Deliciously Decadent: Chicago's Topolobampo

It was a bone-achingly cold New Year’s Eve night in Chicago, but inside Topolobampo, the staff whisked away our heavy coats and considerable winter accoutrements, guided us to a tucked-away corner table, and invited us to slip on celebratory cardboard top hats. Over the hours ahead we would enjoy the restaurant’s best dishes from the previous year, a curated sampling of richness and spice, freshness and warmth, gathered together for one night only.

“Topolo,” as the restaurant’s fans call it, is the crown jewel in Rick Bayless' growing restaurant portfolio, although, compared to his peers, Bayless has expanded with slow and deliberate consideration. Topolo, and its casual sibling, Frontera Grill, opened in 1987, while Xoco, the quick-service street food restaurant, opened around the corner in 2010. All three restaurants are in a once-gritty, now posh, section of Chicago's River North neighborhood, just a few the

boutiques locks from on Michigan Avenue. Over the 16 years since the original restaurants opened, Bayless has become America's authority on Mexican cuisine. He has taken home multiple James Beard awards, including National Chef of the Year and Humanitarian of the Year; authored eight cookbooks; including one with his daughter, Lanie; and he even took home the top prize on Bravo's Top Chef Masters. The ninth season of his cooking show,

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