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Rick Bayless Teams Up With Farmer’s Fridge

Despite rumors, a ritzy steakhouse in West Loop isn’t going anywhere

Two chefs standing and smiling next to each indoors.
Rishi Manoj Kumar and Rick Bayless are collaborating with Farmer’s Fridge.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Rick Bayless is the latest big name in Chicago’s restaurant industry to launch a collaborative dish with Farmer’s Fridge, the retailer best known for its vending machines stocked with fresh salads.

On Wednesday, April 7, Bayless — the face of acclaimed Mexican restaurants including Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in River North — will introduce a limited edition item that’s available for delivery, not in a vending machine. Farmer’s Fridge is the Chicago-based food vendor that’s busied itself during the pandemic creating new revenue streams as its many of its previous patrons — commuters, office workers, and travelers — were grounded by the pandemic. Farmer’s Fridge in January launched a surprising pilot program, offering a selection of its salads and bowls at outposts of doughnut giant Dunkin’ in Avondale, Irving Park, and the Illinois Medical District.

The collaboration with Bayless was actually created by chef Rishi Manoj Kumar who oversees the kitchen at Bar Sótano, the restaurant underneath Frontera. It’s a limited-edition bowl of red chile-braised pork with black beans, caramelized plantains, and cilantro rice. It will be available for delivery in 17 states via the Farmer’s Fridge website, with some proceeds going toward $150,000 in grants that Bayless plans to give away next month through his Frontera Farmer Foundation to support farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a rep.

A jarred dish of chile-braised pork.
Bayless’ dish will arrive in a signature Farmer’s Fridge jar.
Farmer’s Fridge [Official Photo]

Bayless is no stranger to packaged meals, as he features a line of frozen skillets, bowl, and pre-prepared sauces through his retail line, Frontera Foods. Other well-known Chicago chefs have previously joined forces with Farmer’s Fridge for its Chef Collaboration program, founded last May. Participants have included Top Chef champion Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat, Cabra), Brian Jupiter (Frontier), and Bill Kim (Urbanbelly).

And in other news...

— Let the rumor mill wind down: BLVD Steakhouse co-owner Kara Callero says Sancerre Hospitality has no plans at this time to close or demolish their ritzy steakhouse in West Loop. Social media chatter earlier this week centered around a zoning change with eagle-eyed West Loopers taking that to mean the end of the line for the four-year-old restaurant. Callero tells Eater Chicago the zoning change is to build an office building in the future with an interim plan to use the lot for a patio. Callero says she’ll update her patio plans when more info is available.

— One of the area’s signature food festivals, the Exchange Club’s of Naperville’s Ribfest, will take place this summer at a new location. The event is moving from Naperville to Romeoville, according to the Tribune. The event will take place from July 1 through July 4 and there’s no word on the entertainment. The acts which play the fest are known to stir conversation.

— Third-party delivery brand DoorDash has selected 26 Chicago restaurants to receive grants through its $2 million Main Street Strong Accelerator Program. The initiative is designed to direct money to small businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), women, and immigrants impacted by the pandemic across five cities. The announcement comes days after an NBC News story about the company’s new fees.

The following restaurants received $20,000 grants:

  1. La Cocinita Restaurant
  2. Mae’s Que House
  3. Bombay Wraps
  4. Crazy Bird Chicken
  5. Evelyn’s Food Love
  6. Chocolat Uzma
  7. Badou Senegalese Cuisine
  8. Ms. B’s Kitchen & Catering
  9. Back of the Yards Coffeehouse
  10. Savory Crust
  11. Sugar Bliss
  12. Windy City Ribs & Whiskey
  13. Saigon Sisters
  14. Gayle V’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese
  15. Cleo’s Southern Cuisine
  16. Belli’s
  17. JIAO
  18. CheSa’s Gluten Free Gourmet
  19. Josephine’s Restaurant
  20. La Luna
  21. Red Pepper’s Lounge
  22. Split-Rail
  23. Russian Tea Time
  24. EggHolic
  25. J’s Breakfast Club
  26. Dak

La Cocinita

2317 Veterans Memorial Boulevard, , LA 70062 (504) 346-6903 Visit Website

Frontera Grill

445 North Clark Street, , IL 60654 (312) 661-1434 Visit Website


2500 West Chicago Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 697-4413 Visit Website


200 North Green Street, , IL 60607 (312) 761-1717 Visit Website


1072 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642 (773) 772-4322 Visit Website

Back of the Yards Coffeehouse

2059 West 47th Street, , IL 60609 (773) 475-6381 Visit Website

Saigon Sisters

567 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 496-0090 Visit Website

Girl & The Goat

809 West Randolph Street, , IL 60607 (312) 492-6262 Visit Website

Crazy Bird Chicken

1160 West Grand Avenue, , IL 60642 (312) 877-5684 Visit Website


1104 West Granville Avenue, , IL 60660 (773) 754-0255 Visit Website

Bar Sótano

443 North Clark Street, , IL 60654 (312) 391-5857 Visit Website

Russian Tea Time

77 E Adams St, Chicago, IL 60603 (312) 360-0000 Visit Website

Badou Senegalese Cuisine

2049 West Howard Street, , IL 60645 (773) 293-6913 Visit Website


445 North Clark Street, , IL 60654 (312) 661-1434 Visit Website


1542 North Damen Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 904-8606 Visit Website

BLVD Steakhouse

817 West Lake Street, , IL 60607 (312) 526-3116 Visit Website


3209 West Armitage Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 252-0997 Visit Website

La Luna

1726 S Racine Ave, Chicago, IL 60608 Visit Website


18 W. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL Visit Website