It’s hard to think of a Valley restaurant with a more unusual menu than Chino Bandido’s.
I mean, we have plenty of Mexican restaurants, and lots of Chinese ones. Even a few Caribbean places.
But how many Mexican-Chinese-Caribbean fusion restaurants have you been to?
If you’ve never heard of Chino Bandido, I’m not surprised. The Chandler location (an offshoot of the north Phoenix original) opened in 2005, but the restaurant is fairly well-hidden southeast of the intersection of Chandler Boulvard and Dobson Road.
It’s hardly a small place, though. At 6,000 square feet, it’s the size of a warehouse and has a décor to match, including a concrete floor and a high ceiling with open ductwork.
The furnishings are low-budget: Community-style seating is provided at six- and eight-person folding tables with lightweight polyethylene tops. As you might expect, the atmosphere is ultra-casual and very family-friendly.
The menu, posted above the cash register where you place your order, lists just 14 items, ranging from carnitas to egg foo yung to jerk chicken. For sides, there are five varieties of rice and two kinds of beans
You can order any of the 14 main items in a burrito ($3.50), on a crispy quesadilla ($4.50) or with a bowl of rice ($5.95 for white, $6.74 for fried).
Most people, however, opt for a two-item combo bowl with rice and beans ($7.25 or $8). For no extra charge, you can get either or both of your items in a burrito or quesadilla.
Yes, if you want an egg foo yung burrito, this is your place.
Jade chicken (deep-fried pieces with a spicy-sweet sauce) and emerald chicken (grilled and skinless with a ginger-onion sauce) are Chino Bandido’s signature items, and I have plenty of friends who rave about both. Personally, though, I’m not overly fond of either.
My standard order — and I’ve been going to Chino’s Chandler location regularly since it opened — is teriyaki chicken (white-meat slices with a thick sauce) and a carnitas (slow-roasted pork) burrito.
I also like the seasoned jerk chicken, which can be very spicy some days, but I typically get my fix by choosing the jerk-fried rice as a side. I also like the Cuban black beans, although they’re not really Cuban and have the texture of refried beans.
I have a love-hate relationship with the chile relleno (pictured above). It has a heavy, cornflake-like breading that can be very greasy. On the other hand, it’s filled with enough hot, oozing cheese to make a old shoe fairly palatable.
As a bonus, each combo bowl comes with a free cookie: a fresh-baked, thick Snickerdoodle bigger than the palm of your hand. Every other weekend, there’s a chocolate version called a “Volcano” (pictured at right).
No matter what you order, you get a lot of food. The “bowls” are takeout-ready aluminum containers, about two inches deep. With a two-item combo, expect to get about two cups of each item, plus two cups of beans and two cups of rice.
When you’ve eaten your fill, just fasten on one of the cardboard lids, available by the self-serve soda machines, and you likely will have a good-sized lunch for the next day.
Where: 1825 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler
Open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Prices: Burrito $3.50, quesadilla $4.50, one-item bowl with rice $5.95-$6.74, two-item bowl with rice and beans $7.25-$8.
Info: (480) 889-5990 or chinobandido.com