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Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, O’Hare Airport

by Krista
Tortas Frontera at Gate B11 in O'Hare Airport

Tortas Frontera Gate B11 in O’Hare Airport

Tortas Frontera Gate Locations at O’Hare

Welcome! A lot of people find my blog by Google-ing some combination of Tortas Frontera O’Hare Gate or Frontera Grill O’Hare Gate. To be clear, Frontera Grill is the name of the restaurant in downtown Chicago. Tortas Frontera is the name of the sandwich shop by the same owner (Rick Bayless) in O’Hare Airport.

So which gate is Tortas Frontera O’Hare at?

There are three!

  • Tortas Frontera Terminal 1 (United), Gate B11. Open 5:30am–9pm.
  • Tortas Frontera Terminal 3 (American), Gate K4.  Open 5:30am–9pm.
  • Tortas Frontera International Terminal 5, Gate M12. Open 10 am – 9 pm.

Wondering Where Else to Eat at O’Hare?

Eater has a great list of all the best places to eat in O’Hare. Note however that it can be tricky to visit other terminals without a boarding pass for a flight from that terminal.

OK, Now my Tortas Frontera Story

On Tuesday, February 1, 2011 I attempted to fly from Chicago to Tel Aviv via Frankfurt for work. Tuesday, February 1st, if you remember, was the Day of The Snowpocolypse. I woke up that morning pretty much assuming my flight would be canceled. But no, despite obsessively checking the United Airlines and Lufthansa Web sites every 10 minutes, I was still scheduled to depart at 3:45 pm.

Not believing my good fortune, I headed to O’Hare and stopped for a sandwich at Rick Bayless’ new place before settling in at the new Red Carpet Club at B17. I like Rick Bayless. His other restaurants are Chicago stalwarts: Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.

Chicken MilanesaAt Tortas Frontera at Gate B11 in O’Hare, I opted for the Chicken Milenesa, which was a fried chicken breast, black beans, pickled jalapeños, Chihuahua cheese, cilantro “crema” and avocado. And you know what? It was MASSIVE. This photo really doesn’t do it justice. I honestly think they should sell half portions, because America, this is really why you’re fat.

Was it good? Yes, it was good. It was a nice combination of flavors and textures and overall, it was enjoyable. (The chicken was a bit dry though.) Was I dying over it, like I did at Grahamwich or Butcher & Larder or Hannah’s Bretzel? (All places that boast their own $10 sandwich.) No, not as much, and it’s always a bad sign when I leave half of my sandwich behind. That being said, I’d probably eat here again over the other food options in the B Concourse of Terminal 1. (Although I do always have a soft spot for the Billy Goat.)

What I loved about the crowd is that nearly half of the customers were airport employees, perhaps a combination of the impending blizzard leaving many with nothing to do, as well as the fact that a new place had opened in O’Hare and they all wanted to check it out.

What happened next? I think you can guess. I got on the plane at 3 pm and looked out the window and saw this…

View from PlaneSee those things in the distance? They’re SNOWPLOWS. I counted 12 of them. We lasted about 45 minutes on the plane before the Captain asked us to get off. Then we stood around for ages (until 5:10 pm) until this guy from Lufthansa finally came to talk to us. Handsome older man, isn’t he? He seemed quite fit.

Lufthansa GuyThen we went and waited for our luggage. This took FOREVER. The timestamps on my photos say we were there until around 6:15 pm, by which point I had already adopted a 16-year-old German exchange student named Timo who had no place to sleep for the next two nights. I took him home with me. Seriously. He played a lot of Call of Duty and we watched The Town, Let Me In, and The Social Network.

I never did make it to Tel Aviv. All the flights were canceled on Wednesday and if I had gone to Tel Aviv on Thursday, I would have only gotten there on Friday which would have been pointless. (In Israel and the rest of the Middle East, the weekend = Friday/Saturday.) So I rebooked to Dubai on Thursday (with a stop in Munich where I slept in a nap pod) and finally made it around 6:40 a.m. local time Saturday morning. (8:40 pm Friday night, Chicago time.) I give you Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.  The End.

Burj Khalifa

Update: Since writing this back in 2011, I have since eaten at Tortas Frontera at Gate B11 many many times (I lived in Chicago until 2014 and flew over 100,000 miles a year on United every year) and have enjoyed all my tortas. Because they are so large, typically, I will buy one and eat half and then save the other half for later.

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Shannon February 14, 2011 - 2:42 pm

This post had me laughing out loud! As a Chicagoan I love reading about your adventures in the City and as an anglophile I equally enjoyed your London posts.

Jeff February 15, 2011 - 10:43 pm

Cool, I’ve walked by once but next time I’m in the airport I’m stopping in. When are you back in the country?

Krista February 17, 2011 - 7:42 am

Got back on the 11th!

mark May 16, 2011 - 9:03 am

i think you got the wrong sandwich bro! next time try the peppito, i am addicted, and i am super picky about my food. but, yeah, i agree, super big portion, its unnecessary but i eat it all its so good.

Krista May 19, 2011 - 10:13 am

I had the Pepito at Xoco and thought it was dry and uninspiring!! 🙁
Ooh and I’m, uh, not a “bro.”

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