I enjoy living north of the Arkansas River, but one of the major annoyances - to me - is that so many of the restaurants I’d like to visit are in west Little Rock.
But I have to tip my hat to On the Border. They pulled off the old Veni, vidi, vici maneuver: “They came, they saw, they conquered.”
There was a lot of local anticipation surrounding the new Warden Road location, just south of Wildwood Avenue and Sherwood’s branch of Academy Sports.
The attractive, newly built, stand-alone restaurant offers ample parking, though some of it seems to overflow to the next-door lot. An outdoor patio wraps around the right side of the building, with heaters for cooler days.
The interior is more wide open than the one in west Little Rock, the style for the chain’s newest locations. The rafters are exposed wood and give the room a homey feel, but with no carpet the place can get loud.
To the right of the front door is the bar area, with taller tables and stools. In front and to the left of the entrance are tables and booths. The open kitchen is in the rear.
My son and I went on opening night. Crazy, yes, but we had only a 20-minute wait. I’d checked out the menu online and knew I wanted to try the Avocado Fries ($4.99). We also decided to share a couple of entrees to get more bang for the buck.
Chips and salsa arrived when we got into our roomy booth; the salsa had a bit more of a kick than I like.
I’m averse to very spicy food, so it’s sometimes hard to share a meal with someone who inhales Buffalo wings, but we compromised. The Create Your Own Combo (two selections $8.99, three $10.49, four $11.99) is really a good deal, and there’s plenty we could agree on, including various tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, chicken flauta, pork tamale, empanadas, chile relleno, salads and tortilla soup. We went with a Caesar salad, beef empanadas, a ground-beef tostada and a fish taco for an extra 99 cents. And since the Ultimate Fajitas ($15.99) sounded promising, we added them to our order. Both entrees came with rice and beans.
The Avocado Fries appeared to be a whole avocado sliced into eight portions, battered and fried. They were crisp and delicious, but the flavor of the avocado seemed to get a bit lost in the rather thick breading.
We were a bit disappointed in the fajitas - good quality and flavor, but the quantity of meat (mesquite-grilled steak and chicken, tender, moist and seasoned just right; only four well-cooked and tender sauteed shrimp; and pulled pork) on the sizzling iron platter was meager for the price tag. Comparable dishes at other Mexican restaurants cost much less with almost twice the portion.
The combo did have an ample amount of food. My son wanted the taco so I took a bite and moved on. The Dos XX Fish Tacos, beer-battered fried fish in a white flour tortilla, was seasoned well, hot and crisp. The shell of the beef tostada stayed crisp for a while and the ground beef had a hint of spice that went well with the lettuce, tomato and cheese sprinkled on top.
But our favorite was the beef empanadas, which were heavenly. The fried crust was crisp and golden, the ground beef was seasoned well but not spicy.
We managed to find room for Sopapillas. An order of five is $4.99, but you can also get two for $1.99, with honey and chocolate sauce for dipping. I’d never thought of chocolate sauce as an option but it was amazing with the cinnamon sprinkled on top.
On our second visit, we both chose the Create Your Own Combo and an order of Guacamole ($5.99), which was delicious, with visible chunks of creamy avocado and just-right seasoning. Most restaurants serve guacamole in bowls, which makes a small order look bigger; On the Border serves it on a plate atop what looked to be a strip of banana leaf, which made it appear smaller than it was. You can also order the Guacamole Live! experience; for $8.49, they’ll make it at your table.
In addition to revisiting the beef empanadas and tostada, I ordered a Slow-Cooked Pulled Chicken Enchilada and a Pork Tamale. I got a Green Chile Chicken Enchilada that I had to pass to my son because I couldn’t eat it. And it cost me an extra 99 cents.
But the pork tamale was delicious, tender and flavorful and not overwhelmed by the cornmeal shell, topped with a mild brown sauce with an attractive creamy swirl that added a delicate smoothness.
My son got a pulled chicken enchilada, which I tasted and would have enjoyed. His chicken empanadas were tasty but not as good as the beef ones.
We split an amazing Border Brownie Sundae ($6.29), a large, piping-hot brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (perfect together), drizzled with a pecan praline sauce.
I was told I’d have a 15-minute wait for a call-in order, but it was more like 30. That didn’t bother me as much as my missing guacamole when I got home. (I went back and got it later, since I’d paid for it.) Overall, the food traveled well and stayed warm in the foam containers.
On the Border
Address: 6000 Warden Road, Sherwood Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday Cuisine: Mexican/Southwestern Alcohol: Yes Carryout: Yes Wheelchair accessible: Yes Credit cards: V, MC, D, AE (501) 476-7180 OnTheBorder.com
Weekend, Pages 40 on 11/07/2013
Print Headline: Sherwood’s On the Border plates up delicious fare