Border Grill has long been an LA area fixture. Long before Babita and Rivera, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken were cooking up high end Mexican treats in Santa Monica. Recently they converted their pan-Latin downtown spot, Ciudad, into another outlet of Border Grill. I've often been to the Santa Monica BG, but this was my first trip to the downtown spot, on Figueroa directly across from the Westin Bonaventure Hotel.
The look, feel and menu are pretty similar to the Santa Monica location. I haven't been to Santa Monica recently enough to know if the new things I found on the menu are specific to the downtown location or available in both, but along with the old standbys (green corn tamales, conchinita pibil, plantain empenadas among others) was a roasted potato rajas relleno, a potato rajas (in cream) stuffed in a poblano pepper and topped with a salad of quinoa, greens, tortilla strips and their tangy salsa verde and tomato salsa. Good stuff and something I'd never seen on the Santa Monica menu. This was a nice dish, fresh and tangy, though I wish the pepper had just a bit of heat.
My favorite dessert at the Santa Monica branch is the Mexican chocolate cream pie. The version downtown is similar except that instead of a meringue crust, it has a chocolate cookie crust. The cookie crust is good, but I prefer the meringue.
Basically, though, this place is a pretty identical to Santa Monica, so if you are a fan of that location but live further east, this is a good deal for you, and walking in without reservations, I was able to get a table for 5 on a Friday night. That's hard to beat.
Border Grill Downtown
445 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071