Las Vegas this week

Bad Religion and Social Distortion, Mariah Carey and Phish top the entertainment lineup for the week of April 12-18.