Monday, May 10, 2010

Frontera Grill and XOCO: Chicago, IL

On our second day, EHK and I lunched at Frontera Grill. Can't visit Chicago and leave without trying a Rick Bayless restaurant right? I had always been hesitant to try a celebrity chef's restaurant. I always imagine the wait staff to not be terribly friendly and it'd be crazy filled with clamoring fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the famed chef. But I think the urge to try the food would eventually win me over. Hal said it was crazy after he won Top Chef Masters and there was no hope in sight of catching a table as it was all booked up way far out so he nabbed a seat at the bar by himself one day and enjoyed a recreation of Rick's wining meal. Uhm... I'm kinda jealous. I've never been one to shy away from eating by myself if I can't find an eating partner. I would have definitely tried to beat Hal to that bar seat if I were there too. 

EHK and I were still a little skeptical about Rick Bayless being the authoritarian on Mexican cuisine. C'mon...someone named Bayless? But I suppose his dedication in college to studying and appreciating the Spanish language and Latin America makes it more understanding. We'll hold judgement till after this meal.

We arrived to find the bar area and main dining area completely filled. Fortunately it was about a 20-30minute  wait so not too bad.

Once seated I ordered the aguas frescas of the day which was a hibiscus tea and EHK ordered a hibiscus lemonade. Looks just about the same so I only have a photo of my drink though his was more tart.

Next came the appetizer, a Hawaiian Sunfish Ceviche.  To date, the best ceviche I've had was in a dirty 3 wall shack off a dirt road only the locals went to in Cabo. Uhm... this ceviche was actually pretty good. Excellent balance of acidity and spices married with the delicate chunks of fish.

Next up was my order, Sapitos- a trio of gorditas covered in a chipotle and black bean sauce and toped with scrambled eggs, grilled chicken and chorizo with plantains, as well as crema and queso fresco. I think the sauce and crema made it a little rich for my taste. I had never had scrambled eggs that tasted like this. It wasn't quite the texture I was familiar with... maybe they had dribbled the eggs into boiling liquid? Nonetheless it was interesting. I enjoyed the dish in segments but all together I think it was overload.

EHK ordered Tacos al Carbon- with red chile marinated Maple Creek pork, charcoaled pineapple, slab bacon and red onions. Served with black beans, guacamole, fresh salsa and homemade tortillas. I tricked EHK into letting me try his dish first. Haha... I had a hard time giving it up. Pork and I are friends. What a great combination of spices, with pork and more pork plus pineapple makes Liz = :-). 

During our wait to be seated we eyed from the window at XOCO (another Bayless establishment) next door that churros were being made.  So we got an order of 3 for dessert.  Nice crispy pastries coated in sugar and I believe cocoa. We agreed to one a person and then tried to edge each other for the largest portion of the third one. I think I won :-p. 

Ok... so Rick Bayless does know his Mexican food. You win this time Rick!

Frontera Grill
445 North Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654
Tu: 11:30am-2:30pm & 5:20pm-10pm
W-Th: 11:30am-2:30pm & 5pm-10pm
Fr: 11:30am-2:30pm & 5pm-11pm
Sa: 10:30am-2pm & 5pm-11pm
Su-M: Closed

449 North Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654
Tu-Th: 7am-9pm
F: 8am-10pm
Sa: 8am-10pm
Su-M: Closed


  1. I've wanted to try a Rick Bayless restaurant ever since I saw him on Top Chef Masters!

    I'm from San Diego (now living in LA) and went to UCSD too! Perusing your blog makes me miss a lot of the good eats in that city...

  2. Hi Rosa! Thanks for stopping by. Aww... I'm actually jealous of your current town. So many choices at just about anytime of the day. I drive up just to eat... my car hates me for it haha.

  3. Hi Rosa! Thanks for stopping by. Aww... I'm actually jealous of your current town. So many choices at just about anytime of the day. I drive up just to eat... my car hates me for it haha.


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