Border Grill

Border Grill

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Chances are, if you live in Marquette County and have ever had a craving for Mexican food, you’ve probably been to Border Grill. With fresh, made from-scratch food and vibrant atmosphere, it’s easy to see why people love the restaurant. Founded in 1997, Border Grill began as a one location restaurant in Marquette. Now, nearing twenty years in business – sixteen years this July – Border Grill has expanded to three locations, something restaurant owner Dan Torres marvels at.

“I never would have imagined where we ended up. Honestly, I thought we’d have one little restaurant. I did not envision having three.”

Torres’ inspiration for Border Grill came while working in California at a restaurant chain which served fresh, Mexican grill style cuisine. The chain was successful, and Torres saw a niche developing in the dining industry; people were turning away from typical fast-food restaurants and wanting healthier alternatives, served in a fast-casual setting. Torres also noticed something else.

“I was eating twelve to fifteen meals a week in the restaurant, and I realized two things – I never got tired of the food, and I never gained a pound. I had never experienced that before.”

Armed with these two powerful conclusions, Torres began to formulate an idea for a fast-casual, fresh-food eatery: Border Grill. After some discussion about opening a restaurant in the U.P., Torres found and purchased a small building on the corner of 7th Street and Washington Street in Marquette.

Torres knew his mission was to keep food convenient, but fresh. The motivation to provide healthy food drove Border Grill forward, winning people over as the restaurant expanded to two Marquette establishments and one in Negaunee.

“I think that really is the number one key to our success,” Torres said. “It’s really home cooking, but you happen to have it in the convenience of a restaurant. I think we prove that healthy can still taste good.”

An important aspect of Border Grill’s menu is that the food is not processed. There is one product Border Grill does not make, which is the Caesar dressing; everything else is cooked from scratch. Rice and beans are bought and sorted daily, while the whitefish used in menu items is bought locally and “was probably swimming in the lake” shortly before preparation, Torres laughs. The website features a downloadable PDF of nutrition facts, and Border Grill also offers vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.

But perhaps the most important feature of the restaurant is the employees, both in the way employees are treated and how employees interact in the customer service environment.

“The restaurant business is easy; doing it is hard,” Torres said. “The people part is key. You’ve got to have the right personality and you have to really love and be passionate about serving people, working with people, and being around people.”

Border Grill frequently has seasonal holiday parties for employees and their families, and ten employees recently ran together in the Hope Starts Here race.

“I hope my tombstone reads that I was in the people business, not the food business,” Torres said.

Check out Border Grill on Facebook, and at www.bordergrill.net for nutritional information, menus, and more.

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