Bandito’s makes a colorful comeback
The Short Course:
To avoid wait: Come anytime, there’s plenty of room!
Noise level: Low.
Bathroom amenities: Changing table.
High chairs? Yes.
Kids’ menu? Yes.
Anything healthy for kids? Yes.
Food allergy concerns? Talk to your server – almost all items are made in house, so they know the ingredients well.
Everybody loves a good comeback story and Bandito’s Fresh Mex restaurant is having just that. About two years ago, Bandito’s owner, Kanwar Sandhanwalia, was told he would have to close for a few hours to accommodate a construction project at the restaurant’s former location on Fourth Avenue in Ann Arbor. A few hours turned into a few months, which eventually turned into 18 months of financial and legal issues that turned, Sandhanwalia’s world upside down. But step into the new location on Plymouth Road (the former Olga’s Kitchen), and you quickly see that Bandito’s future looks bright.
Colorful walls, carved chairs with amazing details, and marbled tabletops are just a few of the design elements that brighten up the large space and invite diners in for classic Tex-Mex. In an era where many new restaurants are embracing sleek and modern designs, sometimes it’s nice to see a place embrace a little kitsch. Actually, the décor, including a life-size, ‘Día de los Muertos’ statue, was a highlight of our visit. Now, with three times the space of the Fourth Avenue location and three times the business, according to Sandhanwalia, Bandito’s is on its way to writing its next joyful chapter.
Standard Tex-Mex options abound
The menu at Bandito’s is large and packed with the Tex-Mex standards we all know and love. Fresh chips and homemade salsa are complementary and we added queso ($7.95) to keep us busy while we waited for our entrees to come out. The homemade salsa was mild enough that even our 11-month old was happy to enjoy a spoonful. The Fiesta Combo platters work well for those of us who like a little bit of everything. We chose the #35, three enchiladas, one beef, one chicken and one cheese, plus a hard-shell beef taco, served with rice, beans, guacamole and sour cream ($13.50). It was a great sampling of what Bandito’s has to offer and the shredded beef was the standout for us.
We also tasted the Chimichanga ($8.50), the fried burrito which has become standard Tex-Mex fare. We chose the vegetarian option with only beans, cheese and onion. The tortilla was the best part, perfectly warm and flaky, yet still soft and chewy, an excellent vessel for any filling.
Not seeing any kid-specific menu items, we ordered regular nachos ($7.95), crispy chips topped with cheese served with salsa, and a cheese quesadilla ($9.95) for our little ones. Both were simple and satisfactory for their tastes, which is sometimes all we can ask. Of course, the large portion and higher price did give us pause. After our meal, Sandhanwalia informed us that Bandito’s does in fact have a kids’ menu, but in the chaos of opening the new location, they haven’t yet printed them. So families looking for alternative kids’ choices should be sure to ask about options before ordering.
Bandito’s has a range of dessert options to end the meal on a sweet note, including caramel flan ($5.95), tres leches cake ($7.50), and strawberry cheesecake ($6.95). We opted for the hot fudge sundae ($5.95), which distinguishes itself with its crisp fried dough bowl, a tasty and a fun new experience for the kids. Bandito’s also offers a full bar with margaritas which locals rave about, but being that it was 11am on a Saturday, we decided to stick with soda, water, and lemonade.
New customers welcome!
According to Sandhanwalia, the new location is attracting lots of new customers, while continuing to serve the loyal regulars who visited the Fourth Avenue location for years. The easy parking is something many diners appreciate, another reason why there are more families than ever before. We think many families will enjoy the combination of extra elbow room, Tex-Mex dishes and the fun, colorful decor. See for yourself why Bandito’s has created such a large group of devotees!