Let's get this out of the way from the get-go: Chicago O'Hare is one of the worst airports in the country. If you land on time you're psyched that you might have enough time to meander over to your connecting flight. If that's the case, one of the following will absolutely happen:
- Where you landed is a half hour taxi to the gate.
- Your gate is currently being used and you have to wait until it deplanes, is cleaned, boarded, and on the runway before pulling in.
- A luggage carrier is blocking your way to the gate and for some secret reason cannot be moved by anyone except one guy who's a 20 minutes walk away eating lunch.
- There's a weird sound your plane is making and the pilots don't want to move it to the gate quite yet.
If you make it past these, great! You'll have time for some of the best gluten-free airport food around and actually make it to your flight before you deal with one of the following:
- Your flight is immediately delayed.
- Your gate has switched to a different terminal a half hour walk ( or 17 minute jog) away 5 minutes before boarding is scheduled to begin.
- Your coworker goes in search of a snack before boarding and disappears for 30 minutes with her phone ringing in the boarding area seat she abandoned as you stand with her ticket and bags begging the gate to call her name. Which they won't because apparently that is against policy.
- You will board your flight and sit on the runway for two hours.
Regardless of what your O'Hare fate is, or will be, Frontera will manage to make you smile. This is almost like an upscale Mexican Panera - with a bar. You can take these bad boys (sans alcohol) to with you or sit down and hang around. But is anyone ever not in a rush at O'Hare? That's what I thought.
I always go for the Taqueria salad here - romaine and arugula with red onion, radish, avocado slices, cheese and a vinagrette with lime and avocado. It also comes standardly with poblano rajas and carrots, but I usually skip out because I can't manage too much spice or allergens respectively.
And of course, when ordering a salad from a Mexican place you must get chips and salsa with a side of guac. Frontera's comes with two salsas - smoky chipotle (red) and tomatillo cilantro (green) and their standard guac from the guac bar. Yes. A guacamole bar. I forgo the toppings because their standalone guac is just that good. You can mess with it and add sundried tomatoes or Gunthorp bacon, but I'm happy in the corner with my two salsas and avocado-deliciousness.
Agua frescas are also a must (if you don't have time for a marg that is): tart with a little sweetness, these Mexican beverages on tap are the perfect accompaniment to this quick and salty meal.
As much as I hate O'Hare, I'm always a bit excited when I have to fly through. I know in advance I will have a BIG headache, but at least I'll have some insanely good food.
Have you been to Frontera outside O'Hare? Any other Celiac-friendly places at O'Hare I should check out? As always, I don't have Celiac, so if you've had a different experience somewhere trying to have a safe meal please let me know!