Thanks to Chip for going where I don’t dare to…
On The Border
7935 Winchester Road
Steph's craving for empanadas, coupled with our desperate need to get out of the house on the long Labor Day weekend prompted this excursion to yet another family-friendly chain restaurant. Also, we noticed online that they had a great selection of $3.99 feasts for kids. Hey– we live in East Memphis, where chains rule. This one provided a surprisingly good experience.
After entering this garish establishment, the hostess quickly sat us at a booth with two scribble-able kids' menus, but no crayons. She left us at the table to retrieve a high chair for Chloe, our 17-month-old monkey. Almost immediately, the server came over with a cheery greeting and an inquiry about our beverage choices. Strawberry lemonade for Connor (age 4), regular lemonade for Chloe, a "Meltdown" frozen margarita with Chambord for Steph and a "Gold Rocks" margarita for me. The server asked, "Are you guys ready to order?" to which Steph replied "Umm, no! We just sat down!"
I agreed with Steph (as I ALWAYS do...) but silently wondered if her tone of voice might start a catfight ending with spit in our food, a premature exit, or both. The server immediately got defensive. "Ummm, ok, some people come in all the time and know exactly what they want, or they want an appetizer..."
Steph said, "Well, don't come here often!" in an exasperated tone. I knew that Steph was trying to wrangle a busy/heavy Chloe into the highchair while this was going on, and that she wasn't really upset or unhappy. The server wasn't getting that, though.
Suddenly, Ms. Server pulled a rabbit out of her hat, which got the whole experience back on track to being positive. "Ok, since you guys have never been here, how about I just bring you guys a free order of queso?"
Connor had just recently developed a love for cheese dip, making this offer even better. I could feel things taking a turn for the better.
The server returned to say that they were out of Chambord. Steph was again slightly exasperated, but picked Grand Marnier. The kids, at this point, were actually behaving fairly well.
The server returned again with two gigantic margaritas and our free cheese dip. Steph's was certainly bigger than the "small" size she ordered, but she didn’t care enough to say anything. Our server was apparently expecting more exasperation, though, and preemptively said, "The bartender made a mistake. I've got the check in my pocket- I will SHOW you that I didn't charge you extra!"
We said, "We're good, we're happy, thanks!" Like Steph is going to turn down extra alcohol.
Steph ordered the empanadas, of course. I went with the "Dos XX Fish Tacos," as I was enticed by the description: "Three fresh flour tortillas stuffed with Dos XX beer-battered fish, creamy chipotle sauce, shredded cabbage, cheese and pico de gallo." I can do that.
Connor got the — wait for it— yes– chicken strips with fries! Surprise! If you made thin slices of Connor to view on slides under a microscope, his cellular composition would be readily apparent: 4 cells of fry to 3 cells of chicken nugget. Oh, and you might find a booger or two in there. (Which would look like boulders under a microscope.)
We went all out and got Chloe a kid’s Mexican meal– cheese enchiladas with rice and beans. You never know what that girl will eat, but it's almost certain to be more interesting than chicken strips and fries.
The other kid choices were hamburger, cheese quesadilla, nachos, corn dog (they have those in Mexico?), grilled chicken sandwich, or grilled chicken. All included a choice of side- Side Salad, Mexican Rice, French Fries, or Sautéed Vegetables- along with a drink and a sundae for the bargain price of $3.99.
We gorged ourselves silly on the free cheese dip– it was that much better because it was free. My margarita was actually really good. Tasted like real Cuervo Gold and a good, tangy, (not-too) sweet and sour and Triple Sec.
The food arrived in a timely manner. The server made several attempts to flirt with Chloe. These attempts were only met with blank stares, but you can't blame her for trying.
The empanadas were good as expected– spicy meat and cheese inside flaky pastries. They are meant to be an appetizer, but they are very heavy and fill you up nicely. My fish tacos were also very good. The cabbage (in lieu of lettuce) provided a nice crunch. The fish was fried– I generally prefer fish tacos with grilled fish, but this was more akin to Captain D's fish. Still, the flour tortillas, pico and "chipotle sauce" were tasty, so the overall effect was pretty good. Plus, Chloe devoured the bits of fried fish I slipped to her. Connor's chicken strips were acceptable, especially when he dipped them into the free cheese dip. Chloe's enchilada was unacceptable to her, and to the rest of us. Too onion-y and the shell was a bit cardboard-like. It was such a big plate of food that it was easy to skip the enchilada and still get full on rice and beans, which she did.
Though she had to be reminded to do so, Ms. Server brought the kids their ice cream sundaes, included with all kids’ meals. Do I have to tell you that they loved the ice cream?
On the Border started to lose us at the end of the meal, leaving all of our dirty plates while the kids ate their sundaes. The server was generally very attentive, so I’d like to think she got super-busy there at the end and couldn’t make it over. Eventually Steph was able to brow-beat some manager into clearing our plates, prompting our server to overhear and say, "But I thought I was doing so well!" We assured her she was, and left her a tip that hopefully conveyed that better than our words could. She truly did a great job, despite being under the impression that Steph hated her.
Breaking the first rule of DWM reviews, we neglected to visit the restrooms this time. Sorry! I'm sure they were acceptable, in a big-chain-don't-make-me-hafta-call-corporate kind of way.
The tab was quite reasonable, thanks to the free stuff and the bartender incompetence. We were stuffed and happy. We'll be back.