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Spotlight: Frontera Cocina


There isn’t anything remotely Mexican about the decor and design of Frontera Cocina, the new restaurant from Rick Bayless that has opened at Disney Springs. And that just may be the point.

Bayless, the Chicagoland chef who has won no fewer than six James Beard Awards, says his style of Mexican food has “bright flavors” and isn’t heavy because they don’t do much frying. His menu focuses on the Central and Southern regions of Mexico, staying far away from the influences of Tex-Mex or Ameri-Mex, or, heaven forbid, Flori-Mex.

That brightness shows in the decor, as well. More modern, with bright splashes of color — orange, blue and green — walls of windows and shelves of tequilas. No artificially cracked plaster walls showing bare bricks beneath and nary a sombrero hanging on a hook. That alone is refreshing.

You won’t find a burrito or nacho platter on the menu, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find something familiar. The food I sampled on two visits was very good so whatever you choose is bound to be enjoyable.

On one visit, my guest and I started with the Queso Fundido, which had Chihuahua cheese, which has nothing to do with little doggies, blended with roasted poblanos and caramelized onions all melted together. It was a race to scoop some of the thick cheese mix onto a torn tortilla before it could harden into a solid mass. (We won.)

I chose the Red Chile Chicken Enchilada for an entree. The freshly made tortillas held a filling of chipotle seasoned shredded chicken with red pepper sauce. Very nice.

My guest had a torta, a Mexican sandwich of slow-cooked pork shoulder with a pleasantly earthy seasoning.

Instead of a beer as my dinner beverage (frankly, the beer list isn’t very impressive) I had the Cocina Gin & Tonic, made with Hendricks gin and St. Germain elderflower liqueur, garnishes with a long, thin strip of cucumber. Ordinarily I don’t like cukes in my drinks, but this, like the food, was quite refreshing.