Topolobampo/Frontera Grill

Mexican in Near North & Navy Pier

You’ve probably seen chef-owner Rick Bayless on TV, stirring up pepper sauces and other jump-off-the-tongue Mexican creations. His isn’t your typical taco menu: Bayless uses seasonal, sustainable 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 actually two separate restaurants: 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 basis. Reserve in advance for Topolobampo (eight to 10 weeks beforehand is recommended). Its menu is based around DIY tasting menus with five or seven courses. Note the restaurants close between 2:30pm and 5:30pm (in which case you might want to try Bayless' lower-priced Xoco eatery next door). Frontera is open Saturday mornings for brunch, but Topolo is closed.