On opening weekend in early July, Chino Bandido was an indoor amusement park of jerk rooster and Chinese burritos. The masses crowding into the restaurant’s new spot shaped a roller coaster of a line that weaved into tighter and tighter circles.
I wound my way previous lime environmentally friendly walls and TVs playing Man Fieri, and even following spending 50 % an hour in line, I even now found it difficult to navigate the dizzying array of food selections.
“Would you like plain fried rice, pork fried rice, rooster fried rice or jerk fried rice?” asked the human being behind the counter.
The fusion menu, which offers seemingly infinite possibilities to customise, requires diners to decide on from 15 different proteins, like Chinese egg foo youthful, Mexican carnitas and teriyaki hen, and then make a decision irrespective of whether to stuff their selections into a combo bowl, a burrito or a quesadilla. That amounts to 96,420 opportunity combos, or so claimed the owner during the restaurant’s 2008 look on the zany food demonstrate “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.”
You can adhere to a single delicacies, but why would you want to? The menu encourages you to experiment with the possibilities, which appear packaged neatly in a tinfoil box with a snickerdoodle cookie on the side.
I took a breath, and ordered: a single Chino Combo with a chile relleno and Chinese barbecue pork about jerk fried rice and a side of the refried black beans, which an employee encouraged for their distinctive sweetness. Doubling down on the fusion element, I added a quesadilla stuffed with Chinese Emerald chicken with ginger scallion sauce, and then made the decision to hedge my bets with acarnitas burrito, which is pure Mexican meals.
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What built Chino Bandido a Phoenix traditional?
When it opened in a north Phoenix strip shopping mall in 1990, Chino Bandido owners Eve Collins and her late partner Frank patched collectively an unconventional menu comprised of the Chinese dishes Eve ate as a boy or girl with some Phoenix-design Mexican foods and Caribbean standards thrown in. The couple were way forward of the curve for Asian-Mexican fusion, which failed to really attain national prominence right until about a 10 years back with the rise of food trucks advertising Korean tacos.
They called their new cafe Chino Bandido, Spanish for Chinese bandit, for the reason that they experienced borrowed factors from a amount of diverse cultures. The couple emblazoned the cafe with a cheeky panda bear dressed in a sombrero and a handlebar mustache.
About the decades the few regularly expanded, haphazardly adding new rooms to healthy in extra shoppers, as Eve advised The Arizona Republic previously this yr. This summer season she decided to end patchwork growth and look for a additional long-lasting resolve. A 6,000-sq.-foot building 2 miles absent offered a extra successful kitchen and the opportunity to own rather than lease.
What to assume on the menu
The new developing on Bell Street and Third Avenue has substantial ceilings and a sterile vibe akin to a snack bar at a mini golf park, but some of the charms of the primary location are still there, like the wall of local kids’ photographs and the massive black granite statue of Pancho the panda bandit.
I located a seat next to Pancho and began my meal with the Chinese barbecue pork, which was not sticky and purple, but dry and brown. The silken black beans were indeed sweet, which was a small overpowering, but by some means labored with the peppery jerk fried rice. The chile relleno was not eggy, and looked like a piece of crunchy fried hen, and the carnitas burrito was a lot more or a lot less a fatty model of the primary, but it came with no salsa, so I used soy sauce in its place. The snickerdoodle, there was not. With so several consumers, they had operate out previously in the working day.
My closing bite was additional of a triumph, and it came with a backstory. Many years ago as a college university student, I failed to fairly have an understanding of the Chino Bandido notion and I chastised a relatives member for hoping to order the Emerald rooster in a quesadilla. At Chino Bandido, Emerald rooster is a riff on the Cantonese basic of poached white rooster with ginger and scallion sauce. To place this delicacy in a quesadilla seemed absurd at the time, but absurdity often breeds excellence. The quesadilla I would ordered had the regular melted yellow cheese and shredded rooster,but the ginger and scallions extra a sharpness that minimize via and was fairly pleasing.
I sat again and watched the stream of patrons standing in line. 1 was wearing a shirt with an Anthony Bourdain estimate: “You learn a large amount about somebody when you share a meal jointly.”
Even however I was by itself, I felt like I would uncovered a little something about the hundred or so folks streaming via the cafe, and why they’d hold out in these types of a extensive line to take in a Chinese quesadilla.
Chino Bandido’s food isn’t really really fusion in the sense that I’d envisioned. It’s not Chinese or Jamaican or Mexican. The dishes tasted small like their originals, and appeared more united as their own cuisine, born straight from the mind of Eve Collins. She is still in the kitchen area, earning the meals that have develop into area classics, imprinting them selves on the Phoenix palate for the earlier 30 years.
Where by: 310 W. Bell Highway,Phoenix.
Several hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. everyday.
Value: $8.10 and $9.85 for bowls add-ons 95 cents to $1.20.
Particulars: 602-375-3639, chinobandido.com.