I found myself in Naperville on perhaps the most sacred day of the week– Taco Tuesday. With no lunch plans, my own two feet for transportation, a craving for tacos and wide eyes– I spotted the On The Border Naperville location just down the road. This Tex-Mex restaurant was completely new to me.
The exterior has the classic Mexican restaurant flair that you tend to see spread across the Midwest. However, On The Border spreads much further than just Naperville. This chain has locations in nearly every state. There are five locations around Chicagoland– all falling in suburbs.
Heavy use of wood, red, yellow and purple are spread throughout the entire restaurant. I will say, it did put me in the mood to mow down some tacos and my decision to not have any adult beverages during lunch was quickly forfeited in favor of a Pacifico.
On The Border Interior CollageThe restaurant is spacious, with the dining room divided into sections. I imagine this would help some to cut down on the noise. At lunch noise wasn’t really an issue though.
The bar area had ample seating room between the bar and tables. There were also some pretty neat beer bottle chandeliers glowing over the space.
Food & Drinks
On The Border Naperville has a decently stout menu. It covers all of the Mexican dishes that you’d crave, and then some. They also have daily specials– which meant that my dining partner and I honed in directly on the Taco Tuesday special. Tacos starting at $2 with add ons of beans & rice and guacamole for a very reasonable charge.
Before I made up my mind on what I’d like to indulge in, two bowls of salsa and a basket of huge tortilla chips were placed before me. These chips were no joke either– it seemed like they were super thin hard shells split down the middle. Wherever they came from though, I could not stop eating them. The salsa was also refreshing; I didn’t notice much spice to it, which is good for keeping it neutral for all patrons.
I opted for a simple Pacifico (served with a lime) since light beer and tacos truly are a thing of beauty. And, I wasn’t quite prepared to take down a margarita at noon– which is somewhat surprising. My dining partner ordered a Skinny Margarita. It was a little on the sweet side for both our tastes, and we tend to enjoy sweet, but other people’s tastebuds are different.
I opted for the 3 tacos– which were of a very respectable size. One was the Barbacoa (shredded beef)– topped with cilantro and raw onions, wrapped in a corn tortilla that was of the perfect texture and consistency. I have had many unfavorable run-ins with corn tortilla shells before. Some have been hard or rubbery, to the point of where you need to tear them apart. Others have been so dry that as soon as you fold them they crack in half on the bottom and you lose your delicious taco contents.
Fortunately, On The Border Naperville has created a phenomenal recipe.
The beef itself had very good flavor– there was a slight taste of saltiness to it, but that isn’t something that I can really complain about. The salt wasn’t overpowering, and it was actually perfectly balanced once I added a small portion of refried beans and Mexican rice.
My next two tacos were ordered as hard shells– more on the shell very soon. I snagged a Grilled Chicken and a Veggie taco.
The grilled chicken had its own flavor, not relying completely on the toppings. It also retained the moisture inside of the chicken, rather than dripping all over the shell to make it soggy.
The veggie taco was also very satisfying– consisting of mainly squash and zucchini. The vegetables were seasoned appropriately and I didn’t even add rice or beans to this one– just a tad of guacamole.
On the Border hard shell taco missing a biteNow it comes to the hard shells. These shells may not be for everyone. If you enjoy the type of hard shells that are super thin and shatter into pieces with the first bite leaving you with a taco salad that you could have ordered off the menu if that’s what you truly wanted– then don’t order the hard shells from On The Border. These shells are still crunchy, yet they also have a flaky characteristic to them. These are shells that will actually show your bite marks. I will admit, my first bite actually surprised me and I had to give them a silent applaud.. in my head.
On The Border Naperville may not be on the border of anything, but the ironic part of the name is soon forgotten once you are inside. Their menu is extensive (also offer a vegetarian menu) and the pricing is nothing to complain about. The beer menu is your standard Domestic & Mexican offerings, with a lengthy list of margarita styles– which is how it should be.
This isn’t your authentic Mexican cuisine and the tacos aren’t street tacos– however, if you have a craving on the best day of the week (Taco Tuesday) or you just have a hankering for Mexican cuisine in Naperville, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina can provide everything necessary.
On The Border Naperville
1915 Glacier Park Ave., Naperville, IL 60540