WBEZ | Los Angeles http://www.wbez.org/tags/los-angeles Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en $7.3 million OKed for downtown ‘bus rapid transit’ http://www.wbez.org/story/story/city-devotes-73-million-downtown-brt-96580 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-21/BRT_Flickr_.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Transmilenio" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-20/Transmilenio.jpg" style="margin: 9px 18px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 374px; height: 247px;" title="Bogotá, Colombia, has the world’s most advanced bus-rapid-transit system. (flickr/Oscar Amaya)" />Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has decided to channel more than $7.3&nbsp;million in tax increment financing toward a &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; line downtown, according to transportation and economic-development officials.</p><p>The money will combine with an announced $24.6&nbsp;million from the Federal Transit Administration to speed up trips between Union Station, the Ogilvie Transportation Center, several Chicago Transit Authority lines, Streeterville and Navy Pier.</p><p>&ldquo;About 50&nbsp;percent of the commuters who come to work every day in Chicago&rsquo;s central business district arrive by bus or train,&rdquo; said Peter Skosey, vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit group working on the project. &ldquo;If they&rsquo;re getting off at those Metra stations in the West Loop, it&rsquo;s quite a hike over to North Michigan Avenue or even just to State Street. So this really facilitates the use of transit for downtown Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Bus rapid transit, known as BRT, delivers many benefits of rail at a fraction of the cost. The most advanced BRT systems have sprung up in Bogotá, Colombia; Guangzhou, China; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Ahmedabad, India.</p><p>BRT remains largely unknown in the United States. Modest systems are running in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Eugene, Oregon.</p><p>In 2008, Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s administration said it was moving on a BRT pilot project. But the city bungled an application for $153&nbsp;million in federal funding for it.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s mayoral transition plan last year promised a &ldquo;full bus rapid transit pilot&rdquo; within three years. The pilot, according to the plan, will include &ldquo;dedicated bus lanes, signal preemption, prepaid boarding or on-board fare verification, multiple entry and exits points on the buses, limited stops, and street-level boarding.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Department of Transportation is keeping lips tight about its design of the downtown line, known as both the &ldquo;East-West Transit Corridor&rdquo; and &ldquo;Central Loop BRT.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s not clear the design will include many of the timesavers listed in Emanuel&rsquo;s plan. A CDOT plan announced in 2010 would remove cars from some traffic lanes, rig key stoplights to favor the buses, improve sidewalks, install bicycle lanes and build specially branded bus stops equipped with GPS-powered &ldquo;next bus&rdquo; arrival signs.</p><p>The CTA, meanwhile, has a separate $1.6&nbsp;million federal grant to plan BRT options along a 21-mile stretch of Western Avenue. Another $11&nbsp;million from the feds is funding bus improvements this year along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffrey Boulevard. That line, though billed as BRT, will lack many features for speeding up trips.</p></p> Tue, 21 Feb 2012 11:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/story/city-devotes-73-million-downtown-brt-96580 Dado comes back in A Red Orchid's 'Megacosm' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-01/dado-comes-back-chicago-red-orchids-megacosm-96019 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-01/dado 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/dado.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 358px; height: 501px; " title="">"I love directing Brett’s work, but it’s a joke between us that we had to move to LA to work together," says Dado, director of Brett Neveu’s brand-new <a href="http://www.aredorchidtheatre.org/"><em>Megacosm </em>at A Red Orchid</a>. She and the playwright happened to move to Los Angeles the same month in 2007, and right away she pitched his <em>American Dead</em> to Rogue Machine Theatre. "They snatched it up, and it did so well," she says.</p><p>Making pitches—to corporate America—is a big part of <em>Megacosm</em>, set in a bizarre sci-fi world uncomfortably like our own but amped up to satirical, hysterically funny levels.</p><p>Thanks to set designer John Dalton, it has what Dado calls a “Death Star” look. Both Dalton, who does a lot of commercial work, and Neveu, who’s still living in LA, “have had the weirdest meetings in the weirdest rooms to pitch their ideas,” she says. “We wanted a place that looks like it’s been moved and redesigned and put back together haphazardly.”</p><p>“I believe when Brett wrote <em>Megacosm</em> he was writing in response to the BP spill,” says Dado. “Which is great for me because I live down in BP-land.” In 2009 she left LA and moved back to Whiting, Indiana, where her family lives. (“I come from a long line of union ironworkers and carpenters,” she adds. “Our maternal grandmother, however, was ‘in the vaudeville.’”)</p><p>“My town is three-quarters refinery and one-quarter town,” Dado says. “So when Brett told me the play has so much to do with how corporations spin things, suddenly it all clicked into place.”</p><p>The antagonists in <em>Megacosm</em> are an inventor and the CEO of an undefined business. But “I don’t think I chose a side when I directed this play,” says Dado. “Instead I wanted the audience to want to protect the megacosm.” That is, a box containing tiny people—so small they can only be seen through a microscope, a view represented onstage on multiple TV screens.</p><p>“I shot that footage,” Dado says. “I specifically chose those actors. I directed it, in [<a href="http://www.oddmachine.com/">media designer Seth Henrikson</a>’s] wonderful facility. He let me stand there all day and just yell at them, ‘Pick up your hand! Move your leg! Jump up and down!’ It was all MOS—no sound.”</p><p>“I’m not a filmmaker like Seth is. He helped me so much—we had to figure out so many things. It was so much work.” But definitely worth it, as these perfect miniature human beings innocently dancing around in their box get under our skin in a big way.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/dado 2.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 399px; " title="'Megacosm' with Larry Grimm, Danny McCarthy and David Steiger (Photo by Michael Brosilow)"></p><p>While she was still in LA, Dado also directed a 13-minute film, <em>Convo</em>, scripted by Neveu. And she’d like to make another film, she says, “especially after the <em>Megacosm</em> experience.”</p><p>Since she moved back, Dado has done a lot of things she didn’t envision in 2009. “I didn’t think I’d be doing any more acting or directing,” she says. “I was just gonna be a schoolteacher.”</p><p>“I didn’t mean to start acting again.” Then director Zeljko Djukic (“an amazing artist!”) asked her to perform in Trap Door’s production of Werner Schwab’s <em>First Ladies</em>. “To be asked to do something like that,” Dado says, “after seven years of not acting? I was really honored.”</p><p>Next acting gig was another critically praised Schwab/Trap Door production, <em>Overweight, Unimportant, Misshape</em>. “We were eating people,” she says. “<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-01/holy-sht-nicole-wiesner-goes-home-trap-door-84611#"><em>First Ladies</em> was all about poop and blood</a>, and in this one we literally raped and killed the people and ate them. It was very X-rated, in a good way. But my children [8 and 12] didn’t see it.”</p><p>In some ways, directing Neveu’s <em>Megacosm</em> was the result of (reluctantly) turning down his <em>The Meek</em> in 2006 at A Red Orchid, where both are ensemble members. Instead she directed Pinter’s <em>The Hothouse</em>. “Flash-forward to opening night 2012,” she says, “and Brett turns to me and says, ‘You know, I wrote <em>Megacosm</em> largely in response to <em>Hothouse</em>.’”</p><p>“I’m a creature of instinct in a lot of ways,” Dado adds. “You just have to make decisions on the basis of what’s shaping your life at the moment, and try not to think ahead too much."</p></p> Wed, 01 Feb 2012 16:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-01/dado-comes-back-chicago-red-orchids-megacosm-96019 Emerson Dameron on why L.A. is better than Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-12/emerson-dameron-why-la-better-chicago-95489 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-12/emerson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-12/emerson.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 250px; height: 210px;" title="">Writer and comedian Emerson Dameron considers Los Angeles his "spiritual home." The city doesn't care about you or whether you succeed -- and that's what he likes about it. Read an excerpt of his thoughts, or listen below:</p><p><em>"I'll begin with a quote from one of my city's great ambassadors, and one of my person heroes. That's Greg Dulli of the band The&nbsp;Afghan Whigs: '12 million people don't live here because it sucks.'</em></p><p><em>If you want to be wildly successful or homeless, move to Los Angeles. Watch a few hours of network television and you'll realize there's no clear line. Most of the millionaires in Los Angeles have more ridiculous jobs than the panhandlers. Over the holiday break, an arsonist set an estimated 50 car fires in one Los Angeles neighborhood, some spreading to nearby buildings and causing, all together, about $3 million in damage. Even one of Jim Morrison's former homes took a hit, wounding his ghost. </em></p><p><em>His associate Mr. Mojo emerged unharmed."</em></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483852-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/2012-01-07-papermachete-emerson-dameron.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p><a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/" target="_blank">The Paper Machete</a><em>&nbsp;is a weekly live magazine at the Horseshoe in North Center. It's always at 3 p.m., it's always on Saturday, and it's always free. Get all your&nbsp;</em>The Paper Machete Radio Magazine&nbsp;<em>needs filled&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.org/thepapermachete" target="_blank">here</a>, or download the podcast from iTunes&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-paper-machete-radio-magazine/id450280345" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p><p><em>Correction: Even though the host of the Paper Machete identifies Dameron as an "L.A. native," the writer was actually born in Marion, North Carolina. But "Los Angeles is my 'spiritual' hometown," he says, "the only place I've ever considered myself 'from.'" </em></p></p> Thu, 12 Jan 2012 15:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-12/emerson-dameron-why-la-better-chicago-95489 Chicago writer Liz Sandoval learns to appreciate life on the left coast http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-21/chicago-writer-liz-sandoval-learns-appreciate-life-left-coast-94229 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-21/Ian Freimuth.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Writer Liz Sandoval recently had her eyes opened. She realized that sometimes you want to be somewhere else so badly, you do not even realize that it is ok to be where you are. Sandoval currently resides in Los Angeles, but her heart is firmly entrenched in Chicago.&nbsp;</p><p>I guarantee you that there may come a day when what you always deemed "ordinary" brings you unspeakable joy. When you will learn that all along, you in fact had been taking things, taking life—for granted.<br> <br> The past ten years, whenever I've re-emerged in Los Angeles after my extended stays in Chicago, I return bored: bored with the smog, bored with the fact that the suburb of El Monte looks like the suburb of La Puente which looks like the suburb of West Covina which looks like everywhere else, bored with the fact that it's not Chicago.<br> <br> I treasure my time with family and friends but aside from that, there is a lingering restlessness that is tainted by my judgmental attitude. "L.A. County could never be as culturally-evolved as Chicago. I'm in a pit. I'm only half-alive here."<br> <br> And then, there comes a day when you start to feel physically sick; and then the next day you feel sicker; and then every day afterward only feels like the day before. And here I don't mean a metaphorical sickness but an actual sickness that renders you fairly useless—wondering if your best days are behind you. If the only Chicago you'll ever see again is on the postcards taped to your walls.<br> <br> You're not dying but you're suffering all the same. You can't work because you're so sick. Your mother and father shuffle your 30-something-year-old self to doctor appointments and you've traveled back in time to your childhood. Except now you're aware of the doctor bills and there's no lollipop at the end of the visits.<br> <br> You lay in bed and you pray and you dream and you remember—yes, Chicago; but also just what used to be. Being able to drive a car and meet a friend for dinner like a normal person and not needing a chaperone to go to Target because you're so dizzy you can't stand up straight.<br> <br> And something happens in the midst of all of this:&nbsp;As you listen to the Fourth of July fireworks outside your bedroom window…as you listen to life going on all around you and sometimes watch it as you peek through the front door, you begin to dream.<br> <br> You dream of getting in the car and driving to a strip mall in these suburbs called El Monte. You dream of being amongst the living.<br> <br> You learn to appreciate that even to be amongst what you deemed "ordinary" is a tremendous blessing. You have taken for granted the life around you; demeaning it. Deeming it "less" than what you would want for yourself—until it's what you need.<br> <br> This past year, the breeze of a fan on my bed—was my ocean breeze. This past year, buckets of warm water over me—as my mom washed my hair for me in the backyard—were my ocean. This past year, the strip malls in or El Monte or La Puente or West Covina—have been my Chicago; they have been my release.<br> <br> Everything serves a purpose. And without the right eyes, you'll never appreciate it.<br> Perspective is key.</p><p><em>Music Button: The Mercury Program, "Saint Rose of Lima", from the album Confines of Heat, (Hello Sir)</em></p></p> Mon, 21 Nov 2011 15:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-21/chicago-writer-liz-sandoval-learns-appreciate-life-left-coast-94229 Cook County Board could vote on freeing inmates wanted by immigration authorities http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-commissioners-could-vote-next-week-releasing-some-jailed-immigrants-91496 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-03/Toni Preckwinkle.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County commissioners on Wednesday could take center stage in the nation’s immigration debate if they enact a proposal that would begin freeing some jail inmates wanted by federal authorities.</p><p>The measure requires the sheriff to decline Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests known as detainers “unless there is a written agreement with the federal government by which all costs incurred” by the county are reimbursed.</p><p>County Board Commissioner Jesús García, D-Chicago, introduced a similar proposal in July but quickly withdrew it, saying it needed rethinking. García has refined the measure and picked up nine other sponsors, including Board President Toni Preckwinkle.</p><p>The inmates remain in the county’s massive jail up to 48 hours beyond what their criminal cases require. ICE detainers enabled the federal agency to take custody of 1,665 of the jail’s inmates in 2010, according to Sheriff Tom Dart.</p><p>Dart’s office says complying with the detainers last year cost roughly $250,000.</p><p>An ICE statement calls the detainers “critical” for deporting “criminal aliens and others who have no legal right to remain in the United States.”</p><p>But García says the holds enable ICE to sweep up too many immigrants who pose little or no risk to public safety. “These people have been cleared of charges or have posted bond,” he says.</p><p>García says the detainers also cost taxpayers too much and spread fear of local police — claims disputed by pro-enforcement groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform.</p><p>ICE didn’t immediately comment on the revamped proposal but sent a statement warning that “jurisdictions that ignore detainers bear the risk of possible public safety risks.”</p><p>The federal government does not reimburse any local jurisdiction in the country for costs associated with the immigration detainers, according to ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro.</p><p>Commissioners could approve the proposal at their meeting Wednesday morning. It would take effect “immediately upon adoption,” the measure says.</p><p>“As far as I know, Cook County would be the first local jurisdiction in the country to quit complying with ICE detainer requests,” says Chris Newman, legal director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a group that leads opposition to the holds.</p><p>The proposal comes as a class-action suit in federal court challenges use of the detainers. Filed by the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, the suit charges that asking local police to detain immigrants when there is no evidence of illegal activity is unconstitutional.<br> &nbsp;</p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated what Sheriff Tom Dart’s office estimates that its ICE detainer compliance costs the county. A sheriff’s spokesman says the cost last year was roughly $250,000.</em></p></p> Fri, 02 Sep 2011 23:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-commissioners-could-vote-next-week-releasing-some-jailed-immigrants-91496 Rahm vows bus rapid transit, but can he deliver? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-23/Transmilenio.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>All this week, WBEZ is looking at <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/first-100-rahm-emanuels-first-100-days-chicago-mayor" target="_blank">Rahm Emanuel’s first 100 days as Chicago mayor</a>.</p><p>One of Emanuel’s pledges is to push for the creation of the city’s first bus-rapid-transit line. The idea behind BRT is to deliver the benefits of rail at a fraction of the cost. BRT shortens travel times through dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid boarding that’s level with station platforms, and traffic signals that favor the buses.</p><p>WBEZ’s West Side bureau reporter <a href="http://www.wbez.org/staff/chip-mitchell" target="_blank">Chip Mitchell</a> gives us a progress report on Emanuel’s ambitious plan.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Aug 2011 16:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926 Bill would free Cook County inmates wanted by ICE http://www.wbez.org/story/bill-would-free-cook-county-inmates-wanted-ice-89634 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-26/cook-County-Jail-2_Flickr_Zol87.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Cook County commissioner is quietly proposing an ordinance that would require the county’s massive jail to release some inmates wanted by immigration authorities.</p><p>Sponsored by Jesús García, D-Chicago, the measure would prohibit the jail from holding inmates based on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement request unless they have been convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors, and unless the county gets reimbursed.</p><p>The legislation’s preamble says complying with the ICE requests, known as detainers, “places a great strain on our communities by eroding the public trust that local law enforcement depends on to secure the accurate reporting of criminal activity and to prevent and solve crimes.”</p><p>The jail now holds detainees requested by ICE for up to 48 hours after their criminal cases would allow them to walk free. Sheriff Tom Dart’s office says the jail turns over about a half dozen inmates to the federal agency each business day.</p><p>Dart this month <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233">told WBEZ his staff was exploring legal options</a> for releasing some of these inmates. The sheriff said his review began after he noticed that San Francisco County Sheriff Michael Hennessey had ordered his department to quit honoring certain ICE detainers beginning June 1.</p><p>If Dart’s office follows Hennessey’s path or if García’s legislation wins approval, Cook County could become the nation’s largest local jurisdiction to halt blanket compliance with ICE holds.</p><p>“Cook County would be a counter pole to Arizona’s Maricopa County,” says Chris Newman, general counsel of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a Los Angeles-based group that opposes involving local authorities in immigration enforcement.</p><p>García’s office didn’t return WBEZ calls or messages about his legislation. The offices of Sheriff Dart and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said they had seen the bill but declined to say whether they supported it.</p><p>A spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said late Tuesday her office had not been consulted about García’s proposal. A 2009 letter from Alvarez to Dart’s office said federal law required the sheriff to comply with “any ICE detainers.”</p><p>In recent months, however, immigration authorities have acknowledged that local jails do not have to comply with the detainers.</p><p>ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa, asked for comment about García’s legislation, sent a statement calling the detainers “critical” for deporting “criminal aliens and others who have no legal right to remain in the United States.”</p><p>“Individuals arrested for misdemeanors may ultimately be identified as recidivist offenders with multiple prior arrests, in addition to being in violation of U.S. immigration law,” the ICE statement said. “These individuals may have been deported before or have outstanding orders of removal.” Jurisdictions that ignore immigration detainers would be responsible for “possible public safety risks,” the statement added.</p><p>García’s proposal is on the county board’s agenda for Wednesday morning. Possible steps by commissioners include referring the measure to committee or approving it immediately.</p></p> Tue, 26 Jul 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/bill-would-free-cook-county-inmates-wanted-ice-89634 Bayless' L.A. outpost has same food, in vastly different surroundings http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/bayless-la-outpost-has-same-food-vastly-different-surroundings <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Bayless-Dining Room.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img width="400" height="267" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-04/Dining Room.jpg" title="" alt="" />&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: left;">If you didn't read the headline, and only looked at the picture above, you might think - based on the floor-to-ceiling sheer curtains, ornate chandeliers and soaring palms - that the dining room you see is at <a href="http://www.delano-hotel.com/en-us/#/home/">The Delano</a>&nbsp;in South Beach. &nbsp;If you saw a picture of the bar without any explanation, you might be thinking it's an&nbsp;über-hip watering hole in New York's Meatpacking District:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img width="400" height="267" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-04/Bar with people.jpg" title="" alt="" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">Yet both images are from superstar/celeb chef and Mexican majordomo Rick Bayless' first restaurant project&nbsp;<em>outside</em> of Chicago - <a href="http://www.redorestaurant.com/#/home">Red O </a>- in Los Angeles. &nbsp;After watching my Badgers suffer a heartbreaking loss at the Rose Bowl last weekend, I had some time on Sunday - before taking the redeye home late that night - to grab dinner at the West Hollywood location.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: left;">I kept thinking about the similarities and differences, as I made my way through the night. I realize this restaurant is more of a consulting project than it is a full-time job for Bayless. &nbsp;His name is at the bottom of the menu, afterall - making a brief cameo - so I know that this isn't necessarily supposed to be a <a href="http://www.fronterakitchens.com/restaurants/restaurants.html">Frontera</a> spinoff.&nbsp;&nbsp;In Chicago, of course, we've all become familiar with the 400 block of North Clark Street that Bayless' empire has slowly taken over the past 20 years. &nbsp;But as you approach Red O, you drive by swanky, low-slung Melrose Avenue boutiques, an ivy-covered Fred Segal store and countless sushi bars. &nbsp;As we rolled up at 6 p.m., I half-expected to see the usual Hot Doug's-like line out front, snaking down the street, just as it does by 5 p.m. each day in front of Frontera. &nbsp;But there wasn't, thanks in part to the fact they take reservations. &nbsp;The spacious bar provides plenty of places to sit and hangout, just in case your table isn't ready, including a love seat sort of &quot;swing&quot; off to the side of the bar. I was also struck by the massive communal table, which is great for entertaining a large group of eager eaters:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img width="400" height="267" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-04/Communal Table.jpg" title="" alt="" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">Of course, all of this atmosphere is a clear departure from the mothership's decor scheme. &nbsp;In Chicago, one of the things I've always loved about Frontera is the casual vibe and comforting surroundings. &nbsp;Even after 20 years, not every guest is familiar with authentic, regional Mexican flavors, and so Frontera (and Topolobampo and Xoco, to some extent) have become ambassadors of the cuisine. &nbsp;The menu is, of course, the document that diners get to read and dissect and ask questions about, but the ambiance also serves a purpose: transporting you into Bayless' world of cultural and culinary exploration. &nbsp;You know the folk art on the walls has been sourced by Rick and/or his wife, Deann; there are those colorful plates, the whimsical characters on the menu and the soundtrack is always trying to transport you to some region of Mexico. Next door, at Topolo, the chargers and glasses are fancier, the lighting is even more intimate and the servers speak as if they've just returned from an eating trip to Veracruz (they probably have, Bayless takes his entire staff to Mexico every July).</p><p style="text-align: left;">In Los Angeles, it's a different ballgame. &nbsp;The food is, not surprisingly, spot-on. &nbsp;Tortilla soup has a deep, earthy flavor, but it's gussied up as it's poured tableside from an all-white mini-pitcher over a haystack of thinly-fried tortilla strips:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-04/Tortilla Soup.JPG" title="" alt="" style="width: 400px; height: 267px;" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">There are the Frontera signatures of sustainably-sourced <em>ceviches</em> and mini&nbsp;<em>sopes</em> filled with savory ingredients - although they, too, are served on narrow, white plates - more akin to NoMI than N. Clark St. &nbsp;The guacamole was as good and chunky as anything I've had in River North, but it too, was served in a sterile, white china bowl that hovered above another white plate carrying the salty, crunchy chips, rather than an earthy <em>cazuela</em> or stony, pockmarked&nbsp;<em>molcajete</em>. Our table loved the delicate corn and goat cheese tamales, laced with roasted poblanos, and I could have cared less how it was presented. &nbsp;It reminded me of the well-made snacks I've had at Frontera Fresco and it was summarily polished off in a matter of minutes:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img width="400" height="267" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-04/Goat Cheese Tamale.JPG" title="" alt="" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">With the South Beach-like decor and the more elegant (some would say minimalist) plating, it's no surprise the soundtrack is also more modern, leaning closer to Daft Punk techno rather than Gypsy Kings acoustic guitar. &nbsp;Service was extremely competent, and while the entire staff doesn't get to visit Mexico like the Chicago gang does, our server knew the dishes and ingredients as well as anyone, and could confidently explain nuances to members of our table not as well-versed in the art of mole. &nbsp;He did intimate that Red O could become another brand, spinning off siblings in other cities, much like Colicchio has done with Craft or Matsuhisa has done with Nobu. &nbsp;No doubt they'll do well, as long as the kitchens stay consistent, but it would be a shame if fans of regional Mexican cuisine only became acquainted with Rick Bayless through the swanky lens of those Red O designers. &nbsp;As much as I like sexy, I also love the simple honesty of the man's original vision; getting a chance to step into another country I've hardly been to, and being transported - temporarily at least - as I walk through those doors at 445 N. Clark Street.</p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 05 Jan 2011 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/bayless-la-outpost-has-same-food-vastly-different-surroundings