Frontier pays homage to old-school ideas of the American West while transforming its indigenous ingredients into modern-day concepts. Located in West Town’s Milwaukee Avenue, this communal restaurant pushes the envelope with its wild protein based dishes, its whole nose-to-tail animal roasts, and its liquid creations, letting nature dictate the menu.
There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier. – Charles Kettering
True to its name, Frontier’s space is both rustic and communal. Drawing inspiration from the location itself, each of the four rooms have been constructed to heavily emphasize the importance of elevating each dining experience to reflect a new-but-old pioneer adventure. Patrons enter through the main bar, composed of warm-wood, exposed timber, and natural brick. There is also an outside beer garden (with a retractable roof), an intimate upstairs lounge, and the chef’s table. While Frontier is a neighborhood spot to visit, enjoy, and relax in, it also functions as a full-blown full-animal “catering” service offering options such as nose to tail meals, shrimp boils, to even a family style-brunch, all featuring a specific menu item with accompaniments.
For those who enjoy an adventure, Frontier’s current menu is playful, yet approachable. Ranging from alligator, wild boar, and turtle, to even familiar proteins such as lamb, oysters, and chicken wings, Chef Brian Jupiter prepares each dish to deliver excitement and surprise. By showcasing enticing and unusual creations on the menu, Frontier aims to impress with its creativity and approachable concepts, using uncommon ingredients. By popular demand and high recommendations, the turtle bolognese was a memorable standout and my personal favorite dish of the evening. Ground Louisiana Snapping Turtle, gnocchi, roasted tomato, ricotta and shaved Pecorino with garlic toast made for a rustic and satisfying entrée to share, introducing eaters to a new way of embracing these shelled creatures.
Gaining recognition and being additional top sellers on the “shareable” dishes of the menu, the peppadew peppers as well as the alligator scallopini are also eye appealing and definitely worth a try. With a large inventory of proteins available for all ranges of appetite, it’s no surprise that seasonality and sustainability are the driving forces of the food and even influencing the liquid portion of the menu.
By focusing on the seasons and sometimes, just choosing a weird ingredient to enhance like shrubs or pistachio syrup, head beverage director Sean Nielson, uses his imagination and skills to deliver craft cocktails with a twist. With simple substitutions like adding chocolate bitters and mezcal to an Old Fashioned or even ingredients like pisco, corn flowers, and local beer to the “Millie’s Special,” the beverages equally wow its patrons with its uncommon flavors and pop of flavor.
Reinforcing the idea of a communal setting and sharing, Frontier offers its own punch service in addition to its cocktail menu. Hand crafted and serving up parties of six or more, a handful of rotating flavors are available, even prepared for catered parties or special event nights. The “East Meets West” is Frontier’s take on a sweet lemonade punch. Combining lemongrass vodka, King’s Ginger Liqueur, cognac, fresh lemon juice, agave, and muddled mint makes for a beverage that is both sweet and tart, leaving a pleasant pucker on your taste buds.
Another custom creation and a crowd-pleaser is the “Front Porch Sour.” The herby chamomile infused rye whiskey cuts through the frothy egg white while the angostura bitters softly enhance the mint, finishing the sip with a clean taste of lemon. Whether it’s before, during, or after your meal, this cocktail was comforting and light – a perfect go-to drink that is acceptable at any time of the day. Although this beverage wasn’t entirely intended to be a cocktail that is seasonally “on tap,” the constant customer gravitation for the Front Porch Sour deems this libation as one that is here to stay (for now).
Drawing inspiration from the American frontier and remaining an inventive “wild to table,” approach, Frontier continues to thrive with creativity and offer a unique experience to its patrons. Although this hyper-diversified restaurant evolves with seasonal creativity, Frontier’s concept and goals are a constant: They want to continue to celebrate their concept through its space, through its menu, and most importantly, through its hospitality.
Food Photography was supplied by CL photography and Aimee Gasior; Interior/Exterior Shots by Daniel Kelleghan Photography
Frontier Chicago 1072 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642