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Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless at Chicago O’Hare Airport

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Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless at Chicago O’Hare Airport

Fast Food Heaven at Chicago O'Hare

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I enjoy Tortas Frontera at Chicago O’Hare Airport. This Mexican spot serves the best takeout food of any kind, not just Mexican food, that I have ever tasted at an airport.

You won’t find the usual “Mexican-style” fast food here. Tortas Frontera imparts the authentic flavors of Mexico.

At Tortas Frontera, meals are prepared from scratch. The influences of southern Mexico cooking and seasoning come through.

Rick Bayless, James Beard National Chef of the Year, 1995

Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, Chicago O'Hare Airport, workspace

The huge emphasis on authenticity, freshness, and quality at Tortas Frontera comes naturally from its creator Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill in Chicago, my favorite table-service Mexican restaurant.

  • In 1988, Food and Wine magazine selected Rick as its “Best New Chef.”
     
  • In 1995, the prestigious James Beard Foundation named Rick their “National Chef of the Year” and the International Association of Culinary Professionals honored him as "Chef of the Year."

Now, Rick Bayless runs two fast food stands at O’Hare, while keeping up his reputation.

You will notice Rick's attention to detail everywhere. For example, his chefs preserve freshness by not having more than two sliced avocatos on hand at any time.

The Menu

For Tortas Frontera, Rick Bayless designed a menu that can be prepared reasonably quickly, without sacrificing quality. You may wait for your food a little longer than at McDonald’s, but not much.

I love the baked-on-a-griddle tortas, generous Mexican sandwiches with your choice of fillings, such as smoky garlic shrimp with goat cheese.

Or, you may prefer the smaller molletes, which are warm, open-faced sandwiches.

Prices are reasonable. Currently, molletes go for around $5 – 6.00. The large tortas run $9 -12.00, with people happily sharing these. 

I meant to show a delicious chipotle chicken torta here, but dived in before remembering to take its photo. Can you blame me?

In any case, a photo would not have done the sandwich justice. You would not have been able to ~

  • Taste the excellent bread or enjoy its texture,
  • See the extraordinary generous layer of avocado slices under the arugula, and
  • Experience the sublimely seasoned chicken accompanied by Mexican Chihuahua cheese, cilantro cream, and roasted poblano pepper strips.

Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, Chicago O'Hare Airport

Here is the Guacamole Bar, with your choice of fresh toppings. You won’t find canned or frozen food used at Tortas Frontera.

The menu (pdf. file) includes salads, soups (I am addicted to the tortilla soup), and even a variety of breakfast molletes and tortas, which I have not tried. Watch for seasonal items that are not on the menu.

Lacto-vegetarians dine happily here, but vegans not so much.

Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, Chicago O'Hare Airport

The bar and dining areas offer seating, but not nearly enough for the crowds who flock here.  But don’t worry. You can easily carry any item, including soups, to a gate area.

Above: Watching the Grammy Awards at Tortas Frontera. I dined here before heading downtown.

Where to find Tortas Frontera

Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, Chicago O'Hare Airport, artwork

The two Tortas Frontera restaurants are located at:

Terminal 1, Concourse B, adjacent to Gate B11

And

Terminal 3, Concourse K, adjacent to Gate K4 (near an American Airlines Admirals Club).

To access either Tortas Frontera, you must either arrive at Chicago O’Hare terminal 1, 2, or 3, or hold a same day boarding pass to depart from one of these terminals.

Terminal 1 hosts United Airlines domestic flights, as well as the outbound international flights of United and some of its SkyTeam partners like Lufthansa.

Terminal 3 hosts Alaska, American, Iberia, Japan, JetBlue, Spirit, and Virgin America airlines.

Although international flights of the airlines mentioned usually arrive elsewhere, if you leave from an airport with U.S. immigration clearance prior to boarding, you may have access to Tortas Frontera.

What a fine welcome that provides to the United States!

Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, Chicago O'Hare Airport

I love that Tortas Frontera proudly tells us some of the companies that source their ingredients, including some organic, natural, and seasonal foods.

  • American Spoon Foods, Petoskey, MI:  Jams & fruit preserves
  • ATK Foods, Chicago, IL:  All natural pork chorizo & chipotle chicken breast
  • Berkridge, Sioux Center, IA:  Berkshire, all natural, antibiotic-free pork
  • Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL: Marisol & Matilda beers
  • Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago, IL: Frontera blend coffee
  • Kalona Organics, Kalona, IA:  Sour cream, eggs
  • Klug Farms, St. Joseph, MI:  Fresh fruit
  • Labriola Baking, Alsip, IL:  Fresh-baked bolillo & telera breads
  • El Milagro, Chicago, IL:  Stone-ground corn tortillas
  • Milk & Honey, Chicago, IL:  Frontera granola
  • Miller, Orland, IN:  All natural, antibiotic-free chicken
  • Nueske's: Wittenberg, WI:  Applewood smoked bacon
  • Rishi Tea, Milwaukee, WI:  Organic iced tea
  • Ruprecht Co., Mundelein, IL:  Meyer naturally raised Black Angus beef
  • Seedling Orchard, South Haven, MI:  Seasonal fruits
  • V&V Supremo, Chicago, IL:  Chihuahua cheese, queso fresco & aged queso Cotija

Napa Valley's Gott's Roadside Reviewed: Fast food Wine Country style

Ask for a high-floor hotel room

Other posts by Don Nadeau

 

Comments

TravelWorldOnline
March 31, 2012

Sounds like a great place to start your journey. I love the guacamole bar and will definitely look out for Tortas Frontera next time I’m in Chicago.

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