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Border Grill's Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken to receive lifetime achievement award

June 03, 2013|By S. Irene Virbila
  • Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken will be honored with a lifetime achievement award from the California Restaurant Association on June 7th at a gala dinner in their honor at Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica.
Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken will be honored with a lifetime achievement… (Mark Boster/Los Angeles…)

And the Lifetime Achievement award goes to...Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. That would be the Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award, to be exact, presented by the Los Angeles chapter of the California Restaurant Association at Hotel Casa del Mar on June 7th.

Some 30 years ago Feniger and Milliken were the new kids on the block, cooking from a small storefront on Melrose Avenue next to the L.A. Eyeworks store. The two young cooks met in a tough French kitchen in Chicago at a time when a woman in a professional kitchen was still a rarity—and in a French kitchen practically unheard of. But the two stuck it out, formed a friendship and eventually ended up in Los Angeles.

They opened their first place, City Cafe, on Melrose between Fairfax and La Brea in 1981. When they moved to a larger space on La Brea Avenue they changed the name to CITY Restaurant to reflect its larger ambitions. It was ahead of its time, with a video feed from the kitchen, a tandoori oven back there and rock n’ roll royalty ordering Cristal for the table. The menu was global—and authentic, based on trips the two took to places like India, Thailand, Mexico, France and Italy. CITY Restaurant eventually closed but the duo also were pioneers with their Food Network show “Too Hot Tamales” and have written five cookbooks together.

The original City Cafe then morphed into the first (tiny) Border Grill, and when they outgrew that space, Border Grill moved to Santa Monica where it's still turning out tacos and regional Mexican cuisine after all these years, spawned two more locations (downtown L.A. and Las Vegas) and a food truck. It landed on restaurant critic Jonathan Gold's 101 best restaurants list at No. 79.

Feniger also has a project of her own called Street in Hollywood.

The gala dinner in their honor will be held June 7th at 6 p.m. at Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica. Tickets are $225. According to a press release, a portion of the proceeds from the dinner supports the California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and ProStart programs in the Los Angeles area. To attend (tickets are still available), contact Cassandra Strawn at or  (916) 431.2729.


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