UPDATE: Bandito's is now open, and you can access two reviews with photos HERE.
By Becky Billingsley
Thursday, July 19, 2012, Myrtle Beach – Executive Chef and General Manager Sean Christenson has completed the menu for Bandito’s, a new waterfront Mexican restaurant opening within two weeks in Myrtle Beach.
Dozens of workers are busily finishing the restaurant, including the chef himself. Christenson has much experience laying tile, and he installed tiles of varying sizes and colors on the outdoor bar facing Ocean Boulevard and a fountain close to the street.
Inside Bandito’s, another worker was installing sheets of slate on pillars while others tended to more finishing details. Floor tiles inside are terra cotta, with smaller colorful painted tiles at the borders between rooms.
Cast iron candle sconces and iron chandeliers with electric candles add Latin flair along with antique doors in a circular room. The old doors, which look as if they could have come from a Mexican mission, have a unique gear system at their tops.
“These are the Mad Hatter of doors,” Christenson said on July 18. “Those are bicycle gears, and they were designed so both halves of the door would open at the same time for special needs access. Peter Nein, the artist, is going to install some glass over them.”
The ceiling reaches up all the way into the dome capping the restaurant, and walls are painted a soft mustard and pale salmon. Ocean breezes were blowing in the open back door, across a wide veranda.
Soon customers will be sitting on that veranda, or out front at the bar, sipping Margaritas made with freshly squeezed juice, which could include a Chili Pepper infused Margarita, a Skinny Margarita (several cocktails will be offered in low-calorie skinny versions) or a hibiscus flavored Cosmo. For fans of the creamy Mexican beverage called Horchata, Bandito’s will have a version containing rum.
As for the food, the menus went to the printer on July 18. The final version has some dishes that will be familiar to many diners who love Mexican cuisine, but Christenson has also crafted new recipes using sustainable local ingredients.
“Everything is made from fresh ingredients and made in-house,” the chef said, “and I tried to keep everything affordable. Every fish that enters this building will be whole. There will be a five-foot chalkboard out front that will change every day, and the customers can see that day’s fishes species, the boat it came from and the name of the captain.”
Appetizers range from $2.50 to $12 with choices like freshly fried tortilla chips that can come with a choice of five fresh salsas: Roasted Tomato and Serrano, Salsa Verde, Pico de Gallo, Island Mango and Jalapeno Pineapple. Queso Fundido (cheese dip) is made with smoked tomatoes, and can have shrimp, crab, chorizo or taco beef added.
The chef thinks Mexican Street Corn will be a popular appetizer along with Argentinian Pulled Pork Empanadas and deep fried Grouper Wings, which are the fish’s collarbone and front flipper/fin (a coveted delicacy in Japan) that will be procured from Seven Seas Seafood and Kenyon Seafood in Murrells Inlet.
“And there’s my grandmothers recipe for cast iron skillet cornbread,” Christenson said, pointing at an appetizer called Pan de Maiz, “only this version is spiced up with jalapenos.”
The cornbread will also contain sweet onion, manchego cheese and fresh corn, with jalapeno jelly and honey butter on the side.
A curious-sounding appetizer is Desafio de las Piquantes Estupidos, or the Stupid Hot Wing Challenge. Guests have to sign a waiver, and if they eat eight of these wings within five minutes, they get their photos on a wall of fame and a $20 gift certificate to use during a future visit.
Many appetizers and other dishes throughout the menu have green icons beside them, which means they are vegetarian.
Soups and salads ($5-$10) include Chilled Mango Soup, Pozole Rojo de Peruco with hominy and pork, Classic Caesar salad, Summer Tomato salad with avocados and diced jalapeno, Taco Salad, a Mexican Cobb and an entrée salad where the diner can choose from many meat or seafood toppings.
Salad dressings are orange tamarind, chipotle Ranch, chimichurri vinaigrette, cilantro buttermilk blue cheese and salsa verde, plus three low-fat dressings: mango habanero, a skinny version of chipotle Ranch and salsa roja.
Tortas (sandwiches), Burgers and Quesadillas ($10-$15) include the Vegan Guadalajara with black bean hummus, smoke-roasted vegetables and curtido, which is a Salvadoran fermented cabbage relish. Sausage in the Chorizo Burger will be made in-house, and Quesadillas can be filled with shredded adobo chicken, wild-caught shrimp and more.
Chef Christenson’s experience developing creative tacos at Nacho Hippo comes into play with several choices priced $3-$5 including Firecracker Shrimp, Chorizo with Pepperjack potatoes, Grilled Portabello and the Redneck Riviera Especial containing fried chicken, spicy Ranch dressing, lettuce and celery sticks.
Tamales will be steamed in corn husks, and joining them in the menu section titled Progressive Mexican Classics are Fajitas, Burritos (including a shrimp, crab and corn burrito) and Enchiladas.
Signature Dishes are $17-$25.
“For the Chili Rubbed Prime Rib, it has an adobo rub for 48 hours,” the chef said. “Then we do a salt rub, and slow-roast it overnight. For the Fideos de Mariscos, we flash-fry angel hair pasta and toss it with local clams, shrimp, scallops, chorizo, Mexican pesto, white wine and butter.
“The Pepino Crusted Grouper – that’s the recipe I won Taste of the Town with – and the Mole Bandito con Pollo will have chicken legs cured 48 hours and then slow-poached. We’ll present an airline chicken breast dueling with the leg over red rice with mole.”
Shrimp and Grits will get Mexican influence by being served with tamales, corn, chorizo, chili peppers and Spanish onion in tomato cream.
The Simply Grilled Fish, Christenson pointed out, 65 meal combinations are possible with a choice of five salsas and 13 side dishes.
Those sides include red rice, yellow rice, guacamole, fried plantain, ranchero beans, habanero sweet potato mash, Pepperjack mashed potatoes and Masa Tots, which are Mexican hushpuppies.
“The kitchen equipment is coming Monday,” the chef said. “We’ll be open in a couple more weeks at the most.”
Bandito’s Restaurant and Cantina is at 1410 N. Ocean Blvd. in Myrtle Beach, at the north end of the boardwalk. It will be open daily starting at 11 a.m., and the number is (843) 808-9800. The Web site isn’t yet on-line, but the URL is BanditosMyrtleBeach.com.