"Bacon's the best. Even the frying of bacon sounds like applause."Jim Gaffigan
Judging from that quote, revered comic Jim Gaffigan would certainly have had a lot of fun at the Bacon Lover's Brunch at Frontier (1072 N. Milwaukee Ave.; TheFrontierChicago.com) that took place Jan. 21-22.
And there was no better way to start the brunch (aside from a zingy Bloody Mary) with a bacon-tasting flight that consisted of housemade strips of lamb, pork and beef bacon accompanied by pickled carrots and Fresno chilies. The meat was expertly cooked, highlighting the similarities and differences between the meats.
But there were other offerings, for sure. The maple bacon French toast showcased the harmony between the salty and the sweet, with the brioche layer with pork bacon, maple syrup, cream-cheese frosting and pork-rind crumbles. One of my dining companions dove into the pulled pork-and-bacon burnt ends hash while the other ordered the lighter salmon hash (which may have been bacon-free but tasted just as indulgent). The bacon burnt ends mac was, in a word, sinful. Five-cheese pasta topped with BBQ bacon burnt ends? Yes, please…
However, there were items for the non-bacon crowd, too. Aside from the aforementioned salmon hash, there were veggie hash, kale salad, smoky wings, the fried chicken sandwich and char-grilled oysters.
Somehow, we made room for dessertand they were remarkable concoctions. Renata Jupiter (the wife of Frontier Chef Brian Jupiter and whose incredible creations can be viewed on Instagram @adrys_pastries) put together dessert jars (a sweet trend) consisting of hummingbird cake, peach pie (perfect with a topping ofwhat else?bacon crumbles) and chocolate toffee crunch. Peach pie was already off the online menu on Jan. 22, indicating how popular the sweets were. (By the way, some of these items will be on the regular brunch menu.)
Chef Brian has arranged several events that have been aimed at bringing people back out after the peak (or valley, depending on how you see it) of the COVID pandemic. But Frontier is known for its exotic fare. In the past, it's offered everything from antelope cheesesteak to alligator feet (similar to chicken wings, the chef assured me) to bear stew. Chef Brian said that he's bringing back some of those hard-to-find items, and the whole animal experience is already back. People can order a whole farm-raised pig, lamb, wild boar, goat, alligator or salt-crusted salmon; beef short ribs; or an antelope leg (with various sides) five to seven days in advance of their visits.
And dinner currently includes wild-game burger (with venison, bison and elk), lamb-belly empanadas, mussels and gator sausage, duck-and-rabbit dirty rice, and venison cheesesteak among more "regular" items like wings, salads and Nashville-style fried chicken.
For Chicago Restaurant Week (through Feb. 5), Frontier will have apps such as smoked carrot salad and lamb empanadas; entrees like smoked wagyu ribs and bourbon chicken; and peach cobbler for dessertall for $59.
Live on the edge and try Frontier. (The spot has been in its location for 13 years, Chef Brian pointed out to Windy City Timesand it's a destination spot, as there's nothing else that hugely popular around.) You won't be disappointed.
Note: This visit was arranged.
Chicago Restaurant Week is already underway, taking place through Sunday, Feb. 5. Restaurants are offering options that include $25 for lunch or brunch; $42 for dinner; and/or $59 for dinner.
The 16th annual event brings together more than 300 of the area's top restaurants, covering a wide variety of cuisines. Just a few of the participating spots include Carnivale, CheSa's Bistro & Bar, Big Jones, Oda Mediterranean Cuisine, Coco Pazzo, Ina Mae Tavern (which Chef Brian Jupiter also runs), Shang Noodle South Loop, Niu Japanese Fusion Lounge, Amaru, Cindy's, Bronzeville Winery, Piccolo Sogno and Funkenhausen.
Reservations are highly encouraged. For more information, visit www.choosechicago.com/chicago-restaurant-week/ .