When the first On the Border appeared just off exit 8 on Highway 400, I can’t tell you just how much of a change that eatery made to my day to day existence. The red salsa was excellent, the best I could find in the city. It had good curved chips, hot and made on site. We could take snotty New Yorkers there, and after a bite or three they would be ordering beer and asking about risque clubs in Buckhead.  It had real chile rellenos, not these fakes, these inch wide strips of bell pepper into which a stingy chef poured a couple tablespoons of ground beef and cheese. The fajitas were good. So what if it were a dollar or two more than the typical Mexican eatery? It was good eating.

On the Border's red salsa is excellent.

On the Border's red salsa is excellent.

Fast forward to 2009. There are On the Borders a lot closer to where I live now. One used to be in Snellville, but it always had service issues, and is now closed. There is a good On the Border on Pleasant Hill Road, off I-85, near the Barnes and Noble and that’s what this review will cover.

These days the chile relleno is no longer a featured entree item, and the kind and types of fajitas have expanded. There are more kinds of tacos these days, beef brisket tacos, fish tacos. But there seems no way to mix and match kinds of tacos; you’re stuck with one or two of whatever type you choose. Now perhaps there is, perhaps there are tacos a la carte. When I asked my waitress about chile rellenos, I was told I could have them in a combo or a la carte. So off the menu is a real possibility here.

I ended up ordering a pepper jack chicken grilled enchilada. It looked to be a reasonable compromise between simplicity and expense.  And it’s good looking when it arrives:

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And this dish exposes the good and bad of On the Border. Their serving size is large. All their serving sizes are large. And the dish is shot through with high calorie items. The enchilada has cheese of course, but so do the black beans. They are drizzled with cheese. The chile verde also has a shot of sour cream in it; you can’t avoid it. The upshot is that On the Border has a calorie rich cuisine, and it’s hardly a place for a dieter.

This may not be a bad thing in an age where Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cookjing” is a #1 best seller. But for those of us who have grown to a point we can’t eat as rich a cuisine as we once could, it means we have to eat less of this kind of food and a lot more plain simple foods. Black beans, with a little spice, have very few calories. The same can’t be said for the cheese on top.

The enchilada is quite good. It’s hard to taste any grilling in the chicken; it’s a bit overwhelmed by the cheese and the chipotle sauce. The sauce and the cheese and the peppers are good, and the toasting of the enchilada shell can’t be missed.

Ultimately, however, I can’t escape the feeling that the concept of the restaurant is a little out of touch in the climate of the times.  If I’m looking for dishes in the 5 to 10 dollar range, I don’t feel wanted here. The push is all up menu, to buy more expensive things. The focus is to upscale their customers into eating their fajitas, and more and lots of them, when perhaps for some of us, a simple taco or two and some chips, and nothing else, would do.

Verdict: Good food. Great salsa, great chips. Tends to be rich and high calorie. If that’s what you want, highly recommended.

On the Border Mexican Grill
2275 Pleasant Hill Rd
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 232-9169

On the Border Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

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