It’s been a long time since I’ve had pork rinds, and longer, since I’ve had good ones. So you can imagine how surprised I was to see these “black sheep” of the fried snack world served up anywhere else but a dive bar or the Mexican grocery store I frequented when I lived in Houston (Fiesta). I was even more surprised that Bandolero’s pork rinds were quite good! As some may know, Mike Isabella has been operating Bandolero as a pop-up located in Tackle Box’s Cleveland Park location for the past several weeks. The pop-up will continue until May 5. After that, Bandolero will be permanently located in Georgetown, once construction on its site is completed.
Back to the pork rinds. The pork rinds were served up with tortilla chips along with fresh salsa, top-notch guacamole, and pumpkin seed puree, which had a nice nutty and earthy flavor.
My friends and I sampled additional items of the menu plus a few desserts. We also tried the original margarita and the “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” margarita (a/k/a Smoke-Fire margarita). The latter uses Habanero infused tequila and strawberry puree. It was far superior to Bandolero’s original margarita, which is a bit too tart for my taste.
The Mahi Mahi tacos, suckling pig tacos, nachos with goat meat, enchilada roja, and lamb sopas were excellent. These dishes will bring me back to Bandolero should Isabella choose to keep them on the menu.
The Mahi Mahi tacos looked like they were made with good old-fashioned fish sticks, but, rest assured, they were no ordinary fish sticks. Meaty, crunchy, and well-seasoned, these tacos were quite satisfying despite their small size. The nachos with goat meat were some of the best “fancy” nachos I’ve had. For me, good nachos have lots of gooey cheese, an equal distribution of toppings, and the toppings stay put instead of toppling off the chip as it travels from the plate to my mouth. I find it absolutely irritating when I have to fish around a plate of nachos so that I can heap a little of each topping on my chip. Isabella’s nachos hit all the right marks.
The suckling pig tacos had me at suckling. I have to admit that Isabella can work some magic with the pig. They were topped with a tangy, crunchy green apple slaw that balanced the richness of the pork. The lamb sopas were little bites of heaven. Last, but not least, the enchilada roja elevated chicken to a higher than expected level.
The enchilada verde, hanger steak, and blue crab tacos were non-events. Don’t waste your time or stomach real estate on them. The blue crab tacos were bland and the hangar steak – while perfectly cooked and seasoned – came with a lackluster chimichurri that seemed to be on short supply given the minuscule amount drizzled on each slice of steak. The albondigas – or lamb meatballs – were not just non-events but were surprisingly bad. They were cold in the center and had an odd texture and flavor. For once, I wished the sauce accompanying the meatballs could have overpowered and masked their flavor. Too bad the sauce wasn’t memorable either.