Goodbye, Ciudad. Hello, Border Grill


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Ciudad, the downtown restaurant co-owned by chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, is shutting its doors -- and reopening as a Border Grill. A farewell tour of sorts -- the Last Days of Ciudad Celebration -- begins today with a $10 Border Grill Downtown LA gift card being handed out while supplies last, plus other deals on food and drink. L.A. Weekly talked to Milliken about the bittersweet nature of it all, and more.

[Updated:] Feniger, reached this afternoon, said the change was a long time coming. ‘We‘ve been thinking about it for the last year,’ she said, adding that the change reflects what customers seemingly cannot get enough of: ‘straightforward’ Mexican food. Time and again, the most popular items and specials on the Ciudad menu tended to be the traditional favorites. ‘We’d put tacos on the menu and people would go for that; we’d put quesadillas on the menu and people would go after that.’


Plus, the downtown vibe has changed in the last 12 years. When it first opened, Ciudad was poised to fill a demand for higher-end dining in the heart of downtown, attracting theatergoers, city power brokers, tourists and the like. Now that downtown is becoming a haven for hipsters and families who live and work in the area, the trend seems to be toward more casual dining. In other words, more Border Grill than Ciudad.

But don’t expect the same menu as Border Grill Santa Monica. And not all Ciudad dishes are disappearing.

‘We’re playing with the menu right now,’ Feniger said, adding that it will include Border Grill and Ciudad favorites, as well as a few new twists. ‘We’ll have the classics on there, and some new things to excite people,’ she said.

Feniger said she doesn’t feel too sentimental about the change.-- after all, they’re staying in the same spot. She will, however, miss the name Ciudad, which she always loved. ‘That I will miss,’ she said. ‘But the restaurant business is always transitioning ... 12 years is a long time.’

-- Rene Lynch