I don't usually opt for chain restaurants, especially since Memphis is packed with decent veg-friendly indie restaurant options. But sometimes you just find yourself inside a chain joint — either for a work function, a family birthday, whatever. I first found myself at On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina after my boyfriend Paul got a job there months ago.
I wanted to be supportive and try the food where he worked. Plus, my parents were in town and they adore Mexican whether it comes from a chain or not. In the small Arkansas town where my parents live, chain restaurants far outnumber indie-owned places anyway. They don't think much of chain versus mom-and-pop. As long as the food tastes good, they're happy.
When we got to On the Border, my boyfriend (a server at the time, now a bartender there) told his manager that I was vegan. And lo and behold, the manager produced this "secret" vegetarian menu!
Sorry for the blurry photo, but I took it with my iPhone. As you can see, most of the options are vegetarian rather than vegan. But cheese can be left off most of these dishes with no problem (like the burrito, veggie enchiladas, nachos, veggie chimichanga, and the fajitas and fajitas salad). On the Border even has special animal-free Cilantro Lime Rice and Black Beans as an alternative to their non-vegan Mexican rice and refried beans:
The Veggie Fajitas are out of this world with portabella mushrooms, squash, onions, peppers, guacamole, salsa, and homemade flour tortillas (Yes, they're vegan! And they make 'em fresh in a tortilla press in the kitchen):
My all-time favorite dish, though, is the Grilled Avocado Enchiladas, which I had tonight at a birthday dinner with my girlfriends:
These normally come with cheese, but it's easy to omit. Avocados are nature's cheese anyway! The sliced avos are topped with ranchero sauce (also vegan) and rolled into grilled tortillas.
Of course, no Mexican meal is complete without guacamole and On the Border offers Guacamole Live — fresh dip made right at your table with real avocados and all the fixins. Here's the boyfriend workin' that guacamole magic:
And I wouldn't dream of eating at a Mexican place without a margarita! OTB offers a Skinny Margarita with only 100 calories! That definitely beats the typical 400 to 500 calorie regular margs:
So all this is to say, don't knock the corporate joints until you've scoped out their veg options. A friend of mine years ago warned me to never eat at On the Border because they didn't have anything for vegetarians. Boy was she wrong! I'd still prefer independently-owned restaurants for most of my dining-out experiences, but I make exception for OTB thanks to its' awesome options.
Question: Do you ever eat at chain restaurants? If so, where and what do you typically order?