Owners Rick and Deann Bayless are widely credited with bringing authentic Mexican regional cuisine to a wider audience. Their restaurant is the place to taste real Mexican food, so don't show up expecting a plate of nachos with processed-cheese topping. The building actually houses two restaurants: the casual Frontera Grill (plain wood tables, terra-cotta tile floor) and the fine-dining Topolobampo (white linen tablecloths, a more hushed environment). At both restaurants, the focus is on fresh, organic ingredients supplied by local artisanal farmers.
At Frontera, the signature appetizer is the sopes surtidos, corn-tortilla "boats" with a sampler of fillings (chicken in red mole, black beans with homemade chorizo, and so on). The ever-changing entree list might include pork loin in a green mole sauce; smoked chicken breast smothered in a sauce of chiles, pumpkin seeds, and roasted garlic; or a classic sopa de pan ("bread soup" spiced up with almonds, raisins, grilled green onions, and zucchini). Yes, you can also get tacos (with fillings such as portobello mushrooms, duck, and catfish). The Baylesses up the ante at the adjacent Topolobampo, where both the ingredients and presentation are more upscale.
It can be tough to snag a table at Frontera during prime dining hours (they only accept a limited number of reservations each day), so do what the locals do: Put your name on the list and order a few margaritas in the lively, large bar area.
For an affordable taste of Frontera downtown, stop by Frontera Fresco, a counter-service lunch spot on the 7th floor of Macy's, 111 N. State St. (tel. 312/781-4884). You can sample authentic Mexican tortas, quesadillas, and tamales, all priced less than $8; it's open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 4pm.
- © Frommer's 2013
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Ask Chicago Locals about Frontera Grill & Topolobampo
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- 445 N. Clark St
- Between Illinois and Hubbard sts
- Chicago, IL 60610
- Frontera Grill Tues-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; Sat 10:30am-2:30pm; Tues-Thurs 5-10pm; Fri-Sat 5-11pm. Topolobampo Tues 11:45am-2pm; Wed-Fri 11:30am-2pm; Tues-Thurs 5:30-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30-10:30pm