Address: Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Hours: Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with select weekends and mornings
Border Grill moves into the Mexican barbecue realm with its latest restaurant, BBQ Mexicana, now dishing at Mandalay Bay. The Two Hot Tamales Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger debuted the counter-service restaurant with a menu of barbacoa and smoked meats served in bowls, salads, and burritos filled. Mesquite smoked chicken, pulled pork, slow-smoked Texas-style brisket, and smoked tofu make the menu, as do aguas frescas, beers, and margaritas to go.
Milliken’s son Kieran Schweitzer created the colorful artwork on the modern exterior, using bright pops of red, blue, yellow, green, purple, and orange with metal detailing to reflect Mexico’s street food culture.
Here, Feniger talks about the restaurant, what people can expect, and of course, what to order.
What made you decide to open BBQ Mexicana?
Having been at Mandalay Bay for nearly 20 years with Border Grill, we started to see a demand year round for something that was really delicious but quick and easy to enjoy on the go, especially since we’re so close to the pool and convention center. It felt like a grab-and-go concept would work well and we were ready to play with a new flavor using a smoker combined with our love for Mexican ingredients. With the new Las Vegas Stadium being built, we anticipate this will also be a great spot for people to grab a good meal and margarita to go before heading to the Raiders game.
How is Border Grill executive chef Mike Minor involved?
Mike has been working with us for years at Border Grill serving as our executive chef. He recently spent the last three years with his Truck-U BBQ food truck, so he was really excited when we decided to open a smoked meats concept. We’re always looking to partner with our chefs and incorporate their ideas. He’s worked alongside Mary Sue and I on menu tastings, developments, and playing with the smoker. We’ve all been having a lot of fun in the kitchen.
Is this a restaurant you might open in Los Angeles?
This is a concept that we’re pretty jazzed about and could have legs in many places like airports, stadiums, food truck, or small restaurant in a busy city. We’re playing with this concept now, so we’ll see.
What were you thinking about in terms of design of the restaurant and making it a counter-service space?
We’ve had murals at our restaurants for years but for this, we wanted to do something a little similar but more fresh, modern, and cool. We also thought street art was the perfect design to tie in with our street food cuisine. The mural is a bit personal to us too as Mary Sue’s son Kieran painted and designed it.
Since our early days, we’ve been constantly inspired by street food culture, from food trucks to outdoor stands and open air markets. I love the idea of walking up to a counter and getting something delicious. We see the value of great food when it’s quick service, and it really meets the demand of what Mandalay guests are wanting.
What is the menu like?
The menu features Mexican-inspired burritos, bowls, and salads with antibiotic and hormone-free house smoked meats like brisket, chicken, and pork, and non-meat options such as smoked tofu. And when it’s super busy with a major convention or event in town, we’ll also offer breakfast burritos and a homemade yogurt parfait. We really tried to make each dish a little different and offer options for meat lovers, vegans, and vegetarians. And while the menu is limited, nothing is the same and there’s tons of flavor and variety. This is a great spot for someone to quickly grab a good meal that’s freshly made. We also love the fact that you can get margaritas to go.
Is this an attempt to capture more of the convention traffic?
Not necessarily. There’s a great pool vibe and a lot of traffic from the nearby convention center and casino. We felt like there was a demand we could meet by giving guests a great grab and go option. And for anyone who is at Mandalay Bay and wants to try foods from the Mexican kitchen but doesn’t want to necessary spend as much time at a sit down restaurant, this is your spot.
What dishes do you recommend?
The burritos are so dang delicious but so is everything else. It’s hard to decide. I grew up on brisket, so the burnt ends burrito with slow-smoked brisket, chipotle coleslaw, Manchego cheese, and barbecue mole sauce is one of my favorites, and I love a good salad. You can’t go wrong with the BLTA or Cobb.
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