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Readers say goodbye to the wild, wonderful Border Café

For many, the booze-soaked, salsa-drenched memories will last a lifetime.

A fire in late 2019 was the beginning of the end for the Border Cafe in Cambridge. Then the pandemic hit.
A fire in late 2019 was the beginning of the end for the Border Cafe in Cambridge. Then the pandemic hit.Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

Last week, news broke that Harvard Square’s iconic Border Café would never reopen. We asked readers for their booze-soaked, salsa-drenched memories. You delivered. Here are just a few recollections of yet another restaurant lost to time.

Many family meals. My kids would be by the bar and order virgin margaritas while we waited. Had our first popcorn shrimp, fajitas, and catfish. We went there for birthdays, any special occasion, or just because. Kids would always order ‘the regular’ at the bar. It felt like home. — Lisa Miller Ryan

I was on the opening staff at the Border while a sophomore at Babson in 1986 (or was it 87?). Spent my college years behind the bar. When I got back to Wellesley at 3-4 a.m. on the weekends after closing, I would take a shower completely dressed, shoes and all. The smell of fajita smoke and margaritas never left my clothes. If I close my eyes, I can still smell it today. — Andrew Herrick

I always enjoyed going to the Border Café (almost) every year since the mid or late 1980s for the annual Cornell at Harvard men’s ice hockey game. Over the years, I went with Harvard friends, Cornell friends, co-worker friends, hockey friends, and eventually with my now-husband. Some years Cornell won; other years, Harvard won. Sometimes it was insanely frigid for the walk across the river; other years we enjoyed a January thaw. But the Border Café was always the same. We always waited in line to get in, we usually ate too many chips, and every now and then had one too many beers. And that’s what made it so great. It was always the same. — Philip Finch


February 21, 1987: first date with the nerdy boy who wore a sweater vest. He took me to the Border Café. I still have the vest; 29 years married and just about 34 years from that first date. It’s a sad day. — Kim McGovern


The night of my Harvard graduation, my boyfriend’s family invited my family to join them and some friends for dinner. We went to Border (where else?), and the margaritas were so strong, my mother ended up dropping her head on the table and falling asleep. I looked at her and fondly remembered my first margaritas there, which I may have purchased with a fake ID. I had the same reaction. That was Border: a tacky, greasy, magical place that could forge family connections and make graduation memorable. — Gianna Cacciatore

My wife was born and bred in Cambridge, and we raised our family there. The Border Café was always a go-to when we were first married and then with the kids when they were growing up. The circle became closed when I had to pick up my somewhat intoxicated young adult children at the Border Café after a night of fun and the T had stopped running. — Don Kaiser

I moved to New England when I was eight years old. Being born in Houston, going out for Mexican food after church on Sunday was a staple. It took us two years to find a Mexican restaurant that reminded us of home. This was back in 1989. Since then, I’ve eaten there well over 100 times. My 21st birthday wish? Yes, you guessed it, a trip to Border! I’ve even had the opportunity to bring my one-year-old daughter 30 years later. It was hands-down my favorite place to eat. I know there’s other locations, but there will never be a substitute for Border in Harvard Square! — Walter Fisher


My boyfriend (now my husband of 30 years) and I would bike ride from Norwood to Cambridge on many a beautiful Saturday summer morning of our youth. We would ride to the Border, lock our bikes up on a nearby parking meter or pole, and have lunch. Our server was Dan! I remember massive chicken burritos, smothered in cheese, spicy rice and black beans, large diet sodas, and the endless basket of chips. Every time we visited, we pretty much got the same order! We were probably one of their first customers in 1987 and still visited up until 2018 or 2019, where, yes, we were still ordering the same thing! We will always have so many fond memories of the place. — Doris Drake

My college girlfriend and I went there on our first date. It was a place where you could feel like you were actually out on a date while still on a budget. Over many years, I’ve gone there with friends, work buddies from multiple jobs, huge groups, small parties, after shows at Passim and Sinclair, for lunch, just for drinks. It was all-purpose, easy, fun, and the only drawback was you had to wash your clothes, including whatever coat you had on, when you got home. Some places just become part of your life in a way that’s hard to explain. This is one of them. — Devin Cole


Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.