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Nov 11, 2007 07:03 AM

Frontera/Rick Bayless restaurants--thoughts?

Anyone been to any of the three and have any thoughts/opinions you'd like to share?

Thanks much!

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  1. food was excellent, we ate at the frontera grill for lunch in 2006. There was a group of 6 and we all ordered something different and sampled, everything was great. We especially enjoyed the lamb dish, can;t remember the name of it. We ended the meal with a tequila sampler as well as desserts. Highly recommend it.

    1. There's a lot of older postings about the Frontera places - do a search and you'll probably be overwhelmed.

      It seems there are two camps - people who absolutely hate them (for various reasons) and people - like me - who love them.

      Frontera Fresco is essentially in a food court with a somewhat limited selection of tortas and the like. Keeping in mind what it is - it's fantastic.

      Frontera Grill is way at the top of my list of favorite restaurants - I've never once had a bad meal there. The food and drinks are top notch, service is consistently good, but the restaurant is LOUD and the limited reservation policy means you're going to wait.

      Topo takes reservations so that's a plus - it's almost more expensive and more formal. I've only been there once and to be honest, I was underwhelmed with the food - but the menu changes often so I'd be open to going back.

      I've seen Rick at the restaurants more than half the times I've been there, so if you're interested in a "celebrity sighting" your odds are pretty good.

      1. These two are my absolute fav restaurants in the US. Yes, I'm serious. Although I only get to Chicago 1-2X per year, and can't even get in half the time, I've been to Topo at least 5 times and Frontera at least a dozen times over the years. I've talked to the Baylesses, who are quite approachable, on several visits.
        I don't think you'll find more creative Mexican cooking anywhere. The tastes are exquisite. The service is top notch and extremely discrete. The decor is a fabulous showcase of contemporary Mexican art. This is a fun restaurant that sets the mark for a fabulous dining experience.

        3 Replies
        1. re: atievsky

          No knock against Frontera/Topo -- like them quite a bit -- but Chicago has so many amazing Mexican restaurants and I think you should explore some on your future visits. Depending upon what you like, you might wish to visit Sol de Mexico for the most amazing moles, Fonda del Mar (focus on seafood, but much beyond that), Salpicon and La Casa de Samuel, just to name a few.

          1. re: BRB

            I like the Bayless restaurants, too. I like places with creative regional Mexican cuisine. My favorite is Flamingo's Seafood, in Mount Prospect, near O'Hare, where I've had the best Mexican food I've had in this country. Not convenient to public transportation, but if you have a car, I recommend it highly.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              When Frontera opened, I worked about 2 blocks away. Over the years, I have had more meals at Frontera than any other restaurant. I've never been disappointed. (Other than with an attitude problem that one person at the Host/Hostess stand has.) Now that I no longer work downtown, Frontera is more of a rare treat when we do get the chance to dine downtown.

              That being said, I'll wholeheartedly agree with nsxtasy and encourage anyone who is in or can get to the NW burbs to check out Flamingo's. The building itself is not impressive. But once you taste the food, that is not going to be an issue.

        2. I enjoyed my lunch recently @ Frontera, I have to say I enjoyed the tequila flights as much as the food.

          I agree with BRB, there are many good options for food of the genre, my favorites being Sol-De Mexico in Chicago, and Amanacer Tapatio in Joliet

          1. Only interior Mex food I've had anywhere that was better than these restaurants was in Oaxaca, Mexico where Bayless finds his inspirations and some of his recipes. In my opinion, Topo/Frontera is the only place to go north of Mexico City and Oaxaca. Sure, there are other Mex restaurants that are pretty good, but if you want the real thing eat Bayless food!