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Jul 22, 2000 12:58 AM

Frontera Grill gets the back burner

  • m

We tried Frontera Grill recently and have to report it was rather disappointing. nothing very impressive('cept maybe Rick Bayless casually wandering the dining area)...guess not what i had expected. was wondering your guys view on it and if anyone knows any places that have good mexican food(not fast food). thanks all :-)

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  1. answered my first question. When the celeb chef is gone, all bets are off, but if The Man was in the house...I don't know what to say. I'm pretty surprised. The guy can cook, and he was actually there.

    Again, I'm just kinda dumbfounded. I don't think he's a genius or anything, I said...he can cook. For one thing, I'd have paid the check and run over to Toblapampo. If Bayless is around, you want the full treatment. But Frontera should have rocked.

    this was clearly NOT your lucky day!

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      I am surprised that Frontera didn't please you. I have never had an unpleasant or unimpressive meal there. Maiz is good, as long as you are aware of the pecularities of the menu--It is not really what is normally considered mexican food (that is, it's not tex-mex(in that regard, neither is Frontera))--they are interested in Pre-Columbian Olmec recipes using locally available ingredients--so everything on the menu is corn based (as the name implies)-- You pick a corn vehicle (tortilla, taco, etc) and pick a filling potato-poblano, pork, corn fungus and they make it all to order. It's a fine place--the restaurant just has a very specific focus--you won't find chimichangas and margaritas there. I like the poblano pepper filling.

      Other mexican? I don't know--if i want non-taqueria mexican I go to Frontera or Topolobampo.


      1. re: Seth Zurer
        Joshua Miller

        I'm coming into Chicago this weekend and putting a visit to Topoblampo at the center of my birthday festivities. Am I making a mistake? Two contributors speak highly of that place.

        1. re: Joshua Miller

          I think it's no mistake--as long as you're not expecting texmex, and you don't go in with real set preconceptions of what a mexican restaurant ought to be.

          I actually prefer Frontera--the dishes are less sophisticated than Topolobampo, they make do with broad swaths of flavor as opposed to the somewhat more rarefied palate of Topolobampo (ie. at topolobampo I wouldn't be surprised to find pomegranate seeds in my stuffed peppers, at Frontera the menu stays closer to the original antojitos, at topolobampo they amuse you bouche with guacamole and chip-shaped jicama slabs, at frontera they give you superlative tortilla chips and fried chickpea beersnacks)-- At frontera the duck tacos are terrific, the sopas de tortillas are great. The last time I was at Topolobampo there were terrific tamales and superlative pork loin cooked in banana leaves.

          If you can stomach the prospect of waiting in line for two hours (or if you have a party greater than five and thus make a reservation) I would say go to Frontera instead (notwithstanding the tepid review that started this thread). If you need a fifth, I'll be in town.

          1. re: Joshua Miller

            You're not making a mistake as far as I'm concerned. But then, I'm probably one of the contributors you mention who have spoken highly of both Topolabambo and Frontera Grill. I'm somewhat distressed to read recent reports of less than stellar meals at Frontera (it's been 9 months or so since I last ate there), but on my next trip to Chicago, you can be sure that I'll eat at either Topolabambo or Frontera, or both. I suppose if either or both have slipped in the quality of their food, I'll make the appropriate reassessment, but up to this point, neither has ever been a source of disappointment, and I've been eating at both places for many, many years now.

          2. re: Seth Zurer

            I love Frontera and Topolabampo but the last time I was at Frontera, the whole meal - from appetizers to entrees - just seemed to lack that spark or edge that has made the place so great. The menu relies alot on tried and true items - really good stuff but lately suffering from some sort of strange tiredness.

            With this said, please try Frontera again and Topolabampo too. The margaritas are the best in the city and the food at both places can be exceptional. I think Mr. Bayless needs to come back home and light a fire under the place.

        2. c
          Clifford Abrams

          Good Mexican food? Absolutely. Just try Maiz, 19?? West Division. Tasty, authentic and cheap. BYOB until they get license in August/September.