$10 Tuesday: The Border Grill

It’s lunch hour and I find myself at The Border Grill, located in downtown Santa Monica. This hip, urban cantina with décor as wild and bright as a fiesta, features the bold foods and flavors of Mexico. From Monday through Friday, $10 lunches start from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Each day features a different entrée with a green corn tamale and choice of iced tea or soda. .

This week, I had the Potato Rajas Tacos. This entrée comes with various sides, including red and green rice, black beans, tortilla chips, three different types of salsa (chipotle, arbol and tomatillo), a sweet corn tamale, and a drink. The two mini hard-shelled tacos were stuffed with mini potatoes topped off with corn, guacamole, pico de gallo and chipotle sauces and sour cream. Delicious!

After eating these delightful tacos, I moved on to the rice which, I’m sorry to say, was disappointing. Both the red and green rice lacked flavor and moisture, which threw me off guard. However, the black beans were incredibly cheesy and hot, which made them the perfect dip for my tortilla chips.

Of the three salsas, my favorite was the tomatillo. It’s served chilled and it tasted fresh. The sauce’s taste was enhanced by roasted chili peppers, lime juice, cilantro and onion. The mini green corn tamale tasted more like a dessert. It had an intense, creamy taste that was so sweet I had to take a few sips of my drink in between bites.

My waiter was very attentive and continuously offered me free refills, which is always nice as a college student.

My overall experience was reasonable and inexpensive. This place is a perfect setting for sipping margaritas while watching the Laker game with some friends. I have to admit that the lighting during lunch hour must have been on the “romantic” setting, as it was slightly difficult to read through my textbook when trying to study.

Many of the items off the menu are healthy alternatives to Mexican food. The Border Grill is known for serving light and healthy modern Mexican cuisine, focusing on serving lots of fruits, vegetables, fresh salsas, rice, beans, and handmade tortillas. The restaurant offers gluten-free lunch and dinner selections, as well as extensive vegetarian options, including “Meatless Monday” specials.

Healthy Mexican food and affordable $10 quick lunches should put this restaurant on your “must try” list.

The Border Grill is located at 1445 Lincoln Blvd.

Pro: Free refills on drinks

Cons: Dim lighting during lunch hour and dry rice.