My last trip to Las Vegas coincided with my friend Abby‘s last weeks as a resident of the city before moving to California (sob!), so we made plans to meet up for brunch on Sunday. She recommended Border Grill, and as soon as I took a look at their menu online, I started drooling. This is not your ordinary brunch, folks. They’ve got a very creative menu. We asked our mutual friend Marc to join us, making it a trio.
I’m glad I left early to meet them here, because I had a hard time finding the restaurant. Somehow, I thought it would be off the casino, like House of Blues, or near other restaurants like Fleur. But it turns out it’s over in the convention area near the Shark Reef. It was pure serendipity that I happened to see a sign in the casino pointing in the general direction I needed to walk to get there.
I highly recommend making a reservation for brunch here, even if you’re dining alone. It wasn’t that busy the day we went, but I’ve heard it’s quite popular. There is limited seating outside on the patio, so I’m not sure that would be an option for solo diners, but you might stand a better chance of scoring a seat there if you were to book a later lunch, say after 1pm. The patio overlooks the Mandalay Bay pool area, so you have a nice view while you’re eating, plus plenty of sunshine. There are indoor tables and bartop dining here as well. Sociable solos may prefer to dine at the bar.
After reading the menu, my expectations were set pretty high, and I’m happy to report, I was not disappointed. This is a terrific brunch. It’s like a cross between a buffet and a tapas restaurant. You pay one set fee for brunch ($35) and order as many small plates as you want. In addition, you’ll get starters of guava empanadas (which I didn’t try) and individual plates of fresh fruit (strawberries, melon, watermelon and canteloupe).
Naturally, I couldn’t try everything on the menu, but I sampled as much as I could. Here’s what I tried and what I thought of each dish:
The Fig and Blue Cheese Quesadilla (caramelized black mission figs, maytag blue cheese, chipotle aioli, and candied walnuts), which was highly recommended by Abby, was divine. The sweetness of the figs contrasted nicely with the sharpness of the blue cheese and the light spiciness of the chipotle aioli. Add in the crunch of the walnuts and you’ve got multiple flavors and textures working together as a treat for your mouth.
Shrimp and grits ranks among my top favorite dishes anywhere at any time, so naturally, I had to try theirs, the Peruvian Shrimp and Grits (aji panca chile marinated shrimp, roasted poblano chiles and creamy parmesan grits). I’m accustomed to US Southern style shrimp and grits, which usually feature Cajun or blackened shrimp and cheesy grits. Peruvian style took it to a whole other level of hotness. The shrimp sauce was so spicy, it brought tears to my eyes. Next time, I would order just the grits without the shrimp and sauce (which you can do, luckily).
The Frittata Tart (egg, baby spinach, caramelized leeks and Mexican cheeses) was very good. I didn’t write any notes about why it was so good, but in general, I’m a fan of all of those ingredients, and was pleased with the results here.
My favorite dish was the Sweet Potato Pancake. I think I’ve enjoyed every dish I’ve ever eaten that was made with sweet potatoes, and this was no exception. What an incredible treat this was! It came as a stack of thin, tender, mini-pancakes in maple syrup with crunchy toasted pecans sprinkled all over and a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream on top. Yummy. They didn’t taste like your typical potato pancake, but more like a buttermilk pancake with a hint of sweet potato.
Marc said his favorite was the Bread Pudding French Toast (with caramelized bananas and coconut syrup). I tried a bite of it, and I agree, it was very good. I still liked the pancakes better. Full disclosure: I’m not fond of bananas.
Whatever you do, don’t get the cucumber mojito. (This was a seasonal drink, I believe.) I ordered it because it sounded cool and refreshing. But it was overloaded with mint–or something. It was without a doubt the worst mojito I’ve ever had in my life. Which made me sad, because I love mojitos.
The Border Grill has now become the barometer by which I will measure all other brunches. It was that good. Just be careful how seriously you take the phrase “small plates” here. Marc ordered a dish—I think it was the green eggs and ham—that was huge. You can keep ordering as you go, so you might want to start out with a couple of plates and see how full you feel after eating them before ordering more.
Service was great during brunch, and the atmosphere very relaxed. There was no push to get anyone to leave to turn over tables, as often happens in other restaurants. We sat there for over two hours and probably would have stayed longer, except I needed to use the little girl’s room, which meant exiting the restaurant.
The cost of lunch for all three of us was $130, which was exactly the amount of money Marc had won playing slots just before he met us. Saying it seemed like fate, he treated Abby and me to lunch. That’s what I call a karma offering to the gambling gods. Many thanks, Marc!
The Border Grill Brunch:
Where: Mandalay Bay near the Convention Center and Shark Reef.
Hours: 10am-3pm, Sat and Sun.
Cost: $35 for all you can eat small plates. For another $8, you can also get bottomless mimosas.