Topolobampo/Frontera Grill


in Near North & Navy Pier

You’ve seen chef-owner Rick Bayless on TV, stirring pepper sauces and other jump-off-the-tongue Mexican creations. His isn’t your typical taco menu: Bayless uses seasonal ingredients for his wood-grilled meats, flavor-packed mole sauces, chili-thickened braises and signature margaritas. Though they share space, Topolobampo and Frontera Grill are two separate restaurants: Michelin-starred Topolo is sleeker and pricier, while Frontera is more informal.

Both places are always packed. Frontera takes some reservations but mostly seats on a first-come, first-served basis. Reserve in advance for Topolobampo (eight to 10 weeks beforehand is recommended). Its menu is based around DIY tasting menus with five to seven courses. Note the restaurants close between 2pm and 5:30pm, in which case you might want to try Bayless' lower-priced Xoco eatery next door.

If you're in the mood for an unusual Mexican-inspired cocktail, say the mezcal-and-avocado 'Guacamole,' head to Bayless' new, small, trendy Bar Sótano in the building's basement. It pours from 4pm to midnight Tuesday through Thursday, to 2am Friday and Saturday. Enter via the alley behind Frontera and take the freight elevator down.