32 Church Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Just like some blog posts, sometimes, a meal has to be quick and dirty. You’re pressed for time, you have a group of hungry stragglers, you need to eat in proximity to your next destination – there isnt always time for the best find, the well researched location, or the perfect stop. Sometimes, you need places like the Border Cafe.
Stepping off the T from Logan at Harvard Square, I found myself still quite a ways from my destination, but starving. Skipping lunch on the airplane had seemed like a good idea at the time, but combined with a few delays, I definitely didn’t have the energy to haul my luggage across Boston for another hour. My companion points out a popular college spot just up the street – a small regional chain called Border Cafe. “It’s not the best, but it’s edible”. I would’ve settled for McDonalds at this point, so Border Cafe it is.
You know what Border Cafe is – almost every town has one. “Tex Mex”. It serves all the classic favorites – fajitas, burgers, beer, margaritas. It’s Chili’s, but a little more diverse, and a little less “McModified”.
The Border Cafe in Cambridge is in the heart of Harvard Square, which makes it a very popular destination for college students. The location is huge – and tables are fairly tightly packed together. If i was to estimate, i figure the capacity was at least 350 to 400 people. On two floors.
The service here was actually excellent – efficient, polite, from the moment i was handed a buzzer, to the moment i left, i felt well taken care of. Well, that’s one thing they are definitely better than Chili’s at.
The menu itself is also a bit more diverse – in addition to the normal Tex Mex offerings, they carry a fairly extensive Southern menu. Etouffe, catfish, gumbo, blackened protein, the diversity of the menu suits the large groups of margarita drinkers that abound.
Within minutes of sitting down, a fresh bowl of chips and salsa is placed in front of me. I polish it off in less than a minute. The busser fails to look surprised, and brings me another a few minutes later. Im guessing this is not a abnormal occurance.
The chips are actually fairly freshly fried – they probably had only been under the heat lamps for a couple hours. They were decent. The salsa..well, it was a decent way to keep the mouth moist. But it didnt have much depth or flavour.
A side order of guacamole was also decent. Chunky, and loaded with avocado’s, it was definitely a good value. Needed to be amped up a bit – more acidity, more heat, but it was ok. Better than the pureed guac i was expecting.
Now, i’ve talked about my love of great catfish, and I’ve been lucky enough to try some of the best at Uncle John’s. With that fresh on the mind, though im not quite sure what i was thinking, i ordered the Tuscaloosa Catfish. ”A fresh catfish fillet seasoned and fried until tender. Topped with a fresh lemon pepper sauce…”.
What came was a, well, deep fried piece of something. Dry, crunchy, heavy, and resembling nothing of catfish. I really regretted not getting the fajitas. As Almattone always says – when in doubt, order the fajitas. You know what they are, and they are really hard to screw up. Hopefully i’ve learned my lesson.
In and out in under an hour. Good service. Food that meets your expectations for the college hangout crowd. This was not the perfect meal. This wasn’t even good Tex Mex, or Cajun. It was a quick and dirty meal. And sometimes, when you’re starving, that’s enough. And on this day, Border Cafe was enough.