A Mexican culinary gem hidden at Chicago’s O’Hare airport

We have a couple of themes to honor during our Penn State football “Life on the Road” series.

The first is rather simple: Since you must eat, you might as well eat well.

The second only applies to this season of following the Nittany Lions through the Big Ten: We really like Mexican food.

So with this weekend’s destination being the Chicago suburbs, I figured on using the ultra-huge/crowded/overwhelming O’Hare International Airport for all it was worth.

That meant eating at possibly the only airport restaurant in town — maybe the nation — that you’d seek out if it wasn’t in an airport.

It’s called Tortas Frontera, the latest Mexican culinary gem from award-winning chef Rick Bayless.

Let’s just say that for $9 or $10 you can finally get a quick lunch worth talking about while sprinting to catch a connection.

“Finally, a reason to get delayed at O’Hare!” is how the Chicago Tribune put it.

The Trib was spot-on.

I chose the Cubana sandwich, which included smoked pork loin, black bean, chipolte mustard, bacon and Mexican cheese on fresh bread similar to a sourdough.

They were great flavor combinations that popped, one by one. Even more impressive was a board listing where all of the local ingredients used in the restaurant come from.

We also opted for the fresh guacamole and hand-made tortilla chips, hooked by the man behind the counter scooping the avocados by hand.

Was it all better than the mom-and-pop Tamale Place in Indianapolis from a few weeks ago?

Well … this was a bit more upscale, though that sounds bizarre when describing an airport restaurant with only five or six tables. B

etter than the chicken quesadillas in the hotel? Of course.

Certainly, Tortas Frontera was the best meal I ever ate in a brown box.

Even if I wasn’t in an airport.

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