Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ten years later


    It was really amazing. After all these years, this place was still bustling and extremely noisy like before. It took me quite a while to get used to its ear-piercing clamor; a roomful of people chatting, talking, laughing, cheering, toasting, ordering and greeting; all those sounds and voices overlapped together with background music's holiday-song singing.

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    For a moment I thought I heard it wrong when my friends sitting in the front of the car said we were heading for Border in Harvard Square. Just as I thought, one of them immediately asked "Wouldn't there be a long line at this hour?" The other one, the driver, said "I don't think so. It's very cold tonight, so less people would want to wait out in the cold." As it turned out, he was right--there were literally no people waiting outside of the restaurant when we got there.

    Border Cafe, a Mexican restaurant near Harvard. Ten years, give or take a couple, it took me to return to this place. What's so special about it? Other than it's very noisy, and hip, well, to me anyway, it's also the first non-Chinese restaurant I visited after I came to the states. A good friend of mine took me to this restaurant just a few days after I arrived Boston, and I still remember the novelty of visiting this exotic food place and my loss of appetite from my jet lag. The main dish I ordered, or she ordered for me rather, was enchilada. I remember she said she didn't quite know what to order when she first went there, and her friend introduced this dish to her, so she stuck to it from then on. Well, it wasn't a bad choice, at least I swallowed it whole. Ah, my first Mexican dish. (Or American Mexican food. Or both?)

    The second time I went back there, I thought I could order it on my own, but boy was I wrong. After giving the name of my entrée, which I thought was all it took, the waiter asked me if I wanted "something something". You have to realize the place was very noisy, so the only words coming out of his mouth I could identify were "black beans", which I wasn't even sure I heard it right because I'd never heard of it before. Again, my friend saved my butt and finished the rest of my ordering for me.

    Years went by and during which I visited quite a few places, including some Mexican restaurants in Houston. So, it shouldn't be a problem for me to order food at Border Cafe anymore, and I really hoped I could go back there to avenge my shame, but I simply didn't have the chance. The biggest obstacle was the long line; almost every time my friends and I passed by the restaurant, there was a long line! Yes, it was that popular. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I heard my friends suggesting going there last Saturday night. To commemorate this moment, I snapped a picture (while we were waiting)(Oh, indoors. Yes, no long line outside, but a short one inside):

What to expect:
  • Freshly fried tortilla chips with a salsa dip. The server will bring this to your table shortly after you all sit down. It's free, and you can ask for more. (Our waitress brought us a new batch even before we finished the first! That's neat.)(God, I really miss those chips. They taste so great....)
  • Drinks. It's universal, so I won't say more. It's OK just to order iced water.
  • Entrée / Main dish. Need I say more?
  • Side orders. Usually it's black beans, rice, or both. If in doubt, read the menu; all the choices and selections are listed on the menu. BTW, guacamole is one dollar extra.
  • Tips. "20 percent is the new 15." Anyway, don't be stingy if you like the service.