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Goodbye, Ciudad. Hello, Border Grill [Updated]

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

Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (8)

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Overpriced, overrated. Go down to 4th and Hill and eat at Taco House after you have a margarita at La Cita.

They have a Border Grill Express at 601 S. Fig. I ate there one day - spent $9 for these tiny microwaved quesadillas and a side of rice and beans that was about 4 spoonfuls total. Low quality, small portions, overpriced. Won't be eating there again.

Thank goodness. It was far overdue. Sorry to say but Ciudad has the most overrated food anywhere in downtown. Overpriced, tasteless empanadas were the worst. I hope the owners/chefs re-invent themselves to not only be more true to Southwestern cooking but also price things more appropriately. The one thing I hope they keep are the mojitos! Excellent, excellent!

"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."

Has nothing to do with these being "traditional favorites." Has all to do with these being affordable. The $20 to $40 entree should be a thing of the past.

How Ironic! I just went to Border Grill in Santa Monica yesterday, and had the Carnitas. It was nothing compared to the Carnitas at Ciudad! Ciudad's was bursting with flavors, and the Border Grill was barely as good as the $6.00 variety down the street at the Grand Central Market. Although it will not be much more than a menu change (the Border Grill's prices are still pretty high), I will miss a few of the awesome dishes (like the Carnitas) at Ciudad.

Hope they are keeping the delicious Tres Leches dessert!

Wow, a sad farewell to a nice place. Great memories here... Welcome Border Grill! Not much of a Promenade person so this could be fun!

Great. So, they're going to re-open it as the same restaurant minus the pretention.


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