One of the highlights of my trip to Chicago was eating at the renowned Frontera Grill, the original and longtime restaurant of chef Rick Bayless. It was a delicious experience, and I only wish I’d had two stomachs to enjoy everything I wanted to try. With a dining companion we might have gone in on a few different things to try, but as I was just by myself I had to power through with whatever I could. I still think I tried a good variety based on the things I ordered.
I chose to make my reservation for the earliest slot, 4:30, on the patio. The weather was steaming hot at 95°, and I probably could have enjoyed the air conditioning inside, but I could see from the pictures that the lighting is not good for photos in the restaurant, so I chose to eat outdoors. The whole street is blocked off, and the restaurants and bars all had tents and umbrellas and seating out on the road. It was quite a lively scene. The whole street smelled like tortillas being fried and it was heavenly.
The Topolo Margarita is their signature cocktail, so I started with that and it was fantastic. Described as Espolón reposado tequila, Royal Combier orange liqueur, and sweetened lime juice. The server brings it out and shakes it just before pouring into a chilled salt-rimmed glass. Sadly my table was a little wobbly (or maybe the street was uneven because I was sitting IN the street), and unfortunately it moved and sloshed a good sip over the side and I was soooooo bummed. Not a drop could be wasted!
For an appetizer I was totally going to get the Queso Fundido because it’s my favorite food ever, but in the end it was just so hot that eating an entire bowl of cheese kind of didn’t sit right with me. And besides, I wanted to try so many things. The Individual Appetizer Sampler was exactly what I needed.
The Appetizer Sampler comes with: Frontera’s Michoacán guacamole, tuna ceviche, Mexico City-style cheese quesadilla, crispy chicken taquito with homemade crema & fresco cheese. I was a little unsure about the tuna ceviche as I’ve never had it before and am generally wary about raw foods. Although I know technically it’s not raw, it’s “cooked” in acidic marinade like lime juice, but I trusted that if I’m going to try it anywhere, it should be at Frontera Grill. And it was absolutely lovely and refreshing. It was actually a perfect thing to eat on a hot day.
The other items were incredible and I loved them all. The presentation, the plating, the toppings—everything was so delicious and beautiful and I just loved the layers and layers of flavors and textures. I mean, look at this guacamole!
Along with a second margarita (I carefully braced the table with my foot so I would not slosh it), the main course from the Wood-Grilled Meats section was Frontera’s Carnes al Carbon Para Tacos, and there was a choice of pork or chicken so I chose pork. Along with the strips of grilled pork, it comes with tortillas of Mexican organic heirloom corn, poblano rajas, black beans, two salsas, and guacamole for making your own tacos. It’s quite a feast!
The tortillas were so incredibly soft and silky, and perfectly kissed on the grill. I just couldn’t stop touching them. I think there were 5 tortillas and there was just enough filling for all five, with a little leftover for a couple of delicious scoops to finish everything off.
At the end, I was completely full and satisfied from this delicious meal. And I’m so happy I got to try this amazing restaurant that I have heard so much about for many years. Totally worth it! What I loved about it is that it’s more casual so I felt completely comfortable there just hanging out by myself. If I’d been with others it might have been fun to hit up Topolobampo, the more fine dining version (and much more $$$$). If you’re going to go, be sure to get your reservation in so you don’t miss out!