Frontera Grill (Chicago)

Location: Chicago, USA
Address: 445 N Clark Street
Type of Meal: Lunch

Having arrived 10 minutes just before Frontera Grill’s opening time (11:30am), there was already a line up down the length of their patio. Luckily, the line was actually for two restaurants (Frontera Grill and its slightly more upscale sister restaurant Topolobampo) and once the doors opened patrons were sat quickly.

What makes Frontera special is their dishes made with simple fresh ingredients. Take their guacamole ($9.50), it seemed to be comprised of the bare essentials - avocado, onions and maybe some salt. Without the typical zing of lime and jalapeños the guacamole tasted surprisingly creamy and somehow richer. The accompanying chips were crispy and not oily while the subtle salsas were also good when mixed with the guacamole.

The quesadillas ($14) were chocked full of grilled chicken and Indiana jack cheese (and pretty much just that). On the side was more guacamole, thick refried beans and some dressed lettuce leaves (covered in a Parmesan-type cheese). Overall, it was a satisfying quesadilla but personally I would have liked it more if there was some stronger salsa accompanying it.

My chicken in mole amarillo ($15) was a bit timid. I imagined a rich mole stewed for hours with tons of ingredients (Oaxaca mole amarillo guajillo, tomato, tomatillo, hoja santa, corn masa was what was listed on the menu). Nonetheless, the tender pieces of smoked chicken and fennel braised in the sauce were nice, especially with the warm fresh tortillas. I jazzed it up with the red chili sauce on the table and even sprinkled some tart and peppery arugula salad in the wrap for good measure.

All in all, Frontera Grill offers traditional options that may seem a bit bland to those who grew up on Tex Mex and the crazy fusion tacos in today's restaurants. But, if you want to get back to the simpler side of things than they are the place for you.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!