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Frontera Grill: Not Your Typical Mexican Fare

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    Frontera Grill: Not Your Typical Mexican Fare
    AP
    Chef Rick Bayless, posing inside Frontera Grill, is credited with changing the profile of Mexican food in the U.S. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

    Is there a more famous Chef in Chicago than Rick Bayless? As an award-winning chef, cookbook author and TV personality, Bayless has done more than any other culinary star to introduce Americans to authentic Mexican cuisine.

    His stated goal is to change the image most Americans have of Mexican food. In 1987, Rick and his wife Deann, moved from Mexico to Chicago and opened Frontera Grill, which specializes in contemporary regional Mexican cooking. More than 20 years later, it remains one of Chicago's dining hotspots.

    This bustling restaurant surprisingly puts you at ease, with its colorful earth-toned walls, beautiful paintings and wonderful service. To begin your Mexican journey, start simple and go for the freshly prepared guacamole. This ultra-creamy blend of avocado, garlic, lime and cilantro will have your tongue dancing with joy. You'll really feel like dancing after trying one of their dynamite margaritas. Prepared tableside with your choice of tequila, you just can't beat the fun and flavor of a drink made just seconds before you take a sip.

    If you're a bit conservative, opt for the sampler, which offers traditional favorites such as crunchy taquitos, chips, guacamole, and quesadillas. But if you'd like to stretch your palate a bit, try the shrimp ceviche with sliced jicama. The citrus-marinated ceviche produces a fresh, bright flavor, while the jicama's texture is similar to a pear, but with a much milder flavor.

    How about chocolate for dinner? Sure, it sounds crazy, but it's a delicious and unique way of enjoying your main course. Choose the mole enchiladas,\ and you’ll get a taste sensation unlike any Tex-Mex you might be used to. The poblano mole is prepared with dried chile peppers, ground nuts, spices, and Mexican chocolate. On it's own the sauce can be a bit sweet, but when combined with the chicken, soft tortilla, shredded radish, onions and cilantro, you get a blissful harmony of flavors.

    Desserts might be where Frontera loses some of its harmony. The overly rich desserts should be enjoyed in small quantites. The bannana, blueberry, and chocolate pound cake was intensified with chocolate syrup and a healthy dose of powdered sugar. With desserts this rich, order one, get a few spoons, and then enjoy.

    At the end of the day, Frontera Grill offers fresh, distinctive meals, killer margaritas, and a suprisingly comfortable atmosphere. This winning combination should keep it's standing as a Chicago hotspot for many years to come.

    Frontera Grill
    445 North Clark Street
    Chicago, IL 60610
    (312) 661-1434

    Read more of Hungry Z's reviews at HungryZ.com and on the NBC Chicago Street Team.