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Frontera Grill -James Beard Outstanding Rest. of the Year

Frontera Grill -James Beard Outstanding Rest. of the Year
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  • Post #61 - August 21st, 2009, 8:23 am
    Post #61 - August 21st, 2009, 8:23 am Post #61 - August 21st, 2009, 8:23 am
    Kennyz wrote:
    jimswside wrote:btw I also enjoy the bar area @ Frontera, but then again I love tequila, and checking out the bottles on hand


    Next time you're there, ask for Gerardo if he's not the one already taking care of you. The man is passionate about his tequila, and really seems to know his stuff. On his recommendation, I finished last night's meal with this:

    Image

    Apparently, Casa Noble is the first tequila maker to try single-barrel aging, and they use charred French oak barrels. This single barrel Añejo was incredibly rich and smoky, with significant vanilla and caramel notes. It was really special.



    thanks for the tip. I enjoy anejo's, and the different flavor notes the distiller can bring out.
  • Post #62 - August 31st, 2009, 3:33 pm
    Post #62 - August 31st, 2009, 3:33 pm Post #62 - August 31st, 2009, 3:33 pm
    Can anyone lend some insight into what the wait may be like at Frontera Grill on Friday around 8pm? I'll add it'll be this Friday, before the long weekend so I'm hoping it will be a little LESS crowded than usual. It's before any tourists make it in and hopefully some natives are already gone. Maybe that's just wishful thinking.

    -J
  • Post #63 - August 31st, 2009, 3:52 pm
    Post #63 - August 31st, 2009, 3:52 pm Post #63 - August 31st, 2009, 3:52 pm
    shadesofjay wrote:Can anyone lend some insight into what the wait may be like at Frontera Grill on Friday around 8pm? I'll add it'll be this Friday, before the long weekend so I'm hoping it will be a little LESS crowded than usual. It's before any tourists make it in and hopefully some natives are already gone. Maybe that's just wishful thinking.

    -J


    It will be 3 hours, or they will just tell you that they cannot accommodate.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #64 - September 1st, 2009, 6:31 am
    Post #64 - September 1st, 2009, 6:31 am Post #64 - September 1st, 2009, 6:31 am
    shadesofjay wrote:Can anyone lend some insight into what the wait may be like at Frontera Grill on Friday around 8pm? I'll add it'll be this Friday, before the long weekend so I'm hoping it will be a little LESS crowded than usual. It's before any tourists make it in and hopefully some natives are already gone. Maybe that's just wishful thinking.

    -J

    If you want to eat at 8pm, get there around 5:30, leave your name and cell phone number, and then return shortly before the anticipated seating time or at least be close by. They'll call you about when your table is ready.
  • Post #65 - September 1st, 2009, 8:23 am
    Post #65 - September 1st, 2009, 8:23 am Post #65 - September 1st, 2009, 8:23 am
    FYI, I was walking past Frontera last Friday at about 4:30 - 4:45 pm ish - there were at least 60 people queued up outside. Just me, but I'd avoid Fridays there for the next few weeks, its seems a lot more crowded than normal.
  • Post #66 - September 1st, 2009, 8:25 am
    Post #66 - September 1st, 2009, 8:25 am Post #66 - September 1st, 2009, 8:25 am
    If you're a party of 1 or 2 with a bit of polite aggressiveness in you, I think you'd be able to snag bar stools with minimal wait, any day/ any time.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #67 - September 10th, 2009, 11:22 am
    Post #67 - September 10th, 2009, 11:22 am Post #67 - September 10th, 2009, 11:22 am
    For anyone keen to try the tasting menu that appeared on TCM, it has been extended to October 10. I don't know if the items will remain available as ala carte possibilities.

    I stopped by last night, finally, and followed in Kennyz's footsteps -- tuna with black mole and cochinita pibil. Wow. Wow wow wow. The black mole really had a great, deep flavor that continued to develop and sit with me long after I licked the plate clean (not literally, of course - though I was tempted to grab a straw from the bar and finish it that way). Pumpkin seeds added some great texture and even a slight bitterness that complimented the chocolate flavors from the mole sauce. The portion size was small, I felt - the pieces of tuna are about the size of a quarter - but I think I really just wanted more of it.

    The pork, though... it smelled so wonderful - that was the first thing that hit me. As Kennyz noted, the pork was compressed a little into a meat-cake and got a great sear with some carmelization. The pork was ethereral, almost, melting completely once you start taking bites. The trotter was much denser and didn't have the same citrus flavor - it was a nice counterpoint. There were some sour orange jellies, too, dotted around the plate and these were so tart and refreshing - they really cut through the richness of the dish. Really one of the best plates I've ever eaten.

    As far as wait times/lines/etc, I walked in with a friend at 5:30 on a Wednesday and saw many, many open seats and tables at the bar/bar area. I didn't leave until 7:15 or so and while the bar area filled up, it was never so packed you couldn't move around. Many people seemed to be waiting for tables, too, so turnover was pretty good. Fridays/Saturdays are a different beast. While we were initially given the Frontera menu, they gladly showed us the Topolo menu upon request. I didn't think to answer my own question from before, so I'm still not certain if you can get the Topolo menu if, for example, you're at one of the tables in the bar area or if it just limited to the bar itself. The only restriction I did get was that tasting menus were not available in the bar area.
    best,
    dan
  • Post #68 - October 29th, 2009, 2:54 pm
    Post #68 - October 29th, 2009, 2:54 pm Post #68 - October 29th, 2009, 2:54 pm
    I enjoyed lunch today, at Frontera - a splurge lunch. I was walking by the restaurant on my way to someplace else to eat when, looking through the window, I saw the place was more than 1/2 empty (about 2:15; last seating is at 2:30). It's a pleasant time of year to visit Frontera at lunchtime, because the hordes of Summer tourists have gone home and the shorts and white socks pulled to knee-height are out of sight or put away until next year.

    One of the specials - the one I selected - was Pescado Poblano, a fresh salmon filet sitting atop a salsa of roasted tomatillo and epazote (underneath that) and resting against some Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. Though I prefer my fish cooked a bit longer, the medium rare salmon (which is how the kitchen plates it) had a good flavor to it and the roasted tomatillo salsa was some of the best of the variety I've had in a long time. The mashed potatoes, served at slightly warmer than room temperature, were indistinguishable to me from something out of a box (well, not different in taste from any potatoes that have been mashed).

    For dessert I had the duo of flanes and though the custard was about as fresh-tasting as I've eaten, anyplace, the "lemon" and "vanilla" flanes tasted bland and similar. A pomegranate sauce was drizzled over the lemon flan, though (and I tastes about 1/2 of that flan from "underneath" the topping).

    A bottle of Negra Modelo beer started me off and my entree was accompanied by a glass of Riesling (I was in the mood for something on the sweet side).

    The light crowd in the room made it an enjoyable experience and the noise level wasn't offensive. Service was attentive, informed and not intrusive.
  • Post #69 - October 30th, 2009, 11:56 am
    Post #69 - October 30th, 2009, 11:56 am Post #69 - October 30th, 2009, 11:56 am
    tried to go last night, at 5:45, on a Thursday. Almost no one waiting in the waiting area. Was quoted 2 hours for 2 people. WTF? They barely even accept reservations. That can't be right. Needless to say we left, and hit Hub 51.
  • Post #70 - October 30th, 2009, 11:58 am
    Post #70 - October 30th, 2009, 11:58 am Post #70 - October 30th, 2009, 11:58 am
    Chitown B wrote:tried to go last night, at 5:45, on a Thursday. Almost no one waiting in the waiting area. Was quoted 2 hours for 2 people. WTF? They barely even accept reservations. That can't be right. Needless to say we left, and hit Hub 51.
    What do you mean by "the waiting area"? If you mean the bar, why didn't you just sit down and eat?
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #71 - October 30th, 2009, 12:12 pm
    Post #71 - October 30th, 2009, 12:12 pm Post #71 - October 30th, 2009, 12:12 pm
    I don't know, there was a small couch next to the front desk people were sitting on. We were not offered any seat at the bar or told that was an option. We've never been there before. We were basically told it would be 2 hours. And we had a concert in 2 hours so we couldn't wait.
  • Post #72 - October 30th, 2009, 12:25 pm
    Post #72 - October 30th, 2009, 12:25 pm Post #72 - October 30th, 2009, 12:25 pm
    Chitown B wrote:I don't know, there was a small couch next to the front desk people were sitting on. We were not offered any seat at the bar or told that was an option. We've never been there before. We were basically told it would be 2 hours. And we had a concert in 2 hours so we couldn't wait.

    It just so happens there is a bar about 10 feet away from where you were standing. That's probably where all the people making up that 2 hour wait were, and where you might have been able to snag 2 seats and have dinner. Next time.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #73 - October 30th, 2009, 12:35 pm
    Post #73 - October 30th, 2009, 12:35 pm Post #73 - October 30th, 2009, 12:35 pm
    Alright, here's the deal. Show up at around 4:30 and wait outside until the place opens at 5:00. They will usher you to the bar where you can have a drink and wait until 5:15-5:30 when you will likely be in the first seating. You can eat at the bar, but odds of finding a seat there are iffy. You cannot sit at the tables surrounding the bar which are now part of the "restaurant." It's all very confusing.
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #74 - October 30th, 2009, 12:37 pm
    Post #74 - October 30th, 2009, 12:37 pm Post #74 - October 30th, 2009, 12:37 pm
    teatpuller wrote: You cannot sit at the tables surrounding the bar which are now part of the "restaurant." It's all very confusing.

    Ouch. That's a big and disappointing change from the way things were just a few weeks ago, and for as long as I've been a Frontera customer.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #75 - October 30th, 2009, 12:38 pm
    Post #75 - October 30th, 2009, 12:38 pm Post #75 - October 30th, 2009, 12:38 pm
    Kennyz wrote:
    teatpuller wrote: You cannot sit at the tables surrounding the bar which are now part of the "restaurant." It's all very confusing.

    Ouch. That's a big and disappointing change from the way things were just a few weeks ago, and for as long as I've been a Frontera customer.


    Well you might want to call and clarify before taking my word for it. I believe that is the situation now.
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #76 - October 30th, 2009, 1:01 pm
    Post #76 - October 30th, 2009, 1:01 pm Post #76 - October 30th, 2009, 1:01 pm
    Kennyz wrote:
    Chitown B wrote:I don't know, there was a small couch next to the front desk people were sitting on. We were not offered any seat at the bar or told that was an option. We've never been there before. We were basically told it would be 2 hours. And we had a concert in 2 hours so we couldn't wait.

    It just so happens there is a bar about 10 feet away from where you were standing. That's probably where all the people making up that 2 hour wait were, and where you might have been able to snag 2 seats and have dinner. Next time.


    thanks, but for our first time at a place I don't want to sit on a bar stool. Especially when we had tons of time for a nice dinner, but just not 2 hours to wait before we even started. Oh well.
  • Post #77 - October 30th, 2009, 1:27 pm
    Post #77 - October 30th, 2009, 1:27 pm Post #77 - October 30th, 2009, 1:27 pm
    Chitown B wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:
    Chitown B wrote:I don't know, there was a small couch next to the front desk people were sitting on. We were not offered any seat at the bar or told that was an option. We've never been there before. We were basically told it would be 2 hours. And we had a concert in 2 hours so we couldn't wait.

    It just so happens there is a bar about 10 feet away from where you were standing. That's probably where all the people making up that 2 hour wait were, and where you might have been able to snag 2 seats and have dinner. Next time.


    thanks, but for our first time at a place I don't want to sit on a bar stool. Especially when we had tons of time for a nice dinner, but just not 2 hours to wait before we even started. Oh well.


    The bar area has regular seats. If teatpuller is right, these seats are no longer available. Otherwise, these bar tables were first come, first served.

    In any case, the lesson for next time is that you can't go during dinner and expect not to wait. You can go very early, as someone else said, or do what I do and go for lunch.

    I can't help think of something you wrote in the Great Lake thread: "How dare this place be busy? We are the only ones that know about the article!! Serve us now!"
  • Post #78 - October 30th, 2009, 1:44 pm
    Post #78 - October 30th, 2009, 1:44 pm Post #78 - October 30th, 2009, 1:44 pm
    Darren72 wrote:
    Chitown B wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:The bar area has regular seats. If teatpuller is right, these seats are no longer available. Otherwise, these bar tables were first come, first served.

    In any case, the lesson for next time is that you can't go during dinner and expect not to wait. You can go very early, as someone else said, or do what I do and go for lunch.

    I can't help think of something you wrote in the Great Lake thread: "How dare this place be busy? We are the only ones that know about the article!! Serve us now!"


    That isn't even close to comparison w/what happened to us. The place seats 65, not 12, and there was no one there waiting, as opposed to Great Lake when there is always a line out the door. We went pretty close to after they opened, and we were prepared to wait. Just not 2 hours since we had concert tickets for a show that started in two hours. They are much much more capable of large crowd control yet they really had no reason to give us such a huge wait estimate for two people. They don't even really take reservations, so it wasn't like all those seats were taken. A couple were, but not all.
  • Post #79 - October 30th, 2009, 1:46 pm
    Post #79 - October 30th, 2009, 1:46 pm Post #79 - October 30th, 2009, 1:46 pm
    Darren72 wrote:The bar area has regular seats. If teatpuller is right, these seats are no longer available. Otherwise, these bar tables were first come, first served.

    As of a week ago, the bar tables that are at regular table level, with regular chairs (across from the bar) are reserved seating (i.e., not first come, first served). The handful of high-top tables are still first come, first served. The formal bar itself and the other along-the-wall counters with stools also remain first come, first served.
  • Post #80 - October 30th, 2009, 1:53 pm
    Post #80 - October 30th, 2009, 1:53 pm Post #80 - October 30th, 2009, 1:53 pm
    Chitown B wrote:They are much much more capable of large crowd control yet they really had no reason to give us such a huge wait estimate for two people. They don't even really take reservations, so it wasn't like all those seats were taken. A couple were, but not all.


    They stagger the seating. The kitchen can't handle 65 (or more) orders all at the same time.
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #81 - October 30th, 2009, 1:56 pm
    Post #81 - October 30th, 2009, 1:56 pm Post #81 - October 30th, 2009, 1:56 pm
    teatpuller wrote:
    Chitown B wrote:They are much much more capable of large crowd control yet they really had no reason to give us such a huge wait estimate for two people. They don't even really take reservations, so it wasn't like all those seats were taken. A couple were, but not all.


    They stagger the seating. The kitchen can't handle 65 (or more) orders all at the same time.


    I think that's a bad idea. I don't care about waiting a bit longer to order, but I could sit at a nice table and get drinks for awhile while I waited. I wasn't even offered that.
  • Post #82 - October 30th, 2009, 1:56 pm
    Post #82 - October 30th, 2009, 1:56 pm Post #82 - October 30th, 2009, 1:56 pm
    Matt wrote:
    Darren72 wrote:The bar area has regular seats. If teatpuller is right, these seats are no longer available. Otherwise, these bar tables were first come, first served.

    As of a week ago, the bar tables that are at regular table level, with regular chairs (across from the bar) are reserved seating (i.e., not first come, first served). The handful of high-top tables are still first come, first served. The formal bar itself and the other along-the-wall counters with stools also remain first come, first served.

    That's a shame. I have a bit more NYer-style aggressiveness than most midwesterners, so I've always been successful at finding a spot to eat within a few minutes of arriving, even during Frontera's busiest times. Sounds like that's going to become harder.


    Chitown B wrote:The place seats 65, not 12, and there was no one there waiting, ... they really had no reason to give us such a huge wait estimate for two people.
    What, do you think they just didn't like the way you looked? See above: there is a big bar which you missed. That's where the people were waiting.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #83 - October 30th, 2009, 1:58 pm
    Post #83 - October 30th, 2009, 1:58 pm Post #83 - October 30th, 2009, 1:58 pm
    Chitown B wrote:I think that's a bad idea. I don't care about waiting a bit longer to order, but I could sit at a nice table and get drinks for awhile while I waited. I wasn't even offered that.


    I'm not defending the way they do business. It is kind of convoluted if you ask me, but trust me, everyone gets treated the same way there. My FIL tried to slip them a $50 one time and it was refused.
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #84 - October 30th, 2009, 1:59 pm
    Post #84 - October 30th, 2009, 1:59 pm Post #84 - October 30th, 2009, 1:59 pm
    Kennyz wrote:
    Matt wrote:
    Chitown B wrote:The place seats 65, not 12, and there was no one there waiting, ... they really had no reason to give us such a huge wait estimate for two people.
    What, do you think they just didn't like the way you looked? See above: there is a big bar which you missed. That's where the people were waiting.


    see above: they don't do that anymore apparently.

    even if they did, the hostess should have said "you can sit at the bar" or something like that. Or, it's two hours but when a seat opens at the bar you can take the while you wait. I still wouldn't have been able to wait two hours but she didn't know that. Maybe that's more just bad hosting, but either way the front of house is the first person you are in contact with at a restaurant, and they should shoot for retention. She didn't even seem to care that we left.

    actually there was a couple that walked in the door ahead of us and they turned around and left too with no mention to them either. So we weren't the only ones.
    Last edited by Chitown B on October 30th, 2009, 2:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  • Post #85 - October 30th, 2009, 2:00 pm
    Post #85 - October 30th, 2009, 2:00 pm Post #85 - October 30th, 2009, 2:00 pm
    teatpuller wrote:
    Chitown B wrote:I think that's a bad idea. I don't care about waiting a bit longer to order, but I could sit at a nice table and get drinks for awhile while I waited. I wasn't even offered that.


    I'm not defending the way they do business. It is kind of convoluted if you ask me, but trust me, everyone gets treated the same way there. My FIL tried to slip them a $50 one time and it was refused.


    I didn't feel like we were treated differently, but if everyone is treated the same way they didn't even explain to us we could sit at the bar, etc, then that's not about how they do business that's a hosting issue.
  • Post #86 - October 30th, 2009, 2:04 pm
    Post #86 - October 30th, 2009, 2:04 pm Post #86 - October 30th, 2009, 2:04 pm
    Frontera and Topolo have been struggling to handle the spike in interest since the Bayless exposure/win in the Top Chef Masters competion. I recall reading (correctly, I think) that approx. 200+ additional persons are now being served on a daily basis - over and above the previously high daily averages. I looked into the bar area yesterday - specifically at the Ofrenda for Dia de los Muertos - but didn't pay attention to the table layout. I do recall, however, waiters bringing plates of food into the "bar" area while I was eating lunch but don't know if persons sitting at the bar or tall tables were the recipients or if it was the area now being identified as part of the "restaurant." I don't know if I'd describe it as arrogance, but there is some sort of rarified air attitude that might be felt from some of the staff at the restauralnt(s) - particularly at the host/hostess station, and I sense they expect patrons to understand how things work - and not everyone interprets the scene similarly.
  • Post #87 - October 30th, 2009, 2:13 pm
    Post #87 - October 30th, 2009, 2:13 pm Post #87 - October 30th, 2009, 2:13 pm
    I was going to say something about how unlikely it is that they told you the wait was 2 hours if there was really no one waiting, just to get you to go somewhere else. But who knows, I'm sure that does happen to certain people sometimes, so I'm sorry to doubt you.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #88 - October 30th, 2009, 3:37 pm
    Post #88 - October 30th, 2009, 3:37 pm Post #88 - October 30th, 2009, 3:37 pm
    Kennyz wrote:I was going to say something about how unlikely it is that they told you the wait was 2 hours if there was really no one waiting, just to get you to go somewhere else. But who knows, I'm sure that does happen to certain people sometimes, so I'm sorry to doubt you.


    Well, if you won't, I will. I think it is amazing that you presume that there really wasn't anyone waiting and yet they told you the wait would be two hours. I wasn't there so I don't know what happened. But I can think of a lot of reasons why there really was a two hour wait.

    Whether Great Lake has 12 seats or 200 is immaterial. The point is that popular places that do not take reservations have long waits. Just as you were amazed that people thought they could get a seat quicker at Great Lake, I'm amazed that you thought the same thing at one of the most popular restaurants in the country.
  • Post #89 - October 30th, 2009, 3:59 pm
    Post #89 - October 30th, 2009, 3:59 pm Post #89 - October 30th, 2009, 3:59 pm
    Darren72 wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:I was going to say something about how unlikely it is that they told you the wait was 2 hours if there was really no one waiting, just to get you to go somewhere else. But who knows, I'm sure that does happen to certain people sometimes, so I'm sorry to doubt you.


    Well, if you won't, I will. I think it is amazing that you presume that there really wasn't anyone waiting and yet they told you the wait would be two hours. I wasn't there so I don't know what happened. But I can think of a lot of reasons why there really was a two hour wait.

    Whether Great Lake has 12 seats or 200 is immaterial. The point is that popular places that do not take reservations have long waits. Just as you were amazed that people thought they could get a seat quicker at Great Lake, I'm amazed that you thought the same thing at one of the most popular restaurants in the country.


    Like you said, you weren't there. We'd never been there before, as I'm sure a lot of the business lately. So, to see almost no one waiting in the main area and knowing that you can't really make reservations, and to be quoted that time seemed ridiculous. Unless they do cell phone waiting. There was no one up front. And even so, we should've been offered the bar to wait, or some explanation of the wait. As it was, there was just nothing that immediately said to us "this wait is acceptable." At least at Great Lake you can see they have one oven and one table, and a line out the door. I saw almost no one waiting, and saw a huge room of 65 seats, but yet 2 hour wait. Didn't make sense to me.

    I'll be back, but you'd think 5:45 PM on a Thursday would be one of the easiest times to get a table for dinner.
  • Post #90 - October 30th, 2009, 4:01 pm
    Post #90 - October 30th, 2009, 4:01 pm Post #90 - October 30th, 2009, 4:01 pm
    Chitown B wrote:I'll be back, but you'd think 5:45 PM on a Thursday would be one of the easiest times to get a table for dinner.
    No, you'd think that.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food

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