32 Church St, Cambridge; (617) 864-6100
819 Broadway, Saugus; (617) 233-5308
The Border Cafe has been for several years one of the most popular dining spots in Harvard Square, and it’s easy to see why from the moment you step inside. The atmosphere is like a party that’s always in full swing. The bright decor features old beer advertisements, looking like all of Tijuana compressed into one room. Stepping up into the bar area, you pass an old-fashioned bathtub that may once have swilled gin. Waiters and waitresses, accustomed to the crowds, zip past you with trays held high over their heads.
The menu is large, specializing in Mexican, Southwestern, and Cajun cuisine; and there is a great variety of meat fish, and vegetarian dishes to choose from, many of which are at very reasonable prices.
Dinners, more than appetizers and the drinks, are the real bargain here.
Most are well under Mine’s $10 limit and are served with fixings on the side to make for a full meal. A platter of soft tacos is just $4.75; chicken enchiladas are $4.95. Many dinners come with yellow rice and black beans; you can also add a side of chunky guacamole for another buck.
Some items blend Tex-Mex with nouvelle. Chicken Laredo ($5.95) gives you a breast of mesquite-broiled chicken served on a bed of cooked spinach in a sauce made from smoked chili peppers, butter, and spices, served with the rice and beans. Then there is the Cajun side of the border. Catfish Mardi Gras ($7.25) is a couple of deep-fried filets cooked in a tomatoey Creole sauce and topped with shaved pecans. Jam-balaya rice comes with it
The possibilities are nearly endless. If you don’t mind the boisterous surroundings, and are prepared to wait for a table, this is as close to a fiesta as you’ll find this far north.
Open late nightly.