As my previous article stated, the Macaroni Market is closed and in its place the popular American Mexican restaurant chain, On The Border, has opened. Now, surprisingly this is not a total disappointment because On The Border has pretty decent Mexican food by Korean standards. So, a couple of Sundays ago, we decided to take L out for his first taste of this popular Mexican chain.
How to get there: Like most places in Itaewon, it’s not that difficult to find. Take the subway Itaewon Station (Line 6) and depart from Exit 2. You need to walk for about 350 meters and On The Border is on the second flood, above Praha on your left across from Jay’s Hairdressing (Great hairdresser by the way) and beside the Starbucks. If you pass the Starbucks, you have gone too far.
Service and Atmosphere: The service at On The Border is pretty standard Korea service, except that they all tend to have completely insane English names. Our server was named after the Greek god of the underworld, “Hades” and although he was a great server, the thought of why he chose to name himself Hades, constantly lingered in the back of my mind while he talked. There was also the reliable “Donkey”, who took care of our drinks. Thank you Hades and Donkey, may you never venture to the US with those names. Despite their names, they spoke excellent English and were actually really great servers.
The atmosphere at On The Border is a mixture of generic chain and Mexican nostalgia. On the wall is your typical Mexicana paraphernalia, and the speakers blair away the incomprehensible Spanish music. However, the restaurant is laid out neatly and is well spaced out. There is always enough space, except for their bar which was rather intimate and close to the door. The bathrooms were not actually in the restaurant, as they share with the bar located on the same floor. You have to leave the restaurant and go into the hallway. The bathroom was a little sketchy as there was piss all over the floor on a Sunday at 4pm.
Food and Drink: We ordered the Make Your Own combo (one chicken taco and two chicken enchiladas), Guacamole Live, and a Taco Salad. Jill ordered a Borderita Grande and I just had a Coke.
Guacamole Live (19000KRW): The Guacamole Live is a rare spectacle in the chain dining experience. The servers actually make the guacamole right at your table. The guacamole is a combination of tomatoes, avocados, jalapeños, cilantro, lemon juice and red onions. It is actually quite fresh, and can be shared for the whole table. Now, for the two of us, this was pretty good, but if there are more than three to a table, you might want to consider getting an extra appetizer.
Create Your Own Combo (Three Items) 18500KRW: My normal order at On The Border because I enjoy combining various elements of Mexican fare into one delicious plate. The choices include: tacos (soft or hard), enchiladas (beef or chicken), empanada (beef or chicken), chicken flauta, or premium tacos (which are 2000KRW extra and include grilled chicken or steak). The mains also include two sides (refried or black beans, and Mexican rice).
The chicken enchiladas were good. I was not blown away by the flavor. They were a little soggy, with a pinkish tinge from the sauce. They weren’t that spicy (which for me is great) but still retained some flavor. The sauce was creamy and had a little bit of cheese. For me personally, I could have gone for some more cheese and less generic tastings creamy sauce, but that is just me. The hard taco was really good! It was stuff full of chicken, cheese and fresh lettuce. A very solid taco. The refried beans were okay, they had enough cheese on them, and had nice flavor. The Mexican rice was okay too.
Grande Taco Salad (Chicken) 18000KRW: Jill ordered the Grande Taco Salad. There are two options, can you guess what it is? Did you say, “chicken or beef?” Well, now, you are correct. First observations were that this taco salad is worth the 18000KRW because it was freaking huge! It was generously portioned with chicken, which is nice to see when other places load the salad up with veggies, salsa and get cheap with the meat. A nice, zesty salsa mixed with the cheese, avocados, and veggies really gave the dish a nice, refreshing burst of flavor. Jill thoroughly enjoyed the Grande Chicken Taco Salad.
Drinks – Borderita Grade (8,900KRW) – After nine months of pregnancy, Jill can finally have a drink! She ordered a Borderita Grande, which is their version of a margarita. Jill thought it was good, a little refreshing. She did find it too sweet for her tastes, and felt that there needed to be a little more tequila and less sugar. That said, this was her first drink in over nine months and she self-admittedly thought her palate was a little off. The illuminated ice cubes add character and charm to the drink.
Value: The whole bill came to 68,200KRW for one appetizer, two mains and a drink. After awhile being abroad, even mediocre Mexican food starts to taste great, and I believe that On The Border is a perfect example of this phenomena. In the United States, we tend to avoid OTB because there are so many more authentic, family owned Mexican restaurants. However, in Korea, you take what you can get. In this case, On The Border is satisfactory Mexican food, with a family atmosphere. For us, that would be worth spending the money. However, if you are looking for something more authentic, California is approximately 5000KMs away. Enjoy your flight.
Who Should Visit On The Border: OTB is a pretty safe bet. I’ve never had a bad experience, but it can hurt the wallet if you are a value traveller. However, as for the crowd, there is a nice mix of families, couples and just people hanging out. A very diverse crowd, which they seem to cater too. Also, very easy to find, and the food is pretty decent.
Who Should Avoid On The Border: Are you from California or Mexico? Are you a huge Mexican food snob? You might slap the shit out of Hades and Donkey. I would try somewhere else. Also, if you need to save the money, throw some cheese and salsa on a kebab outside and close your eyes.