UMAMI MART MATSURI FESTIVAL
Frontera Grill (CHI)

Sorry, these posts on Chicago are totally lagging. I'll crank these last four out this week, I PROMISE! These will be la creme de la creme of what Matt and I ate during our trip.

We went to Rick Bayless' well regarded nouveau Mexican joint, Frontera Grill on our first night in town. I practically had to sacrifice my left pinky to get a reservation. Confession: I actually made us fly into town one night before we planned, just so we can have dinner here (it was the only available reservation for that weekend). I know, I am manic and totally OCD. I can't help it! I had heard that the Obamas eat at Topolobampo all the time, which is the more fancypants side of the restaurant. I wanted to experience a meal where the Prez is a regular, I guess. What a sucker!

Topolo ("as the locals call it") and Frontera are connected together inside so it's a bit confusing. But Frontera is really festive and colorful, while Topolo is dimly-lit and seemed more self-consciously serious. Dark lighting seems to go hand-in-hand with expensive tasting menus-- I'll never understand why people insist on eating in the dark. It's so effing weird!

We started with margheritas while we waited for our table. There was a dude at the bar in this cherry red cowboy getup that was just incredible. Matt took the picture of him up top. Brilliant.

Left: Mezcal Margarita- Del Maguey Single Village artisanal mescal (Oaxaca), 10-year-old Gran Torres brandy, Peychaud bitters and limonada. Right: Topolo Margarita- Sauza Conmemorativo tequila, Gran Torres liqueur and housemade limonada.

Frontera Grill (CHI)

Maybe the best (and priciest) margaritas ever? I'm really getting into Mezcal these days, I love the smokiness, so that pink marg was awesome! Paystyle, please explore the world of mezcal.

It was a warm, balmy evening and so we asked to sit outside. They actually accommodated us! How nice.

COLD APPS

We started with some oysters. Duh. Matt finally eats raw oysters, YAYYYY! Matt, I haven't been this proud of you since you started liking moutarde. I take full credit for both.

These here are Kumamotos, Fanny Bays and another kind that I forget. All from the Northwest, which are my favorite region for ostiones. Came accompanied with a tomatillo-habanero mioneta, and the chipotle-garlic salsa.

Frontera Grill (CHI)

Hawaiian yellowfin tuna cocktail with chunky avocado-tomatillo guacamole and tangy mango-grapefruit salsa.

Frontera Grill (CHI)

This was delicious, the tuna so fresh! Reminded me of Hawaiian poke. Loved the grapefruit.

HOT APPS

Sopes Rancheros: Crispy corn masa boats with savory shredded beef, roasted tomatoes, avocado and homemade fresh cheese.

Frontera Grill (CHI)

I think this was my favorite dish out of everything we ordered. The spicy beef on the corn-mealy edible mini-bowls were just awesome.

Cazuela of duck carnitas, lentils, pineapple, slab bacon, ancho chile sauce; crispy onions.

Frontera Grill (CHI)

This was too salty; I couldn't really discern any of the flavors. Loved thees crispy onions though.

ENTREES

Grilled shrimp with Spence Farm first-of-season green garlic mojo de ajo. I got this cause I smelled the sweet garlic aroma wafting from the table next to us and simply HAD TO EAT IT. Matt doesn't eat shrimp (sad) so we couldn't share. Too bad for him!

Frontera Grill (CHI)

It was too salty though. But that green garlic sauce was KILLER.

Matt's pork dish.

Frontera Grill (CHI)

Too salty!

As I age, I'm noticing that my palette is becoming increasingly sensitive to salt and high dosages of MSG. Eventually I'm not going to be able to eat out altogether. That will be a sad, sad day.

I'm glad we ate here-- it was a good time! The bill was also totally tolerable, I think it was around $80 a person, including more margs and wine. That's actually a great deal considering they use premium, farm fresh ingredients and we ordered so much food! Plus the Obamas eat here, which is pretty neat. I'd definitely come back for the oysters and the drinks, and would try different entrees. Bayless changes the menu every season anyway.

I hear the brunch here is awesome-- but ya'll know how I feel about brunch.

FRONTERA GRILL
445 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL
T: 312.661.1434


Top photo by Matt K.