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Susan Feniger

Susan Feniger and chef-partner Mary Sue Milliken may be best known nationally for their mid-1990s hit Food Network show Too Hot Tamales, and the Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Las Vegas outposts of their innovative Mexican restaurant Border Grill, but the pair has been a hit with Angelenos since the early 1980s. Feniger and Milliken, who met in 1978 while working at Chicago’s Le Perroquet, and trained in Paris kitchens, opened City Café, in Los Angeles, in 1981, and expanded the vest-pocket-size place into restaurant CITY (1985 to 1994). Celebrating sustainable practices and flavors from around the world at CITY, the chefs homed in on Latin tastes after a cooking-intensive trip to Mexico, where they learned from home cooks, market vendors, and taco stands what authentic Mexican food was about. The result: gourmet Mexican restaurants Ciudad (1998-2010) and Border Grill. As food-truck culture evolved, they even launched a Border Grill truck and the Border Grill Stop kiosk in 2010.

In 2009, Feniger launched Street, in Hollywood, an homage to street food from around the world (such as Indian pani puri and Egyptian-style baked fish). And in December 2013, she and executive chef-partner Kajsa Alger transformed the Street space into gastropub Mud Hen Tavern. “When I was a little kid in Toledo, Ohio,” says Feninger, “my dad would take me to a little tavern for fried bologna sandwiches. My favorite! The menu [at Mud Hen] is a little different, but I wanted to create that kind of neighborhood place that feels easygoing and warm, where you can meet pals, share a beer with friends or just hang out and have some great food!”

In addition to Too Hot Tamales, Feninger has appeared on Top Chef Masters, season two; The Talk, on CBS; and in the 2012 documentary film From Nothing to Something: A Documentary on the Creative Process.

With Milliken, Feniger has written cookbooks City Cuisine, Mesa Mexicana, Cantina, Cooking with Too Hot Tamales, and Mexican Cooking for Dummies, and 2012 saw the publication of her own cookbook, Susan Feniger’s Street Food: Irresistibly Crispy, Creamy, Crunchy, Spicy, Sticky, Sweet Recipes.

This year, Feniger and Milliken were inducted into the Nation’s Restaurant News MenuMasters Hall of Fame. In 2013, Feniger was awarded the Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Restaurant Association. She is also a member of the board of directors for the Scleroderma Research Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.

  • Moveable Feast

    Heirloom Bean Tostadas with Crispy Avocado

    Though we call for an assortment of canned beans for convenience, Chefs Feniger and Milliken used heirloom beans, such as scarlet runner beans, to dress up this recipe with color…

  • Moveable Feast

    Rancho Bella Santé, Temecula CA (204)

    Season 2, episode 4 of Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking takes place in the southern mountains of Temecula, California.

  • Recipe

    Coconut Curry Caramel Corn

    This is the recipe to think about if you are going to a party—it would make a great gift instead of a bottle of wine. I recently prepared this as…

  • Recipe

    Matzo Candy with Caramel, Chocolate, and Halva

    I ate so much matzo when I lived on a kibbutz in Israel that I wasn’t sure I could ever eat it again—and to be honest, unless it’s loaded with…

  • Recipe

    Mango Lhassi

    This is the Indian yogurt drink that most people are familiar with. I ordinarily wouldn’t recommend using a canned product, but because Kesar mango pulp (extracted from the Kesar variety…

  • Recipe

    Salsa Fresca

  • Recipe

    Citrus & Herb Marinated Chicken Tacos

    The marinade for the chicken is delicious: citrusy, herby, and fresh tasting.

  • Recipe

    Potato & Rajas Tacos

    Though cream may seem a little unexpected, a thick, slightly sour version plays an important role in Mexican cooking, adding a luxurious silkiness to special dishes. Here we use regular…

  • Recipe

    Tequila-Lime Sorbet

    This cool, refreshing dessert is creamier when made in an ice-cream maker, but you can make it granita style (more like an Italian ice) without any special equipment.

  • Recipe

    Border Guacamole