River West, Game Meat

Step Up Your Game and Head to Frontier

Photo, Eater Chicago

Photo: Eater Chicago

Frontier is unlike any other restaurant in Chicago. Stepping off the street and into Frontier, located in West Town, patrons are transplanted to the Old West, with tall, exposed timber ceilings, and a stuffed grizzly bear located in the center of the bar overlooking the restaurant. An indoor-outdoor space connected to the restaurant features a cozy fireplace inviting guests to grab a delicious cocktail from the bar and gather ‘round. The second story is reserved for private parties – many of which elect the popular whole animal service, choosing from everything from wild boar, to goat, to alligator.

The menu, revamped just prior to our visit, features game meats such as bison, elk and venison that are smoked, fried, grilled and ground. On our visit, the $2 game meat taco featured camel, smothered in a spicy horseradish sauce. The interplay of fried chicken thigh, maple jack cheese, molasses mustard and pickled banana peppers made for one of the most harmonious flavor combinations a sandwich has ever offered.

While meats are the focus on this frontier, plenty of formidable seafood and vegetables options are offered, as well, with some being executed better than others. The shrimp and grits, offering a plethora of crustaceans swimming in the creamy grits, is a bit heavy. However, fully sustainable smoked Skuna Bay salmon is tastier and far friendlier for the waist-line, and is served with southern potato salad, spicy kale slaw and a delicious cast iron cornbread. The texture of the roasted shrooms was a bit spongy and the flavor a little off, but the cauliflower, with lemon, tarragon, garlic and almonds, made up for that misstep. Best of all, however, was the mushroom ravioli, featuring foraged mushrooms, ricotta and a rich egg yolk that blended the flavors seamlessly. Deviled eggs, with cayenne and extra virgin olive oil, are also not to be missed.

Desserts are not a focus, so instead of a skillet cookie which is difficult to release from the cast iron pan in which it is served, order another craft beer or housemade cocktail instead. I recommend the Pamplemousse, a refreshing combination of Tanqueray gin, St. Germain, grilled lemon and fresh grapefruit.

If your taste buds are up for an adventure and you want to live the pioneer lifestyle for a few hours, hop in your buggy and head down to Frontier.