Mar 21, 2024 - Food and Drink

Chef Rick Bayless' Best Day Ever in Chicago

Rick Bayless eats tacos on stage in front of an audience during a cooking demonstration in 2019.

Rick Bayless during a cooking demonstration in 2019. Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images for NYCWFF

The City of Chicago is proclaiming today, March 21, Rick Bayless Day!

The big picture: The milestone comes the same year the chef and philanthropist celebrates the 37th anniversary of his award-winning Frontera Grill, a River North restaurant that forever changed the face of Mexican food in Chicago.

To celebrate, we asked Bayless to share his picks for an ideal Sunday — his weekly day off — in the city.

🍩 Breakfast: Wicker Park farmers market, and then a stop at Beacon Doughnuts. "I'm a (cake) doughnut freak … even though they are vegan (and I am not), they're just freaking good doughnuts."

🧘 Morning activity: Yoga class. "It's intensely physical, which I find rewarding."

🍳 Lunch: With his farmers market finds, Bayless would make "a childhood favorite of herby scrambled eggs with buttermilk biscuits, gravy and wild hen-of-the-wood mushrooms from River Valley Ranch or … poached eggs with beurre blanc and skillet-charred asparagus from Iron Creek Organics."

  • Or he'd head to 312 Fish Market in 88 Marketplace "to ask the sushi chefs what cool stuff they have to craft into nigiri or maki for us," and stock up on Chinese vegetables and condiments.

ğŸŽ­ Afternoon activity: The Bayless Family Foundation "supports theater at all levels, so our choice is as likely to be a store-front theater in Uptown (think Jackalope or Steep) as one of the big three (Goodman, Steppenwolf, Shakespeare) or Broadway in Chicago. We love it all."

  • If the show is short, he'd stop by the Art Institute too. "How incredible that we can visit that Impressionist collection, that Chagall window, those Picassos anytime we want?"

🍷 Dinner: "When new places open, we wait until we've heard positive reports from lots of people before committing to play that single eating-out card. But we're also drawn back to reliable places like Virtue in Hyde Park or Lula Cafe in Logan Square or, if we're feeling dressy, Boka in Lincoln Park."

  • Or we'd bring a bottle of wine to "Go4Food or BBQ King in Chinatown."

✍️ Evening activity: Either another theater show or "we'll go home, [my wife] Deann will make us an expertly crafted cocktail, and I'll find a beautiful Mary Oliver or Pablo Neruda poem to read aloud."

Photo of a poster that says 'Rick Bayless Day'
Poster courtesy of Frontera
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