If you are a fan of Saturday morning cooking shows on PBS, you will know Rick Bayless from his long-running One Plate at a Time series. Here, he shows the home cook how to prepare traditional Mexican cuisine.
After attending the University of Oklahoma and then completing a doctorate in anthropological linguistics at the University of Michigan, Bayless lived in Mexico with his wife Deann from 1980 to 1986. While there, he wrote his first cookbook, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico. In 1987, Bayless opened his first restaurant, the Frontera Grill, which won the James Beard Foundation‘s “Outstanding Restaurant” award in 2007.
Hilary and AJ started the evening with the La Mora Menta cocktails and I had a Topolo Margarita. The margarita was so good that I don’t actually remember ordering a second one but the kids say I did, which is such a rare occurrence that they noted it.
Our friend Tim had highly recommended the ceviche, which is one of AJ’s favorite foods, so we ordered the Ceviche trio: Classic Frontera Ceviche, Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche Verde, Tropical Tuna Cocktail. This was excellent and fresh. For his entrée, AJ had the best enchiladas he had ever tasted, which were the Enchiladas en pebre. These had a chorizo-potato filling with an old-fashioned pebre (a Chilean condiment consisting of tomatoes, black pepper, capers, raisins, sherry). Hilary, Ken and I had the Suadero Ahumado, which was a 20-hour-smoked beef brisket with Oaxacan black mole. This was creamy in texture and delicious, and although we could have each polished off an order of our own because it was so good, the three of us shared two orders and that was plenty. Another highlight of the evening was Frontera’s chocolate pecan pie with Kahlua whipped cream.
If you look online, there are a lot of discussions about whether to go to Rick Bayless’s more upscale Topolobambo or the Frontera Grill. I decided on the Frontera Grill because I read that the quality of the food is just as wonderful for less cost, but you shouldn’t assume Frontera Grill is inexpensive Mexican food. The food is definitely upscale, if not fine dining, and the cost is commensurate to the experience. Next time, we’ll have to try Topolobambo just for the sake of my readers, so you can have a fair comparison. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it, right?
Frontera Grill: 445 North Clark Street, Chicago. Lunch Tuesday to Friday 11:30am – 2:30 pm. Dinner Tuesday 5:20pm – 10pm, Wednesday to Thursday 5pm – 10pm, Friday to Saturday 5pm – 11pm. Brunch Saturday 10:30am – 2pm. Closed Sunday and Monday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Day, January 1 to January 8. Reservations available through the website, using the Reserve app.
On our last evening in town, we finally got to The Girl and the Goat. Whenever you ask someone for restaurant recommendations in Chicago, you will hear, “Of course, you need to go to The Girl and The Goat.” Yes, you do.
When starting this post, I couldn’t remember what we actually had there, but the kids looked at the menu and listed the following: pan-fried shishito peppers, grilled baby octopus, wood-fired oysters, escargot ravioli, goat empanadas and the bucatini with milk-braised pork shoulder.
I do remember that I ate the hottest shishito pepper I have ever had and I’ve had quite a few. Unfortunately, AJ couldn’t find another in the bunch that was as hot. The wood-fired oysters were perfectly cooked. All four of us love oysters, raw and cooked, but cooked oysters can be easily overdone and lose their light texture. The oysters at The Girl and The Goat were hot and delicious but still delicate.
Each dish we had was flavorful and well presented, and we all agreed that the meal was probably the best of the weekend for originality and taste, even though we had some great food experiences in Chicago. We loved The Girl and The Goat and would definitely go back.
The Girl and The Goat: 809 W Randolph Street, Chicago. Sunday to Thursday 4:30pm – 11pm, Friday to Saturday 4:30pm – 12am. Reservations available on their website, using OpenTable.