S and I first learned about mole, the Mexican sauce, through Top Chef Masters, which was Rick Bayless’ winning dish in the season 1 finale (erm, spoiler alert). So, when we were planning our Chicago trip, S expressed that he wanted to go to Rick Bayless’ restaurant to try the mole. Later, when we found out that our hotel is basically right next to 3 of his restaurants, we ended up going to all of them, haha. Here, I’ll recap the visits to Frontera Grill and Xoco, the more casual eateries. (Topolobampo is his fine-dining establishment.)
The most famous of Rick Bayless’ restaurants is undoubtedly Frontera Grill, which has been around since 1987! We visited for lunch on Day 4 of our trip – we secured reservations about two weeks beforehand.
Loved the decor!
We ordered a lot of food for four people, by the way.
Summer Guacamole: Michoacan avocados, spicy habanero chiles, local melon & cucumber, mint, lime zest, queso de cincho [$9.75]
S’s sister V really wanted guacamole, and we chose the “summer” one which had melon and cucumber – I ended up really liking this guac! Normally, S and I aren’t fans of avocados because it’s so heavy and creamy (I know, I know, we don’t deserve to live in California), but the melons really lightened it up and provided a nice sweetness. I’m going to try adding melons and cucumbers to guacamole next time!
Fresh Corn Tamales: banana-leaf steamed sweet corn tamales, homemade crema & fresh cheese, chile poblano [$7.50]
I love tamales and was really happy when S suggested that we order this, because it turned out to be super
delicious. The tamale didn’t have any fillings – but it didn’t need any. The masa had plenty of flavor – it made me appreciate being in the Midwest, aka land of corn, and you can really taste how fresh it is. The crema and cheese simply added some creaminess and saltiness to balance out the sweet corn. This was the simplest yet best tamale I’ve ever had.
Big Wood-Grilled Tacos al Carbon Trio: naturally raised skirt steak, Gunthorp chicken, pork, roasted poblanos, guacamole, grilled knob onions and shishito peppers [$34]
We couldn’t resist ordering the big build-it-yourself taco platter, which had steak, chicken, and pork – the steak was the best and cooked perfectly – as well as plenty of fixings and a big heap of guacamole (unfortunately, not the summer one, but it was still pretty good).
Finally, the last highlight from this meal:
Mole Trio: mole poblano enchiladas, pork & beans in mole coloradito, roasted vegetables in green pumpkin seed mole [$23]
We couldn’t decide which mole to order, so we got the trio to taste a variety of them. Out of all of these, my favorite was actually the pumpkin seed mole, which was perfect with the roasted vegetables. But honestly, all three were delicious, complex, and hearty.
Can you believe that those were only about half of the food we ordered for our group of four? We also had garlicky mushrooms, pork in tinga poblana, and a trio of smoked chicken taquitas, ceviche tostadas, and cheese empanadas. Needless to say, we left stuffed and really happy.
445 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
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