Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On the Border ... of authentic

Hi, Rockin' the Suburbs readers.

Before I get into my mini-review of the On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina in Algonquin, let me introduce myself.

My online alias is The Juice Box and I found my way here through the amazing online network of Twenty Something Bloggers. After checking out this blog and enjoying its content and theme of helping Chicago suburbanites find things to do around town, I was happily given the approval stamp of becoming a new contributor.

A little about me: I'm in my 20s, live in McHenry County and grew up in Cook. I've been around the suburbs a minute or two, but don't define myself by them. I eat my hot dogs Chicago style -- absolutely no ketchup! I enjoy getting out to local places to check out new movies, restaurants, bars and all other entertainment spots in between.

So without ado, my first review.

After craving margaritas and bottomless chips and salsa, the boyfriend and I decided to head over to On the Border in Algonquin tonight. And when we got there, we were pleasantly surprised.

We were expecting something along the lines of Chili's (sub-par food, brightly colored trinkets on the walls, chipped tiled booths), and though we caught a whiff of corporate flair, this spot was "on the border" of authentic.

As soon as we sat down to our table, our server Matt was extremely courteous and joked around with us. Granted, the place was dead, but he was spot on with helping us out with menu options and keeping our giant margarita and Dos XX tumblers full.

A single bottomless chip was about the size of a half hard-shell taco, and dipped in a spicy tequila lime salsa, tasted crisp with just the right amount of salt. We enjoyed looking around the place while we munched and waited on our meal, too. A nice ambience, despite some heavy Menudo playing in the background. Can't remember the last time I sang along absentmindedly to Ricky Martin and actually enjoyed it (shh, don't tell anyone).

Our orders came up quickly. I chose the Dos XX fish tacos. For $9.99, I got three hefty portions of beer-battered fish wrapped in a soft tortilla stuffed with cabbage lettuce, pico de gallo and a chile cream sauce. Rice and beans on the side. The whole meal tasted fresh and didn't need seasoning; plus, I could really specifically taste the Dos XX on the fish.

The boyfriend chose the endless enchiladas special, where, you guessed it -- endless enchiladas of the beef, chicken or cheese variety and a side of rice and beans were served for $8.99. He only lasted for four, but our server noted that the record there was 26. Yikes. Although the enchiladas were tasty enough, I've had better at smaller, hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants. Maybe it's something in the water.

Overall, we had an enjoyable experience and plan to go back again soon to try out all the other enticing stuff on the menu. They have a great "create your own" section for burritos and fajitas, all down to specific details so you can come up with nearly 100 different combination possibilities.

The prices are also decent, especially for drinks: $4.25 for a large 22 oz. house (strong) margarita, and $3.25 for Dos XX on draft in the same size. They have about a dozen different Mexican imports available in bottles, and also another "create your own" menu for premium margaritas that I'd put to good use.

The bar and grill also has Chicago-area locations in St. Charles and Vernon Hills, so if you're not near Algonquin, you can plan an outing at one of the others.

Looking for something quick to satisfy your cravings for Mexican food and drink? Your next trip should be to On the Border.


Oats said...

For McHenry county... we've recently discovered the tasty deliciousness of a new Mexican Restaurant.

We've been big time fans of Tacos el Norte, particularly the ones in Lake Zurich (on Rand by the Dairy Queen and new Starbucks) and more often the one in McHenry (on Route 120 just west of Jewel Osco). They are very authentic, also very affordable. The downside is that it lacks the dining atmosphere. It's more like a diner than a restaurant.

Las Palmas, which just opened in either December or January is located in McHenry (on Route 31 about 3/4 mile south of 120). My wife and I went there on a whim and were pleasantly surprised. The service was phenomenal. Our server, Esteban, told us if we ever come back he'll be watching for us :) The guac was awesome - and at this time of the year, I want to know where they get their avocados.
I ordered the banana enchiladas - which I believe were actually plantains, but I prefer it that way anyway... fantastic. My wife had the chicken enchiladas which according to her are the best chicken enchiladas she's ever had, and that they beat Tacos el Norte.
HOWEVER, the one and only drawback to Las Palmas is the price - since it is a nice sit down restaurant, the prices are closer to $11-15 a plate, compared to Tacos $6-$10.

Hope you find this helpful. We're serious when it comes to Mexican food! Unless we want cheap food, and then there is Taco Bell! Hahahahaha.


That Girl said...

Justin - Have you had the wonderful tacos at La Rosita in Crystal Lake? I recommend the steak, though they have other varieties of meat if you're more adventurous.