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May 8, 2007 05:56 AM

Frontera Best Restaurant in America?

I really do like Frontera, and Rick Bayless has done a lot to spread appreciation of Mexican cuisine throughtout the country, and I'm a fan of his cookbooks, and even his somewhat annoying but very educational TV show, but I don't know anyone who feels that Frontera is the best retaurant in Chicago, to say nothing of the whole country.

This reminds me of those "lifetime achievement" Oscars and Grammys that they hand out to artists to whom they have never managed to award anything to in the past. Topolobampo was nominated twice in the past and didn't get the nod, although he has won several non-restaurant specific awards.

At any rate, congratulations to Rick for an outstanding career and good luck on getting one of those same-day reservations for the next few months.

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  1. There is SO much politics that goes into this award.............

    Best restaurant in AMERICA? not for a cottonpicking second! The last time I was there, I was dining with a good friend who is a noted Mexican chef on the East Coast. She sent a card back to let him know she was there.

    First of all, we had an inedible meal, and we would have been charged for the items we sent back, except that my friend and I complained.
    Second, Rick kept sending out messages that he "would be out in a minute." That minute never arrived, altho he did come out and sit down in the bar with his wife.

    He is a real schmoozer and gladhander, and comes across as a real authority on Mexican cooking, which he IS by now, but he fails to recognize the teachers from whom he learned.

    I think there are several Mexican restaurants in Chicago better than his, to say nothing of other restaurants! Spiaggia comes to mind....... but then perhaps Tony Mantuano and Larry Levy didn't kiss enough bottoms!

    8 Replies
    1. re: ChefJune

      While I also am a fan of Rick Bayless and unlike Chef June have never had a bad meal or experience there, I also think the "best restaurant" title is a bit much. My husband and I recently traveling to San Fran and ate at Boulevard which was also nominated and I would definitely put Boulevard over Frontera/Topolobampo.

      1. re: ChicagoJen

        Simon on LTH forum made an intesting point - the 'outstanding restaurant award' is really "given to a restaurant that is at least ten years old and that has set industry standards."

        In that light, it all makes more sense.

      2. re: ChefJune

        Of course there are politics involved. Naming the BEST of anyting always has that. Is the Oscar winner each year really the BEST picture, or the Pulitizer Prize for Fication really given to the BEST novel? But, Frontera has been doing it well for years and I think deserves this!

        1. re: Chargenda

          I think most people would agree that there is no "Best Restaurant" that exists on this planet. But, I really like Frontera. I also like the Rick Bayless PBS show's format of visiting markets in Mexico, describing the food, and then making it in his own kitchen. As most of us have learned, Mexican cuisine is comparable to Italian and French cuisine in that there are different foods and specialties depending on where you are in Mexico. Their cuisine uses a wide variety of cheeses and creams, as well as the "local" ingredients. What is special in Oaxaca may not be found in the Yucatan, for example. Bayless knowledge of linguistics and his mastery of the Spanish language gives us an invaluable resource for defining the cuisine. I also like the give and take between Rick and his daughter.

          Is Frontera the "Best Restaurant"? No such thing, IMHO.

          1. re: dhedges53

            Well said dhedges!!!

            ChefJune...Spiaggia is actually an Italian restaurant.

            1. re: khainajr

              I know that. I knew that even before I dined there last month. What does that have to do with my opinion that it is a far better place than Frontera?

                1. re: ChefJune

                  I guess the way I originally read it made it seem like you were saying "there are several Mexican restaurants in chicago better than his...Spiaggia comes to mind". I was wrong.

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