What do you get when you put two Spanish teachers and three band directors on a train to downtown Chicago on the first day of Spring break?
Ok, that's a really bad start to a really bad joke. Really though, to celebrate Spring Break, my friend and work teammate Matt, as well as the band directors Rick and Kristina, and Rick's wife took the train downtown to eat at the epically famous Rick Bayless restaurant, Frontera Grill.
I've been eating at Frontera for years now, starting back when it first opened. After Chef Bayless won Top Chef Masters, its popularity skyrocketed and the previously busy restaurant became nearly untouchable.
This is why we boarded a 2:00 p.m. train with the hopes of eating dinner by 6! And eat we did… and we drank… and it was one of the best times I've had in a long time!
The decor is authentic art from Oaxahaca, Mexico
Blood orange margaritas, traditional margaritas, and mezcál cocktails followed and flowed freely through dinner. What? We teach middle school!
We started with Frontera guacamole and the signature ceviche trio:
From left: classic ceviche, tuna and papaya, and calamari and shrimp
It was limey, spicy, and refreshing, and I truly considered a ceviche entree. But then I read the rest of the menu and changed my mind. I decided on the "street food trio", a lovely plate of braised short rib flautas, potosinas (a crispy pastry filled with cheese, avocado, crema, and Tamazula) and mole poblano sopes.
Kristina's Fish a la Campechana was the hit of the evening, with a brightly-flavored tomato and habañero pepper sauce and fresh black beans.
Rick enjoyed the classic carne asada
Rick's wife Megan went a little rogue and got something called "Huauzotonles", or Mexican greens with fresh ricotta and accompanied by cheese and salsa.
Matt was a little more adventurous and ordered the goat encacahuatadas, a small plate of braised goat in a spicy peanut sauce. It was absolutely stellar! We ended up sharing a queso fundido as well.
Dessert was a must-have as well… something about a spicy chocolate cheesecake with ancho chile caramel corn appealed to Rick:
Megan and I both relished every moment with our chocolate pecan pie with Kahlua whipped cream:
And Matt and Kristina both indulged in the "duo de flanes", a pair of caramelly custards
The nearly two-mile walk back to the train was a welcome bit of activity after the indulgent meal, but we talked the whole way back about how "worth it" it was. There truly is nothing quite like an amazing meal with wonderful friends!