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Frontier, Chicago

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I am one of those people who never knows that to order at brunch, which is why I especially appreciated the opportunity to attend a brunch menu tasting at Frontier. Frontier is a manly gastropub that has the vibe of a hunting lodge. Deer heads are mounted on the wall, a fire burns in the large fireplace on the glass covered terrace, and a long bar runs the entire length of the space. The menu takes its inspiration from what America’s pioneers ate and hunted while they were on the trail.

Located in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, Frontier might be the only place in Chicago where you can order a whole Alligator (call ahead and bring 12-15 friends). The brunch menu certainly focuses on meats with wild boar, ostrich, lamb, pork belly all making appearances. On a recent Sunday, I joined a group Chicagoans way cooler than me, including talk show host Whitney Reynolds, and Brian Kachinski, a DMK biker, for brunch at the Chef’s Table.
The Chef’s Table is a long table that seats 12 people, right in the center of the kitchen. Sitting at the Chef’s Table meant that Chef Jup personally presented each course, explaining the inspiration and the preparation. Our five course brunch combined the manly hunting theme with a nod to the South. The food was prepared with incredible attention to detail and Chef Jup made it clear that he doesn’t take shortcuts, he ages, cures, smokes, roasts, and grills the meats himself, which in some cases is a two day process.
Our meal began with Beignets served with a rum apple sauce that were coated with powered sugar. They were light and fluffy, and the apple sauce on the side was thick and not overly sweet. They were so good that I completely forgot to take a photo.
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Next we tried Lamb Biscuits and Gravy with cured and smoked lamb saddle, cheddar, and lamb heart gravy topped with a fried egg. The cured lamb had a dense texture, almost like pork belly. The biscuit was buttery, but had a nice light consistency.
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Then we had Crispy Fried Duck served with a Sweet Potato Waffle. I was particularly curious about the sweet potato waffle, but as it turned out, I probably wouldn’t have noticed that it was made with sweet potato if I hadn’t been told. It tasted just like a traditional waffle – and that isn’t a bad thing.
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The Pork Belly Confit served with cheddar grits and collard greens was my favorite dish. I asked Chef Jup if grits are the next big food trend, since I have noticed them on several menus recently. His response was that that grits have always been on trend. I just come back from Alabama, and Chef Jup’s grits are the best I have ever had. He explained that he has a special supplier that cuts his grits a bit thicker, and that they are cooked for a longer time, with a good amount of cheese. The pork belly was extra thick and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
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Our final course was the Ostrich Juicy Lucy. I had never tried ostrich before, and it turns out that it is an incredibly lean meat, and it isn’t very gamey at all. Chef Jup does mix a bit of beef into the ostrich meat to add a bit more flavorful fat. The burger consisted of two patties, 4 slices of gouda, caramelized leeks, and foie gras mayo. I would have finished every last bite if I could, but I was feeling pretty full.
Frontier’s brunch menu is definitely the most man friendly I have seen, and I plan on taking my husband to try the brunch sometime soon. I am eager to try the Fried Tomatillos and the Monte Cristo next time I visit. Frontier might be the perfect place to celebrate Father’s Day… and if you have a big family, you can pre-order whole alligators, pigs, and a variety of large format meats.
Frontier is located at 1072 North Milwaukee Avenue. They do accept reservations.

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