It was with some trepidation that we decided to try getting a table with out a reservation based on what we had read about the wait. We arrived and 5:10 and the bar area was already nearly full. We did manage to score a small bar table for two that was cozy while we waited. Estimated wait time was 1 hour. The coat check person as well as the Host were friendly and efficient.
While it doesn't look like much from the street the inside is whimsical and fun. Lots of interesting and colorfull art. We started with a couple bottles each of Topo Chico mineral water to kill some time. We were never rushed or pushed to order in any way by our server in the bar. We then decided to try the guacamole and chips while we waited. I expect some might complain just a titch as the fresh fried chips came with a light sheen of oil. (oh my) I had also read a rather seething review here in the past about the use of radishes. As I looked at the two thin 1/4 slices of watermelon radish that looked perfectly in que with the personality of the restaurant I may have snorted out loud. LOL The Gaucamole was $8.50 and a very generous portion. Served with two salsas. The gaucamole was very good. Next we tried a blue agave maragarita which was somewahat traditional and a mezcal margarita served with smokey salt on the rim of the glass. Both were shaken at the table. Total with tip at the bar $48.
Just as I paid my tab we were called for our table. One hour almost to the minute. As we rounded the corner I was really quite shocked at how small the dining room was. Again more very cool art. Service was prompt and friendly but perhaps a bit rehearsed on the presentation. I decided to try the half grand platter which was 6 raw oysters and two ceviche's. The vuelve a la vida which was shrimp, avacado and lime was excellent. The ceviche fronterizo which IIR was Hawiian moon fish was also very good. The oysters. Hmmm. The oysters were butchered. Macertated by some one that didn't have the first clue how to shuck one. Sadly there were sent back and our server very pleasantly let us know it would be taken care of. I assured him I was very pleased with the ceviche. My wife ordered the Ceviche Verde: sashimi-grade Kona kampachi which was in a word....Divine.
Next course I had the tamale. The corn masa was a wee bit heavy. It was ok for me. My wife had the smoked chicken and pablanos. Now this my friends was superb. As in if I was stuck at the airport I would walk to Frontera just to eat this one item. Right here I wanted to cancel my dinner order and just have a heaping plate of these delivered to my table. This was out of the ballpark good. For entree's I had the Carne Asada brava, a serrano-marinated grass fed rib steak with spicy seared chiles and sweet corn tamales. In my experience grass fed beef can be a wee bit tougher than the standard commercial beef we are used to. My steak here was no exception. The high note was the flavor, sauce and sweet corn tamales were simply spot on. I had to move my plate away from my wife who decided my sweet corn tamales were fair game!
She had the Puerco al Pasilla, a grilled Maple Creek pork loin with dark pasilla chile sauce, black beans and grilled blood orange. She enjoyed it but I felt the portion was rather small and for me it was just ok. Of course after that steak any thing was just ok. :)
We did skip dessert but ordered cappuccino. Probably a mistake in a Mexican joint. It was ok but instant. Come on Rick. I know you have a real esspresso machine at home. Bring that bad boy to work!
When the bill arived my entire appetizer had been removed from the bill. Total less than $150 with a 25% tip.
In closing I can only say Frontera was one of the best casual dining experiences we have had. I highly recommend it. If you go please feel free to send me a box of those smoked chicken taquitos!