Frontera Grill, the progenitor of the regional Mexican restaurant in the United States, opened more than 20 years ago in Chicago. Chefs Rick and Deann Bayless continue to run an exemplary restaurant. At a dinner there last week, two of us had lively ceviche ($11) with crispy tortilla chips; turnover-style quesadillas with guacamole ($8); a cazuela of chicken and potatoes, with smoky chipotles and charred tomatoes ($8.50); and a big juicy grass-fed rib-eye steak marinated in green chiles ($36). Frontera pioneered using locally raised and sustainable products in its Mexican kitchen, an inspiration for other restaurateurs.
This year, William Morrow released a 20th anniversary edition of Bayless’ seminal “Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico.” Though Diana Kennedy was the first to introduce authentic regional Mexican recipes for the home cook, Bayless put them within reach. Mexico DF, which cooks with its own style, still owes much to the groundbreaking work of Rick and Deann Bayless.
Frontera Grill, 445 N. Clark St., Chicago (312) 661-1434
Nothing substitutes for a warm, freshly made tortilla if you’re cooking Mexican food at home. The Primavera booth at the Ferry Plaza Farmers market on Saturdays sells organic, freshly ground masa dough by the pound and also bags of sublime tortilla chips that taste like fresh corn. You can also buy preservative-free tortillas hot off the griddle at La Palma in the Mission.
La Palma, 2884 24th St., San Francisco (415) 647-1500