Chino Bandido, Phoenix
When you think of Arizona, you tend to think of quality Mexican food, as we saw at Mi Nidito in Tucson. When you think of Arizona, you do not tend to think of quality Chinese food, and if you do, you certainly don’t tend to think of quality Mexican and Chinese food together in one restaurant.
But that’s exactly what you get with Chino Bandido, which successfully manages to combine two great tastes into something wonderful that is a little bit of both. As far as I know, short of a buffet, this is the only place where you can order Chinese and Mexican in the same meal, or even put a Chinese creation on a Mexican tortilla. The creation came about when two native Arizonans went into the restaurant business, with the wife of the married couple possessing an Asian background to go with both’s knowledge of Mexican cuisine.
What makes it impressive is how well the tastes blend together, which is probably a result of the relatively small menu at Chino Bandido. Their menu includes 14 different ways the meat is prepared, with almost every entree involving either pork or chicken. Of the options on Chino Bandido’s menu, seven are chicken, three involve pork, one is beef and three are vegetarian options.
The difference comes in the preparation. Want some Caribbean-style heat? Go with the Jerk Chicken, marinated with spicy seasoning and some really hot peppers. Prefer a milder, Asian flavor? Try the Emerald Chicken, served in a green onion sauce with ginger. Carnitas offer a straight Mexican pork option, and egg foo yung is as Chinese as it gets. There’s something on the scale for every taste.
Once you’ve chosen your meat or meats (you can get either one or two in a combination), your next choice is how you want them served. You can get your entree served as it is, or put it into a burrito or a quesadilla. Yes, you can have an egg foo yung burrito if you wish, for example. Anything is an option, and that means 42 possible entrees.
For my trip, I went with a carnitas burrito and an Emerald Chicken quesadilla. Both were simply perfect. The price is unaffected in regards to your choice, which you mark on an order sheet. Each entree is given a number, and what you write is what you get. For instance, if you want the Emerald Chicken, you’d write 10. If you want it in a burrito, it’s 10B. In a quesadilla? 10Q.
But Chino Bandido doesn’t stop there with the choices. As with most Mexican places, they throw on beans and rice as sides. However, these aren’t the typical refried beans and Mexican rice that you come to expect. While you can get the refried beans, you’d be missing out on some quality mashed black beans, which are far less common and are very delicious. On the rice side, the Asian side shows through again as Chino Bandido allows you to choose white rice or fried rice, offering four different kinds of the Asian delicacy.
The meal finishes off with the one part that is neither Asian nor Mexican, but comes standard with every meal and is probably the most underrated part of a visit to Chino Bandido. This would be Chino Bandido’s homemade snickerdoodle, which is one of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted. It’s got the perfect amounts of cinnamon and sugar and the right amount of crunch and chewiness that you would expect a bakery-quality cookie to have.
It’s not something you expect from a Mexican restaurant, but then again, neither is Chinese food. Chino Bandido left what you would expect from a Mexican restaurant behind a long time ago, and it’s substantially better for it. It’s certainly one of the most unique food experiences you’ll have, all the way to the statue of a panda in a sombrero.
Time to go: Lunch/dinner. Chino Bandido opens at 11 a.m.
Wait during my visit: Not bad. The line can get long, but it moves quick. You shouldn’t have problems.
Location: Chino Bandido can be found at 15414 North 19th Avenue in Phoenix, with a second location operating in the suburb of Chandler.
Parking: They’ll have it. It’s in a small shopping center.
Cost: Most times, you’ll get out for $10 or less.
Website: Chino Bandido
Specialty items: Chinese, Mexican