Chino Bandido: Chinese-Mexican food doesn’t excite your senses? You should try it. This is, without question, my favorite hole-in-the wall restaurant. It isn’t a dive for several reasons: 1) It is clean, neat and well-lit. 2) The staff is usually young, reasonably attractive, well mannered and helpful. 3) There are too many windows – the entire front wall is window! 4) At no time, from the moment you spot the storefront until you take your first bite of their delicious food, do you ever question your dining decision.
This is actually an un-dive. The only time I have ever received the slightest of negative reactions from the many people I have personally introduced to Chino’s (those of us who know and love Chino Bandido use the shortened version) was when I said the words “Chinese-Mexican food”. Once the initiate agrees to trust my recommendation, they never question that decision.
I have a confession to make – I was not attracted to this place because of any recommendation or sense of adventure. I first became aware of Chino Bandido while trying to eat at a Barbeque joint next door in the same strip mall. The barbeque joint is now a place named Byzantium or something like that, which is of no import to my story. Someone had recommended the barbeque joint, so I decided to eat there one evening while working on a project nearby. Fortunately, the place was closed – fortunately, although I didn’t think so at the time. Next door, I spotted a comely young lady locking the door of another restaurant. Thinking quickly, as I am capable in such situations, I asked her what kind of place was named Chino Bandido (Chinese Bandit)? She responded with the questionable: Chinese-Mexican. BUT, I like Chinese and I like Mexican AND she was very pretty (did I mention that before?) and I like pretty, so I made a mental appointment for lunch the next day. Was I ever surprised! The food was not just good, it was dream-about-going-back good. A place that inspires road-trips to Phoenix, and a major reason I was excited in 2000 to hear that the Beavers were going to the Fiesta Bowl!
You order at the counter, and if you are new they give you samples to help you decide. They have a unique order system, but once you get the gist, it’s pretty quick and easy. You order and pay, then go to the next room to find a table and sit. When your order is ready, and it gets ready quickly, one of the servers brings it to you. Their amazing dishes are served in foil dishes, like you sometimes will get take-out Italian in. I believe my first order was barbeque pork quesadilla, black beans (refried), and jerk fried rice. I added a chile relleno at the urging of the lovely young lady (who, it turned out, was the owner’s daughter and manager). I realize that I have done many things at the urging of lovely ladies, not all of them have been as rewarding as this chile relleno.
For the rest of my time on the project I ate my lunch at Chino Bandidos. The day of the 2001 Fiesta Bowl, I brought large quantities of jerk fried rice, black beans, jade red chicken, hendgrenade chicken jen red pork and chile rellenos to the Residence Inn where our fairly large group was staying. The meal was a hit, nearly as memorable as the game.
If you ever find yourself in Phoenix, go to Chino Bandido – there are 3 items you MUST have: jerk fried rice (it’s spicy), black beans, chile relleno. After that, make your selection as you please. After your meal they offer you a choice of a snickerdoodle or chocolate volcano cookie. For my money, it’s the snickerdoodle, but most folks opt for the chocolate.