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Food & Drink

Border Grill

From the underbelly of MetroWest come killer tacos, burritos and caldos.

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For the better part of two years, MetroWest cognoscenti have done an admirable job keeping the Border Grill under wraps, but it's high time the rest of the Tex-Mex-loving public are let in on the secret. The fact the taqueria sits inside a thoroughly featureless and well-hidden strip mall has likely helped it fly under the proverbial radar, so be sure your GPS is functioning prior to making a run for the Border Grill. It's one of those places many would describe as "a hole in the wall," but owners Chris and Veronica Starling do their part to turn a pejorative into a positive, because after eating here, phrases like "hidden gem," "diamond in the rough" and "Screw it, let's go back for more tacos" are often heard from patrons walking to their cars. Sure, the place is small, even a bit cramped, with claims of claustrophobia reaching their acme during lunchtime hours – but on this particular evening we had the place to ourselves, even if it was just for a few minutes. A brisk takeout business ensures the kitchen is kept perpetually busy, though the way diners studiously pore over the large, scrawled chalkboard menu helps buy the cooks some time.

Our eyes were fixed on the taco offerings ($4.99 for two; $6.50 for three) and after a proper perusal, we settled on six. Of note was the pibil taco, filled with tender morsels of pork marinated in the juice of blood oranges, colored with annatto seed and slow-roasted in a banana leaf. Just as memorable were the bold chorizo taco and the nicely seasoned, and appetizingly reddened, grilled chicken taco. None of the three required a single dip into the fresh-made salsas, but the same couldn't be said of the lengua (tongue), carnitas (seasoned pork) or asada (steak) tacos. While the three were expectedly satisfying, it took repeated dunks into the awesome chile arbol and habanero salsas to yield earnest affirmation. Word of warning: Just a small sample of the onion and raw habanero salsa is enough to trigger a steady sweat from the head, neck, face and chest. Mexican rice and refried beans help to quell the inferno, but you may want to consider a bottle of Mexican Coca-Cola ($1.99) or, better still, the watermelon-flavored agua fresca ($1.85) to serve as an extinguisher.

That chalkboard proves a worthy distraction for the famished – no sooner had we downed our tacos than we found ourselves ordering chips and guac ($2.85), a bowl of caldo de res ($4.75) and a "Chicago-style" burrito. With very little elbow room in which to maneuver, we polished off the fresh-made guac in mere minutes, which freed up space to thoroughly enjoy the caldo, with its clear broth and shreds of beef, potatoes, rice and corn. Chris mentioned that all the recipes are courtesy of his wife and mother-in-law, both of whom hail from Mexico City, so you'll find tortas, gorditas, bistek a la Mexicana, shrimp a la diabla and, of course, dishes served "al pastor." The burrito al Chi-town wasn't a ginormous cylinder of stuffings, or necessarily authentic (no celery salt, sport peppers or relish), but we'd order it again in a Second City second.

Even if you're stuffed to the hilt, order the flan ($2.75). We quickly learned that the Border Grill is best when diners take Tex-Mex to the max.

Border Grill

5695 Vineland Road

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