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Aug 11, 2007 09:28 PM

rick bayless.

worth a visit? deb and i are nyc mavens and have some business in your city for a mere two nights a week from monday. i'm really ticked that i won't catch a baseball game, see the inside of a superior museum or get a chance to fully utilize my aia guide (yes, i'm a fan of your architecture).

i was thinking a bayless restaurant for one night and a pizza place/finger food joint for the other. does this make sense? we'll be staying at the w in city central. i'm a mass-transit fan but taxis are ok.

thanks in advance.


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  1. Frontera wouldn't be my first choice, although its not bad. Do you have your heart set on Mexican? What do you like?

    3 Replies
    1. re: wak

      Second the non-recommendation for frontera...Food not worth the wait. Flavors just not very good.

      1. re: wak

        i have a bayless cookbook and want to calibrate how recipes should really taste.

        1. re: wak

          Depends on if you want real Mexican food or pseudo-mexican. If you want the former, then Frontera is the place to go.

        2. Sounds good to me. I fly out from Califonia yearly to eat at Frontera/Topolo. The food is great. The only time I've had a bad experience was after a big pancake/omelet brunch. I didn't have enough room for all five courses at Topolo. I have high expectations and they've been satisfied many times over the last ten years.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Romanmk

            high praise, indeed.
            anything on the menu that makes you happy a few months later?

            1. re: steve h.

              Things that suprised me the most I can remember clearly even years later: A soup of pureed carrots and smoked mushrooms with crema. Sopa de hongos at Topolo. The amazing queso anejo sprinkled on top of some fried beans that tasted more intense than anything I've found around here.

              I go to compare flavors too. I tried the enchiladas de mole poblano last time. I'd say the flavor was equally spicy hot and bitter with chocolate and sweet undertones. More bitter from the chile than I expected. About dead center between overly sweet or overly harsh versions of chile sauces I've had elsewhere. This experience also confirmed my feeling that I had probably overtoasted chiles in the past. And now I have a better handle on how to season those sauces.

            2. re: Romanmk

              haha, romanmk, you sound like me. when i turned 18, i took a spontaneous birthday road trip from DC to chicago for the sole purpose of dinner at topolo. had fish wrapped in a banana leaf and the best guac i've ever eaten. to date, that's one of my favorite experiences, ever. was terribly upset (should have done my research!) when i was in town monday night, but they were not open for dinner. i would have stayed longer had i known when booking flights!

            3. Many opinions on this board, but I vote absolutely.

              Bayless' Frontera and Topolobampo pretty much introduced the subtleties of gourmet regional Mexican to Chicago, if not the the country. I happen to think they've been come so iconic that many people's expectations are disappointed. You might love it, you might be disappointed, but it wiill certainly give you your own stories to tell. Form your own opinion, but do try it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chicgail

                i will. what's your best food memory from frontera?

              2. I've been to Topolobambo repeatedly over many years, for both lunch and dinner, and have never been disapporinted. The food has the same sort of subtlety and complexity I find in other highest-level Chicago restaurants. It seems to me that criticisms of Rick Bayless often come from people who have some specific conception of how Mexican food should taste that his restaurants don't match. There's also a puzzling tendency to treat Frontera and Topolo as essentially the same. Frontera is very good but at a distinct level below Topolo, which is truly extraordinary, in food, atmosphere, and service.

                2 Replies
                1. re: gymp

                  that was my undersanding. thanks for your thoughts.

                  1. re: steve h.

                    Count me in as a very satisfied Topolobampo customer. If it were only closer!

                2. I agree that Frontera Grill / Topolobampo are a fine choice, and so is pizza.

                  Keep in mind that Frontera Grill doesn't accept reservations (except for a few same-day reservations first thing in the morning when they open at 8:30 am), and Topolobampo does (on too). I've heard you can order off either menu at either place.

                  For pizza, I recommend the double-crust "stuffed" pizza of Giordano's. Not only is it my personal favorite of all the Chicago pizza places, but they have a location a block from the W, at 223 W. Jackson (312-583-9400). Order ahead to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes for your pizza to bake; you'll find the menu on their website at

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    thanks for the info. the pizza rec is mighty interesting. is there a decent bar in the area?