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Ever get menu fright? It's not when you're scared of ordering because nothing looks good, but when you're overwhelmed by the choices and worried you'll make the mistake of ordering the merely great when you want the incredible. That's how I feel every time I visit Frontera Grill, which, despite the increasingly long lines, is still my favorite Rick Bayless restaurant (and up there for the running as my favorite Chicago restaurant). I tend to counter the fright here by ordering more than one person could ever eat, which has served me well over the years. But this time I took stand. I was just going to order what sounded best to me at that exact moment and not worry, which explains how I ended up with the Oaxacan-style carne asada ($29.50).
Despite the name, it didn't actually remind me much of the carne asada I tried in the markets of Oaxaca—which was very thinly cut—but one bite silenced any ordering apprehensions. Frontera uses a thick cut Black Angus rib steak from Creekstone Farms, which is marinated in red chilies. You'd think the marinade would smother the intricacies of the meat, but the slight heat only seemed to highlight the funkier characteristics of the beef. If that weren't enough, each bite has a faint smoky aroma from the wood-fired grill. What more do you need? How about fantastic sides of guacamole and black beans.
Honestly, I haven't had such a satisfying steak experience since David Burke's, plus here I get to wash it all down with a few Topolo margaritas.
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