Bandera is a Thursday night hot spot, featuring a center-staged
rectangular bar, where Corona del Mar's bar crowd mingles and
entertains. Yet the restaurant's best feature has always been classic
American food with a touch of Southwestern flavor.
"We are first and foremost a restaurant," Bandera General Manager
David Myers said.
Bandera founder George Biel also owns Houston's and other
restaurants. The Houston's chain has about 55 restaurants, including
Gulfstream in Newport Beach, Palm Beach Grill in Florida, Rutherford
Grill in Napa and Cherry Creek Grill in Denver.
Houston's newest concept restaurant, Cafe R&D;, just opened at
Fashion Island in Newport Beach. It's a sophisticated and casual cafe
that serves a simple menu of American classics, including sandwiches,
salads and desserts.
Bandera, which opened in 1996, offers a casual, fast-paced dining
experience, with Houston's quality standards. Bandera serves dinner
nightly. Its trademark red booths parallel the dark bar set on two
levels. The design is both rustic and contemporary.
The signature stone oven burns hardwood, where meats and chicken
slowly roast. Their rotisserie chicken receives most of the
attention. It's seasoned with herbs de Provence, fennel seed and salt
and pepper, and it is served with rice and a healthy slice of tomato
($15). The sliced leg of lamb also fares well; it's served with a red
chile sauce and marinated cucumbers ($19).
Even with Lawry's Five Crowns restaurant just down the street,
Bandera claims to serve the best seasoned prime rib in town. Bandera
serves its aged prime rib roasted on the bone with mashed potatoes
($26). In the kitchen, Bandera's chefs fillet the snow-white meat of
black grouper or premium sea bass daily for its blackened fish with
rice and seasoned vegetables (prices vary). The frequently ordered
8-ounce filet mignon and chicken enchilada platter, served with
tomato slices and marinated cucumbers, is nicely priced at $26.
Other house specialties from the simplified, one-page menu include
everyone's favorite Macho salad with roasted chicken, avocado, dates,
almonds and fresh goat cheese ($12) and the popular BBQ beef back
ribs with mashed potatoes and roasted peanut coleslaw ($23).
Bandera's appetizer selection includes a grilled artichoke that's
first steamed, then cooled, split and scraped well before it's
grilled; it's served with a homemade remoulade ($8). The kitchen
cooks up at least 200 skillets of cornbread a day ($3) and is known
for its appetizer of spicy jalapeno queso dip with warm tortilla
chips ($5). The side dish of mashed potatoes is uniquely sauteed with
cabbage, scallions and parsley then seasoned with salt and pepper
($2). Whole chickens to-go make a popular takeout dinner ($12).
There are just two desserts to choose from -- homemade Oreo ice
cream sandwiches ($8) and banana cream pie with homemade caramel and
crushed chocolate ($8).
* BEST BITES runs every Friday. Greer Wylder can be reached at
email@example.com; at 330 W. Bay St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627; or by
fax at (949) 646-4170.