Tag Archives: chicago

Frontera Grill (Chicago, IL)

As I mentioned before in my Blue Ginger review, I generally eschew the restaurants of celebrity chefs, since they generally seem to be busier attempting to be celebrities than being successful chefs and restauranteurs. That said, there are several prominent chefs who I think manage to run consistently good restaurants without selling themselves out, keeping the focus on the food. One of these is Rick Bayless (author of one of my most-used cookbooks), and owner of several good restaurants including Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. I really want to do Topolobampo, but since the primary purpose of our trip was meeting up with friends (for our annual Death March 20+ mile walk through a metro area), and the fact that I’ve been a bit organizationally challenged recently, we just weren’t able to work the reservations (what little effort we put into trying to score good reservations was spent on an unsuccessful waiting list slot for Alinea). So Topolobampo will have to wait for another time, and I can live vicariously through my friend Emily (who is a meticulous planner when it comes to food trips), who posted photos of her trip in 2011. But there’s a nice consolation prize here: right next door to Topolobampo is Frontera Grill, and with a modicum of effort you can generally get in without trouble; most of the seating at Frontera is reserved for walk-ins…

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Concerning Chicago Style Hot Dogs (Chicago, IL)

One of the great things about hot dogs is that they really do have a fair bit of regional variation. I’ve had “rippers” from Rutt’s Hut in New Jersey. I’ve had Coney Islands in Detroit (not to be confused with a Nathan’s hot dog from the actual Coney Island). I’ve had Rochester whites. Rochester red hots. Carolina slaw dogs. The list goes on. One of my favorite varieties, however, is the Chicago-style Hot Dog. Not content to just have an hot dog on a bun, Chicagoans demand that pretty much every aspect of the hot dog is pimped. The hot dog itself must be all-beef (preferably Vienna brand). The bun should have poppy seeds on it. The preferred condiments are chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, livid-green relish, celery salt, a pickle, and just enough “sport peppers” lined up to match the length of the hot dog. It’s known as “draggin’ it through the garden,” and, quite frankly, I like the result, even if it does bury the hot dog a little bit.

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Billy Goat Tavern (Chicago, IL)

My burger tastings continue, this time with a visit to the famous Billy Goat Tavern on the lower level of Michigan Avenue. Most everyone that’s even vaguely close to me in age knows the Billy Goat Tavern, if only by reputation, since it’s the inspiration for the “cheezeborger cheezeborger” SNL skit. It’s also a chronic inhabitant of online “top 10 burger” lists, so it’s definitely one of those places I had to review for completeness (this wasn’t my first visit, I’ve been there several times before, albeit without camera. The Billy Goat is definitely one of those places where ambiance is an important part of the experience…

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