Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger have spent at least two years trying to secure a second Las Vegas location for their beloved Border Grill, a staple at Mandalay Bay since 1999. Last week, the duo who have appeared on Bravo's Top Chef Masters and the Food Network's Too Hot Tamales announced plans for a summer opening of Border Grill in the former P.J. Clarke's space at the front of the Forum Shops at Caesars, marking their seventh outpost in the United States. Once open, expect to find lunch, dinner and their acclaimed brunch, as well as tequila dinners and cooking demonstrations that make them a staple in Vegas. Here, Milliken and Feniger talk about the plans to open a second location and what to expect once Vegas is home to two Border Grills.
You've been at Mandalay Bay since 1999. What made you decide to open a second location in Vegas?
SF: I'm glad you can remember that.
MSM: You know how it is in Vegas. You have to reinvent yourself every five years if the bling isn't there. We've been in Mandalay Bay and taken fabulous care of our customer. We review the menu and have been treating locals and visitors like they're going to come back every every three months.
SF: We have an incredible team there. They all are looking for how to grow within our company. We have been really blown away by the quality of staff in Las Vegas. We have a fantastic group of people who care about food service and quality. I think there's many opportunities to grow there. We want people to love working for us and make money. Our managers have been with us for a very long time. We think Vegas is a great food market. We're very hands on and come all the time.
I know you've been looking for the perfect space for quite a while. What made the Forum Shops the right fit?
MSM: More people get to see people to see what a great food town that Vegas has become.
SF: Above each hotel there are 4,000 rooms and then there's the whole local community. We want all the people coming in who are tourists. We go after that market. It feels like there's plenty of room for another Border Grill.
MSM: We've been trying to find a great location for a long time. We do a strong lunch business and I think our food fits well for lunch at the Forum Shops.
Are you planning anything different there?
SF: I think that we always try to do that but whenever we're about to open a new restaurant, we push ourselves harder. We're planning a trip or two to Mexico to learn about new and exciting ingredients and dig into the street food. Our plan is to do that for new ideas.
Obviously we'll do some of the classic dishes that we're drawn to. We want to make sure not change just to change.
MSM: The reason I fell in love with cooking was to make the same dishes over and over again. When you cook for your family, they don't want to eat the same thing 25 times in a row. But at a restaurant, we hone in on perfecting things.
We're going to pull out some great new dishes in this location. There's nothing that we really have a handle on right now. We're in the beginning stages of research and inspiration for it.
Have you found a new executive chef?
MSM: We do have a new chef. Chris Keating. He's fantastic.
SF: We interviewed a lot of people. He's on board already.
MSM: We have so many people who have with us for 10 years.
SF: We're very excited for Mike [Minor, who leaves Border Grill at the end of the month to start his own food truck]. We had breakfast a month ago. We feel that we have this solid team that has been passionate.
I think what we learned that we have this really fantastic restaurant community in Las Vegas. Fifteen years ago none of us thought that.
Does this reinvigorate your love of Border Grill?
SF: Every time we open a new place it pushes us to think more of our concept, what we want, where we want it to go.
MSM: It always does sort of no matter how many times you've opened a new restaurant. We're excited and it's daunting to think about how we can hit this farther out of the park than we've ever done. I think it's always hard. Definitely we just want to put our blinders on and think of every single way we can make this visually exciting. I think it does reinvigorate you in a way.
· Border Grill IS Opening a 2nd Location in Las Vegas [~ELV~]
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