Review: Border Cafe, Burlington
After some fairly last-minute planning a few of us got over to The Border Cafe in Burlington last weekend. This is the newest branch of the small chain of Tex-Mex/Cajun restaurants to open in Massachusetts (the other two being in Cambridge and Saugus, with others in New Jersey and Delaware), and it appears to be a huge success. Crowded nearly every night and packed on weekends, this is one of the few restaurants around that seems to be flourishing in this bad economy.
Although my dining companions had been to this location of the Border Cafe several times, this was my first trip here, and I was impressed by the atmosphere (especially for a chain). The old-looking wooden floors, colorful lights, and posters and memorabilia gave it the feel of a roadhouse in Texas or a Cajun juke joint, though it is just kitschy enough to continually remind folks that, yes, this is indeed a chain, though more of a local one than anything.
Upon arriving, we were brought to a table toward the back in an area that was just a shade quieter than the main room (and away from the bustling bar area), and started off with drinks and appetizers. I had a rich and flavorful gumbo soup with lots of chunks of chicken and andouille sausage, which made up for my initial disappointment that they were out of crawfish popcorn. Our meals soon arrived, and they were mostly decent; two of my dining companions ordered a terrific Gulf Coast seafood enchilada plate (enchiladas filled sauteed shrimp, crawfish, and poblano pepper jack cheese, all smothered in a Cajun crabmeat and cheese sauce). I ordered a combo plate consisting of cheese enchiladas and a shredded beef taco. The enchiladas were rather dried out and crunchy at the ends, and the flour taco was a bit limp and flimsy. The fillings were tasty, however, and the rice and beans on the side were pretty good.
Service was excellent from start to finish, as our waitress kept checking back with us even though the place was so crowded. And prices? Well, I almost did a double-take when I saw what they were charging for food at the Border Cafe, but in a good way; my combo dish, for instance, was only about $7.00, which is an absolute steal even when you're talking about basic, no-frills dinners like this one.
So will the Border Cafe make me stop going to Angela's Cafe in East Boston or Taqueria Mexico in Waltham for Mexican food? Well, no, simply because the food at those places is made from scratch using family recipes with typically outstanding results. But the food at the Border Cafe seems to be a little better than your average chain, and the fact that they offer Cajun food in an area that is completely lacking in this type of cuisine certainly helps make a case for going here. Foodies may disagree with me on this, but I think that the Border Cafe is a decent addition to the northern suburbs of Boston.