A Super Serious Restaurant Review of Frontera Fresco for Super Serious People
Frontera Fresco is the worst creperie cum Jamba Juice cum sushi hut cum Sbarro I have ever patronized. Let’s enjoy that imagery for a moment. Anyway. Frontera Fresco is a new restaurant. In Norris Center. Owned by Chicago chef Rick Bayless. It serves “quick-service” (more on that later) Mexican food (also more on that later). To college students. And, presumably, the Norris cat lady. Here are some quick key facts that must be understood in order to appreciate the impact of Frontera Fresco on the Northwestern dining scene and community at large.
1. Frontera Fresco does not serve burritos. DAFUQ. Instead, it mainly serves tortas, which means “sandwich” but which is somewhat similar to “tort”, like cake, which makes me think of a cake sandwich and now I just went to Jewel to buy two cookie cakes and a cake to put between them. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T SERVE BURRITOS, RICK BAYLESS. There’s also a guacamole bar and LOLsaladsLOL, along with some other nice stuff I ignored.
2. “Frontera Fresco” sounds like “Francisco Franco.” Perhaps a frontiersman Francisco Franco. It turns out I’m not that far off, since “frontera” means “border” and “fresco” means fresh. That I had to look that up on Google translate is fairly damning of my middle and high school Spanish language education. That I made the connection to the notorious dictator himself shows that, once again, Northwestern continues to base its cultural joie de vivre on powerful men wrecking shit (after all, Sheridan and Sherman are more than street names, and let’s not forget Morty himself). And again NU courts controversy, since “Mexican” and “border” get along today as well as, well, things on the Mexican border.
3. There is, apparently, a secret menu at Frontera Fresco. The secret menu items all stem directly from the fact that chef Rick Bayless’ brother is none other than Skip Bayless, Tim Tebow fanboy number uno. Oh, wait, “numero uno,” I remember that too! It took me a second try but I remembered! Anyway, next time you’re there, be sure to order the Timmy&Skip4ever, or the GuessWhichBrotherIsMoreSuccessfulNow. I would gladly recommend these secret menu items to you, but I can’t because I have no idea if they’re good because…
4. Frontera Fresco is expensive as BALLS. These are airport prices for an airport restaurant, people. Two tacos for seven bucks?! Chips and guacamole for five?!? I thought you DIDN’T want to be unfavorably compared to Chipotle.* Every item on this menu is marked up at least two dollars more than the free market would normally allow. Clearly, Rick doesn’t like being touched by the invisible hand. If I wasn’t buying this food with munch munny provided by my mommy, I definitely wouldn’t buy this. Ever. These prices are informative, however, in that they tell you that…
5. Frontera Fresco is not authentic Mexican food. Authentic Mexican food is never this expensive, or this “clean.” When I go to a REAL Mexican restaurant with my friends drunk at 2 in the morning on a Tuesday because we want to be bold but secretly we’re terrified because we’ve just driven into a neighborhood that’s actually safer than Evanston but it doesn’t look that way because good lord I’m sheltered, the food I get at said authentic restaurant is sloppy as hell. It drips all over me or falls into my basket so I have to scoop it up with complimentary chips (SEE RICK, THE CHIPS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FREE), and it is typically some variant of brown meat on a brownish-tan grain. It also costs, like, 5 bucks for everything on the menu. It’s fantastic, and that’s why I went there drunk at 2am on a Tuesday. This is the opposite of Frontera Fresco.
6. Frontera Fresco has a wait line that actually loops out and around the corner. THIS IS BY DESIGN. The architects of this fuckery actually KNEW that the lines would be too long, which is what happens when you combine all of Norris Center’s non-cafeteria food into one conglomerated heinfest, but rather than discouraging people with a packed waiting area, they’ve tucked all the prospective patrons away from the restaurant proper. Additionally, they’ve started handing out buzzers so you don’t have to wait right there for your order to be called, which is legitimately a fantastic idea of which I have no criticisms so I will leave it at that. WAIT. No. I found one. Handing everyone a buzzer for their order means you cannot tell how long the wait is going to be. You don’t know if you’re going to be next, or 200th from now. Good luck deciding whether to wait for your food or get to class on time. Not since the Fucksaw Fiasco of 2011 has class attendance been so profoundly impacted.
7. Frontera Fresco is fantastic. At least, when it comes to how the food tastes, it’s fantastic. It KILLCRUSHES Willie’s Cantina, the Norris cafeteria Mexican stand of old. I got food poisoning from that stand, but I kept going back because it was cheap, easy Mexican food. It didn’t always taste great, and it was always sloppy, so I knew it was fairly authentic, but man does Rick Bayless kill it with Frontera Fresco. I became depressed after finishing my tacos. I wanted more. I just knew I would have to wait 25 minutes and pay another 10 dollars, but those were the only reasons I didn’t order a TebowSurprise.
*As a sidenote, Frontera Fresco relies on locally sourced, natural produce. It’s a nice touch, and I’m sure some people care a lot about that. I’m just still wondering why it costs so much more than Chipotle despite Chipotle doing the same.