Susan Feniger graduated from the Culinary Institute in 1975 and went to work at Ma Maison in Los Angeles. She went on to Chicago, working at the French restaurant Le Perroquet where she met Mary Sue Milliken. In 1982, she went back to Los Angeles, taking Mary Sue with her, to open City Café, first as an employee, and later as a partner. The two view themselves as a creative unit. They started out liking country French food, and then became influenced by Indian (after Susan visited India), and finally Mexican cuisine.
In 1985, the two of them packed a VW bug and took a road trip far south of the Mexican border. Never setting foot in a “fine restaurant”, they learned the recipes and techniques of market vendors and home cooks, from street corners in downtown Mexico City, to back road family barbecues and taco stands along the beach. When they returned, they opened Border Grill on Melrose Avenue, and applied the same intelligence.
In 1986, Great Chefs taped them in their new Border Grill restaurant, preparing two appetizers, Guacamole and Green Corn Tamales with Salsa; an entrée, Grilled Turkey Breast, and a dessert of Red Yam Flan, for the PBS television series Great Chefs of the West. More recently, they had their own television series on the Food Network, “Too Hot Tamales”.
They moved in 1990 to Border Grill’s current location on 4th Street in Santa Monica. In 1999 they opened Border Grill Las Vegas in the Mandalay Hotel, and in 2010 along came Border Grill Downtown Los Angeles. And like sisters, the restaurants are everything alike and nothing alike- Santa Monica is the brunette, Border Grill Downtown L.A. is the blonde, and Vegas is definitely the redhead. In 2009 they launched the Border Grill Truck, and Border Grill Stop kiosks in 2010. And Susan has launched her first solo restaurant venture, “STREET” in Los Angeles.
Keeping it “all in the family”, Mary Sue’s husband, and Susan’s childhood friend, architect Josh Schweitzer, created the original designs of all the restaurants.