Sandwich of the Week: Tortas Frontera's Cochinita Pibil Torta
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Imagine you have a layover in an unfamiliar airport, you've got about 45 minutes to catch your connecting flight, and you're hungry. Scratch that — really hungry. And the last thing you want to do is charge $10 to your credit card for some dinky airline "snack box" that you're not interested in anyways.
It's the kind of desperate situation that can force a person to cave and pop into McDonald's or some fast-food equivalent for a hunger-silencing, albeit unsatisfying, quick bite. That is, unless your travel plans happen to land you in the vicinity of Chicago O'Hare's Terminal 1, in which case you have a much, much better option at your disposal: Tortas Frontera.
There's ample reason to believe this small Mexican sandwich shop and bar is going to deliver an above-par airport dining experience. Namely, the "by Rick Bayless" addendum on the restaurant's sign. Other reassuring signs include a prominently featured list of local producers and farms that the shop sources from, as well as a windowed front prep station that allows guests to watch their sandwiches being assembled à la minute.
As the name suggests, there are a variety of tortas to try here, but also breakfast sandwiches, molletes, soups, and chips-and-dips combos (not to mention margaritas and cervezas, too). If the clock is ticking down until your board time and you're having trouble deciding between the abundance of good-sounding options, the Cochinita Pibil Torta is a smart way to go.
It's a generous portion of smoky, juicy, well-seasoned pulled pork, topped with a thin smear of black beans and tangy pickled onions, sandwiched between two pieces of fresh, crusty bread. Heat-seekers are invited to slather on some of the roasted habanero salsa that's provided on the side, but be advised, the stuff is no joke — like, capital "S" spicy. The only regret? That you don't have an extra half an hour to kill so you can go back and try another one.
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