The Restaurantour: Border Cafe

On weekends, I generally don't cook, in celebration of having successfully fed myself for a full week. So, I try to either surround myself in empty pizza boxes and candy, or I visit one of my several favorite restaurants, where I typically order the exact same thing. (Full Disclosure: I am not an adventerous eater. I had a brief period in my life where I went on a crazy Us Weekly diet that was so bland I overcompensated by devouring combinations of food in the kinds of flavors college frat boys dare each other to eat as hazing. Such craziness--diets, Us Weekly--has passed)

Since weekends are refreshingly recipe-free my weekend blog fare (aka "blgare") will focus on restaurants, those havens for the tired chef (so long as the chef is not working at the restaurant). Today's restaurant: let me take you south of the Border.

The Border Cafe is my favorite restaurant on Earth. It is high, high up on my list of favorite things ever on Earth, neck-in-neck with free thought and breathing. I had dinner there Friday and Saturday and I could have gotten lunch there on Sunday if it wasn't snowing and I didn't have a bus to catch.

It has several locations in Massachusetts, Delaware, and New Jersey (which I just found out! this blog is teaching me so much about life...), but my favorite is in Cambridge. When I was an undergraduate I went there at least once a month, which is significant when you consider I had free food every night courtesy the dining hall and, for half of my college life, no boyfriend with whom to go out. Sadly, I no longer live in Cambridge, but wonderfully, I have a boyfriend (hi puppy!) who does. Since I do like him very much I try to get up to Cambridge a few times a month, meaning I get to bask in the warm glow and 45-minute waits of Border (as we like to call it).

The Border Cafe is a Tex-Mex place with excellent margaritas and no system for taking reservations. That means you are almost always guaranteed to wait at least half an hour for a table, but the fact that the place is so packed they regularly require someone to herd people inside one-by-one per the firecode should be indication that it's worth the wait. Generally, Dave and I get one of those little buzzy things that tell us when our table is ready and head to the bookstore, where we invariably get separated, leaving the unfortanate half to run desperately through the bookstore searching for the other person and holding a flashing, buzzing, beeping device that chirps out "Your table is ready! Your table is ready!"

Inside, the decor is a mix of liquor ads and folk museum, with hand-painted murals of Annie Oakley and Dom Perignon (which they do sell). Border has several main tenets, among them: a long wait, endless chips and sodas, and extremely fast service. I've never had to wait more than 10 or 15 minutes for an appetizer (or an entre, for that matter), and the cheerful and friendly staff scoot around in crisp, white chef's coats.

I always order the exact same thing: a house margarita, blended with salt on the rim; pastelitos; and chimicurri steak (extra rice instead of beans). It is the best combination of sweet, spicy, tangy, and smooth, and my favorite meal ever. Their pastelitos, chicken in dough with chili verde, are amazing. Whenever we're out with someone who's never had them, we usually offer one on principal, leaving Dave and me to snarl over which one of us gets one less pastelito. I always, always get the chimichurri steak, a grilled steak covered in spicy chimichurri sauce. It's never let me down, and the mix of slightly blackened meat and peppery sauce is wonderful. Even their chips are great, straight-from-the-kitchen hot and gone in 10 minutes.

While I get the same thing, Dave, who generally accompanies me on my nights to Border, tends to mix it up a little, to the point where he's had most of the entire menu. His favorites? He likes the shrimp soup appetizer (which is fine by me as it leaves more pastelitos), but as far as I know he's not so gaga about anything as I am. The only thumbs-down was the blackened ribeye.

Oh Border. A weekend in Cambridge is not complete if it doesn't end with several downed margaritas happily mixing with delicious food and a healthy rotation of Johnny Cash music. I like to spend at least one night in Cambridge stumbling home, delirious on cheap tequila and the joy of a contented stomach.

1 comment:

  1. Kendall, I am so glad to have read this blog.
    My wife started working at the Border Cafe in Saugus Mass. in the early 90's.
    We used to eat there so much that she eventually decided to just work there.
    I have eaten everything on their menu.
    Spent a lot of time there and enjoyed every
    We have eaten at the Cambridge Border and at the New Jersey Border which is known as Jose Tejas.
    My friends and I went to the Border so many times that I started to count my visits.
    Beleive it or not but I stopped counting when I hit visit number 350! Yup, I love it.
    She began as a waitress and became an assistant manager in short time.
    After moving her commute was too far so she had to give it up.
    We still visit it about every month.
    My kids are in love with it also.
    One of my fave dishes is/was the fajitas.
    I order them with blackened chicken, onions cooked well done and with a side of bleu cheese dressing.
    Before rolling up the fajita, I drizzle a little bit of the dressing on. It makes for a perfect compliment to the blackened meat and onions. So good!!
    Thank you for your blog, I enjoyed it very much.