Borderline Mexican

It's a corporate world and we just live in it.

Art, music, literature, film — not to mention daily minutiae such as toothpaste and automobiles — are conceived, packaged, promoted, and sold by gigantic, faceless entities that have all the conscience of a great white shark and all the commitment to quality of a street-corner hooker.

Restaurants too.


On the Border

12295 N Kendall Dr, Kendall; 305-275-3255

Open Monday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Those of us who dine at the higher end of the foodie chain tend to forget that the OLA Miamis and Chez Panisses and Le Bernardins constitute a single fingernail clipping of the national "food service" industry, an enormously profitable behemoth rarely about good food and almost never about good service.

Some corporate restaurants do rise above the pack. The big chain steak houses, with their $65-$75 check averages and well-heeled executive clientele, usually turn out a first-rate product, albeit at an exorbitant price. Less lofty chains — PF Chang's, Pollo Tropical, and Stir Crazy come to mind — succeed in dishing up remarkably good food at prices more affordable to mere mortals.

Others — say, On the Border — aren't nearly so successful. In fact almost everything served at this chain purveyor of gringofied Mexican cuisine tastes of the not-so-delicate hand of corporate bean counters, each dish calibrated to the nth degree to hold down food costs and avoid frightening tender palates with bold, piquant, diverse (read: Mexican) flavors.

The results are watery salsa that has barely seen cilantro; pathetic margaritas with only the faintest hint of tequila; thin chips with a strange, chalky texture; a variety of sauces seemingly applied with an eyedropper; carnitas with all flavor cooked out of it; oddly gelatinous cheesecake with an equally odd whipped-cream topping.

On the plus side ... Well, I'm having a difficult time finding the plus side.

Okay, the restaurant is huge — cavernous, even — so you probably won't wait long for a table, except on the busiest weekend nights. It's conveniently located a minute or two (or twenty, depending on Kendall traffic) off the turnpike. It's pretty inexpensive; you can gorge yourself and your tapeworm for less than $10. And service is no worse than at any other megachain eatery ("Like, um, ya want fries with that?").

We wanted to snag an order of made-at-your-table guacamole, but our chirpy waitress informed us that the day's avocados were too hard and unripe. So we ordered the regular guacamole, which the menu insists is "made fresh daily," presumably from the same hard, unripe avocados deemed unfit for the showtime version. Oh well. It was served so cold we couldn't taste it anyway.

Fajitas come with various proteins and in various combinations, all with grilled onions and peppers plus sour cream, chopped tomatoes, and that tasteless guacamole. Steak is actually fairly decent, assertively salted and modestly tender. Ordered by itself or in combo with the flavor-free carnitas, it's a lot of food for twelve or thirteen bucks.

Fish tacos arrive as three tortillas folded over chunks of crisp, beer-battered fish, accessorized with a few shreds of cabbage, squirt of "creamy chipotle sauce," and more of the ubiquitous cheese that seems to come with everything on the menu. (I'm surprised I didn't find some floating in the margaritas and oozing down the walls.) Bland, bland, bland.

Same for enchiladas suiza, chicken and cheese (!) enchiladas smothered in cheese (!!), and a couple of eyedroppers of tomatillo sauce. A giant burrito is basically fajitas with rice and beans stuffed into a flour tortilla, though it does come with an indifferent (and undressed) green salad.

We tried the dulce de leche cheesecake for dessert. It's very rich and very sweet, with a texture somewhere between Jell-O and cream cheese, the kind of dessert you'd serve in the corporate world where we all have to live, but not necessarily eat.


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