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Dining

Eight new reasons to bow down to Border Brunch

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Chef Mike Minor’s breakfast fries (part of the revamped menu at Border Brunch) are everything you love about smothering potatoes, without the heartburn and with much cleaner, brighter flavors and textures. Basically, he’s the man.
Photo: Erin Ryan

In general, gluttony is a bad idea. From mega-buffets to all-you-can-eat sushi, the deals—and the food quality—are so rarely worth the remorse. But every now and then you come across something that is. In Las Vegas, I would argue that Border Brunch is the standout.

The appeal starts with the setting, Border Grill’s poolside patio, where a balmy spring morning can sneakily stretch into the afternoon. Then there’s the $34.99 all-you-can-eat rate for a playful menu of 22 beautifully executed small plates, plus bottomless mimosas for another $8 (considering that one cocktail costs double that in most casino bars, this is a revelation). No one stands over you making sure you eat every bite of every dish. There’s no time limit. And no matter what you order, the meal comes with fresh fruit and delightful empanadas of guava, sweet cheeses, a twist of lime and a pinch of cinnamon. Gluttony never had so much class.

Of course, it’s up to you how deep you dive into the menu of bright Mexican flavors. But trust me when I say you’ll have trouble not ordering one (or more) of everything. Thank the evil culinary genius of executive chef Mike Minor, who recently added eight new items to the already rock-solid selection. He’s been tweeting secret items and testing the reactions of diners for months, and these eight are the favorites. Because I sampled so many other dishes, I couldn't try all of the new ones, but here’s a rundown:

Border Brunch

Sweet potato pancake with cinnamon whipped cream and toasted pecan maple syrup. A short stack of palm-size cakes looked fluffy even swimming in syrupy goodness, and my friend Maria remarked that they were a heartier, non-holiday substitute for the pumpkin pancakes she craves in the fall. Now she’ll crave these in the spring.

Hand-cut breakfast fries with crispy carnitas, chipotle hollandaise, jalapeño bacon and a sunny-side egg. Chef Minor, you are a gentleman and a scholar. This dish takes everything I love about loading potatoes with stuff that gives you heart disease and does it so much better. I skipped the runny egg, but even without that extra layer of gooey richness the dish was outstanding. The carnitas-style pork was crisp just to the point of still having succulence, while the spicy bacon added real crunch and depth of flavor. And the hollandaise was the kind I couldn’t help lapping up, even knowing that it’s basically pure butter. The fries would have been delicious without any decoration, which shows you how much care goes into these plates.

Slow-smoked brisket omelet with roasted poblanos, Mexican cheeses, ancho hollandaise and avocado. This dish came late in the game, so I didn’t taste it, but Maria and her husband Brock (who happens to be Weekly’s food editor and a shameless fan of Border Brunch) agreed that it was one of the best things they tried. Just from the look of it, I could tell that it had that elusive balance of eggy, meaty, cheesy and saucy, with a spoon of tongue-slapping acidity right where you need it.

BBQ baked egg with house barbecue sauce, roasted potatoes, caramelized peppers and crispy Serrano ham. Another dish I didn’t try, but one the chef is super-excited about. Picture a ramekin of savory complexity with an egg cracked over the top. Now picture it baked until the egg is cooked but ready to run all over the other ingredients. Stir. Spoon. Swallow. Repeat.

The Details

Border Brunch
Border Grill at Mandalay Bay, 632-7403.
Brunch, Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Fig and blue cheese quesadilla with caramelized Mission black figs, Maytag blue cheese, chipotle aioli and candied walnuts. The velvet sweetness of black figs and the bite of blue cheese inside a really great tortilla, with a duo of creamy sauces drizzled on top? Killer.

Green egg and ham with fresh green peas, black beans, ham steak, chipotle chiles, corn tostada and a sunny-side egg. This was my favorite item on the menu. Under a neat pile of micro-greens was a perfect egg speckled with hot sauce. Under the egg was an almost-hash of ham, beans and peas that had that whimsical quality of being the same size but having entirely distinct flavors and textures. The peas managed to be the star, bringing an earthy freshness. Chef Minor says this dish has some surprises for those who think they know the entire spectrum of Mexican cuisine, and I agree.

French waffle and pork belly with maple syrup. This was as decadent as it sounds. A triangle of buttery waffle came with an enormous slab of pork belly and a full coating of nuts on top, with a generous piping of whipped cream on the side. The syrup had deep bourbon notes, and it soaked into the salty pork for that awesome sweet-savory punch that breakfast does so well. It’s a one-bite kind of experience, though, unless you’re planning to limit yourself to only a few dishes.

Lobster pancake with savory corn, crispy leeks, chipotle sauce and a sunny-side egg. This is the one thing I would skip next time (if only to save space). Brock pointed out that ordering it minus the runny egg was probably my critical mistake, but I found the flavor unremarkable next to everything else, and the texture was not done any favors by the pool of sauce, which took an otherwise light, airy pancake and turned it into mush. Brock disapproved of my opinion (read his review here). Even though I didn’t love it I still give the dish more points than a lot of dishes with the words “all you can eat” attached.

From the tried-and-true section of the menu, I did love the Peruvian shrimp and grits with juicy, chile-marinated shellfish and what I can only call a gravy of roasted poblanos over the creamiest Parmesan grits this side of the South. (I was so full when this dish came, and I ate almost all of it anyway. Brock approved.) I also loved the crispy potato rajas taco. The potato mimicked the taco shell, a crispy marvel mingled with grilled corn relish, guacamole and chiles, then topped with Mexican cheeses and spicy aioli. All of the dishes involving biscuits were yummy, especially the Manchego-infused Yucatan egg Benedict and its contrast of roasted pork and pickled onion. I was sure the green corn tamale would just take up stomach-space better spent on other dishes, but I was SO wrong. Who knew that silky sweet corn, tangy sour cream and salsa fresca belong together? The same was true of the plantain empanada, a simple, tasty foil to dishes with a lot more going on. The crispy poblano potatoes under the skirt steak and egg made all other hash browns seem sad in comparison. And the churro tots were insane.

I enjoyed every single dish, which has never happened to me in any other all-you-can-eat experience. I left Border Brunch feeling entirely stuffed and entirely satisfied. You should, too.

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Erin Ryan

Erin got her first newspaper job in 2002 thanks to a campfire story about Bigfoot. In her award-winning work for ...

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