There are a lot more chains than you think there are. When I set out for this week's column, I found the number two place on my list across the street from number one. Sadly, I didn't have the liver to do them both at once.
So this week, it's On the Border. Chips and margaritas: perfect for Cheap Buzz.
OTB's chips are fresh but kind of unremarkable; the salsa, on the other hand, packs a surprising level of heat. It's oddly refreshing and compelling, and will certainly accelerate your drinking. I liked it, and had to distance myself from the basket.
On to the drinks!
A standard menu item at most chain restaurants these days seems to be the Perfect Patron Margarita ($9.79). On the Border's makes use of Patron Silver Tequila and Patron Citronge liqueur, though unfortunately, to not much effect; on first sip, it tastes heavily of generic margarita mix. It isn't offensively sweet and there's definitely a hefty pour of smooth tequila. But the viscous lime syrup makes this just okay. Drinkability: B
The real surprise was On the Border's Fresh Lime Skinny Rita ($6.89). Compared to the Skinnybee at Applebee's or those Skinnygirl bottled margaritas, this drink wins. Fresh lime juice, Hornitos Plata tequila, and, ok, fake sugar, but you can only barely taste it. If I'd been blind folded, I might not have even realized this was reduced-calorie. (The only giveaway is a slight aftertaste.) Forget the Sweet-n-Low in water that other places serve—I liked this cocktail. Drinkability: Give 'em an A for pulling off what so many others failed.
Sangria ($4.99) is often hit-or-miss; this one missed. It's too sweet and harsh, and it coated the mouth in an odd waxy way. Drinkability: Skip. Make sangria at home.
On the Border's Blended Margarita ($5.99) was much more to my taste than the rocks version. Perhaps that's psychological (you sort of expect blended margs to be sweeter), or perhaps it's the blended-in ice toning down the syrup, but this drink has beachy appeal. The strawberry version tastes a little too much like IHOP strawberry syrup; I recommend the regular. Drinkability: B, because I like beaches.
On the Border was a little off when it came to drinks. But it does win the surprise award for the most palatable under 100 calorie cocktail I've had to date. And I didn't even know there was an award for such a thing.