There were so few things left on the list of things I wanted to do in Chicago but one of them was to experience a meal at Frontera Grill, a restaurant owned by celebrity chef Rick Bayless. I am a fan of Rick Bayless for many reasons, you can learn more about him with a google search if you wish, and I had this restaurant in my sights for some time.
The dinner service starts at 5:30 so I got there for 5 thinking that since I was only one, I'd be able to squeeze in relatively quickly and be out of their way with a delicious authentic Mexican meal in my belly before the big crowds hit. I made my spiel to the hostess mentioning that I would be willing to sit just about anywhere, except of course, outside, where it was still very oppressive. She handed me a pager and said, "we can seat you around six o'clock." as long as the wait was, I was headed back to my home some 1,000 miles away the next day and I even had a recommendation that it was worth the wait (and that I should get the Carne Asadas) from a trusted local (my pal Steph via FB) so I stuck it out.
The first item to arrive was the "Summer Margarita", which was delicious. I sipped it slowly hoping to make it last through the appetizer which arrived soon after, a trio of ceviche. Between the drink and the ceviche I had already been won over though being seated in the bar area is very loud, which I didn't mind all that much being alone but it would have been a bit distracting had I been attempting conversation. Did I effectively convey how delicious both the Margarita and the three types of Ceviche were? The ceviches were all great but there was one that blew my mind because it was so completely over the top, another that was awesome and the third which was great.
For my entree, I selected the Oaxacan Style Carne Asada, but I admitted to the server that I didn't know how to pronounce the first word, so he taught me (wa-hocken). The plate featured an enormous black angus rib eye steak with a healthy dollop of black beans, guacamole and some fried plantains with crema and warm soft tortillas (it's vacation and I have still been at the gym every morning, though i still had to fight the guilt). The plate was beautiful and delicious but I have to say, I wasn't thrilled with how long it took to come out. I worked my way through the meal but left somewhere between 1/3rd to 1/2 of the steak, I am just not used to consuming that much food in one meal anymore. The waiter brought over a dessert menu while the balance of my steak was being wrapped for whatever homeless person I could find first and while I did look at the desserts, there was no way I was going to order one even if I had room for it. I got the check and left wondering, what if I could actually make it to the Briar Street theater in time for the show? What if there was a single ticket available for me to see the show? How cool would it be to see Blue Man Group for the fifth time and in a third city and for the first time since they added new material to the show?
Showtime was 8, I boarded the #22 bus all the way down town at a time that was definitely later than 7:30. The stop after I boarded, a gentleman in his middle 60's got on and immediately went into character making sometimes over the edge flirtatious comments to the ladies and small talk with the men. He was an over the top pan-handler as he handed me a packet of poems photocopied from some copyrighted source and stapled together then went on to tell me of his past military service and how the VA provides a room for $20 per some unit of time I don't recall then asked me for a donation for the poems, which I handed right back to him. I have a general rule that I never give money to pan-handlers of any kind - I have no problem giving them food or non-alcoholic beverages, but I won't give them money that they might use for drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. I told this guy that if indeed he was a service man, That I was appreciative of his service and wished him luck and good fortune but I wouldn't be able to help him this time around.
There was continued conversation with this guy which spread to a blind woman, whose talking watch interested him, and everyone else in the nearby seats and new to board the bus. He exited a few stops before mine and the bus got so much quieter. My stop was just a half block from the theater so I walked quite briskly, entered and went to the ticket counter. I don't know exactly what time it was but it had to be right near 8 if not a bit past. I asked if tickets were available and having seen the show, I knew to ask that these were not considered "late arrival"...I wanted the whole show or nothing and not to be made a spectacle of (even if in good fun).
Here's where the good luck I have had all trip came into play. Before leaving Frontera grill, I asked if Chef Bayless was in house so that I could meet him; he was not on that night. Had Chef been available to meet, I would have gotten to say hi, chat for a bit, maybe get a picture and I would not even have attempted to make the Blue Man Group show but instead, I ended up with a great center stage seat about ten rows from the stage and had all the fun I knew to expect with the Blue Men.
I walked to the hotel, settled in for the night and that, was that.