After spending several years running other people’s restaurants, including Duke’s and Border Grill, Kent Harman has ventured out on his own and opened Bandito Latin Kitchen & Cantina, his first family-owned-and-operated restaurant. Located in Hughes Center, the eye-catching building that sits on land formerly home to Fog City Diner is now bedecked with two large hand-painted murals, “Bandito” and “Rosie,” by local artist Brett Rosepiler, as well as 30-foot floor-to-ceiling glass windows and an outdoor patio.
Beyond the stunning architecture, Harman is committed to the use of quality ingredients. “Although it’s labor-intensive, as much as possible everything is made from scratch—all of our cocktails are made with our own mixes, fresh-squeezed juices and fresh agave nectar—and it comes through in the flavor,” he says. “We’re also taking traditional drinks and dishes from Mexico and upgrading them.”
Prime examples are the La Paloma Blanca, which in Mexico includes Squirt soda, but at Bandito combines fresh-squeezed ruby-red grapefruit and lime juice, El Silencio Mezcal, Sprite and soda water. The El Guapo Margarita is made with Patrón Silver Tequila, Grand Marnier, lime, agave and a unique ingredient: “caviar” balls filled with kiwi that have been soaked in Grand Marnier. The Barbacoa Michelada, made with Negra Modelo beer, is distinctive in that it is garnished with a sizable piece of beef brisket and contains a house-made mix of tomato, garlic, hot sauce and secret spices.
In addition to the craft cocktails, there is a range of fine sipping tequilas and mezcals worth investing in, such as Casa Azul Reposado ($20), Don Julio 1942 ($25), Casa Dragones ($30) and Leyanda del Milagro Select Barrel Reserve ($10). And the little barrels sitting on a shelf above the bar are more than just a cool decoration, as each contains spirits that have been aging since opening day four months ago. I was the first to experience one filled with Patrón Silver and Patron Citrónge Orange Liqueur, which I deem “liquid candy” and a steal, as it will only set you back $12.
On the food side, traditional Mexican classics are done with finesse. The house ceviche features a tempting mixture of fresh scallops, halibut and shrimp, and enchiladas are served with the selected protein (chicken, carnitas, al pastor, carne asada or sautéed shrimp) on top of the house-made corn tortillas instead of being hidden inside, to proudly display the quality of the ingredients being used.
NAME: Bandito Latin Kitchen & Cantina
SERVING: Upscale traditional Mexican cuisine and craft cocktails
OPENED: June 5, 2017
WHO’S BEHIND IT: Husband-and-wife team Kent and Jessica Harman
DID YOU KNOW: Chicago native executive chef Chris Knight has an impressive pedigree, having worked for Gordon Ramsay in London, at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry in the Napa Valley and, most recently, at The Matador in Downtown Summerlin. Knight has a home in Mexico and has plenty of firsthand experience with true Mexican cuisine.
LOCATION: 325 Hughes Center Dr., Ste. 100
HOURS OF OPERATION: 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sun.–Thu., 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat.
CONTACT: 702-857-7550, banditolv.com