Sunday, April 16, 2006

Chicago Part IV: Dining at Frontera Grill

Rick Bayless is the author of my favorite cookbooks, the host of “Mexico: One Plate at a Time” on PBS, and the owner/chef of Frontera Grill. Not only are his cookbooks full of delicious recipes that combine authentic and contemporary Mexican cooking, they are the best written cookbooks I have. His step-by-step construction anticipates my questions and clearly explains how to make these delicious meals. Every recipe I’ve tried has turned out fantastic, and I can’t say that about many of my cookbooks. So, when we started planning this quick trip to Chicago, the first thing Hubby said he wanted to do was go to Frontera Grill.

There’s actually 2 restaurants in one here. There’s Frontera Grill, the upstairs, casual place, with a tile floors, wild artwork, and Toplobappo, the more elegant restaurant with white tablecloths, subdued lighting, and a little more expensive food. Both are amazing, but we ate upstairs. This was a Friday night, and we got there about 10 ‘til 6, and we had a 40 minute wait.

We waited in the bar, but only I drank. Hubby wasn’t real keen on alcohol still. I had a blood orange margarita that was the smoothest, tastiest margarita I’ve ever had. No Icee out of a machine here—shaken with ice and poured into a cool glass. I would have had another, but since it cost as much as my meal, I decided one would be enough. While we were enjoying our drinks (Al had a house-roasted coffee that he drank black because it was so good), the couple next to us decided to stay and eat in the bar. They gave us their buzzer as it went off, so we got a table 30 minutes early.

There were spicy peanuts and sunflower seeds at the tables, a nice change from stale chips and watery salsa. I had tuna with a spicy mango salsa with an amazing rice with saffron. Al had tacos with grilled chicken and beans with a spice we couldn't figure out, but it was good. Every meal comes with corn tortillas made on site. They were almost soft tacos they were so, well, hum, soft. For dessert, we had a mixed berry galette with a homemade vanilla raspberry ice cream. It was the best dessert we’ve ever had. We talked all night about how we should order another one.

We can't wait to go again. For more info, go to the website Bayless and Frontera Grill.

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