In Las Vegas, two new restaurants are serving their takes on Mexican and Latin cuisine and libations. We visited them and were quite impressed with the quality of authentic ingredients and creativity shown by these entrepreneurs. Bandito Latin Kitchen & Cantina is now open with original cocktails and a more Latin-inspired menu, while out in the ‘burbs, Bomb Tacos is engaging the crowds with South-of-the-Border goodness one taco at a time.
Bandito has taken over a major spot near the Las Vegas Strip, adjacent to the Howard Hughes Center and the McCarran Airport. With its central location, diners have a convenient place to meet for after-work drinks or a quick business meeting before jetting off. Even with 4,000 square feet of ultra-modern dining space, 30-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, and lots of contemporary chrome and steel fixtures accented by pops of red and geometric designs, what really pulls it all together are the two stunning wall murals of “Bandito and Rosie” by local tattoo artist Brett. Bar manager and head mixologist Jair Bustillos manages the cocktail situation with flair and finesse as he shakes and mixes drinks. Executive chef Chris Kight brings his expertise to the plate by using the freshest ingredients available.
Start off with a few signature cocktails to get the appetite going. We loved the El Guapo with lime and pure agave intermingled with Patron silver and Grand Marnier. Grand Marnier caviar-filled boba pearls permeate this cocktail and add the right amount of zing. The Smoking Bandito features Hornitos Black Barrel tequila muddled with charred pineapple agave, pineapple juice, a dash of lime in a glass rimmed with black sea salt. For our meal, we opted for the turkey chorizo albondigas (meatballs) with creamed salsa verde, cotija, and popcorn shoots, which were especially tender, smoky, and spicy. The apple and manchego salad comprised of baby kale, shaved fennel, English cucumber, baby heirloom tomatoes, and accented with candied Kalamata olives staved off our hunger pangs as we waited for our entrées. Dishes were embellished with colorful cauliflower and tangy romesco instead of the standard lettuce leaf or parsley sprig. “We have the basics that people are looking for,” said managing partner Kent Hartman. “We have the tacos, enchiladas and the burritos. However, I don’t want to use the word traditional or fusion for our cuisine. We are doing our own version. We want to do things that are really high-quality and that people like.”
Moving across town, away from the bright lights, to an unassuming strip mall, you’ll find the above-average cuisine of executive chef Robert Solano at his first solo venture, Bomb Tacos. After decades in the Las Vegas dining scene — including opening Dos Cominos at the Palazzo, RM Seafood, La Madonna, and Mundo — Solano is finally venturing out on his own. “I have done many different cuisines, but I have always concentrated on Mexican cuisine, since it is what I eat every day,” said Solano. “I know how to manipulate the products that a lot of people don’t know how to use properly. That is the problem with many Mexican restaurants, and it is the little details that can make a big difference in taste. For example, many Mexican restaurants don’t know whether to toast various types of chiles verses frying them. That is something that comes with time and experience.”
Tasty, fresh, and authentic is what Bomb Tacos’ casual Mexican comfort food is all about. The small venue caters more to the takeout crowd than to those dining in. Solano personally designed and made all the brightly painted tables and chairs and also used his creativity in all the vibrant, Pinterest-worthy wall décor. We highly recommend the rock shrimp-and-fish taco with green cilantro, cabbage, pico, guacamole, and queso; the dish has a freshness and authenticity that will transport you to a seaside taco hut on the Mexican Riviera. Handcrafted enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas and the best nachos this side of the border are all available at this off-Strip gem that doesn’t require a passport for a visit.
Can’t make it to Vegas for a taco? You’ll find one nearby in our round up of the best taco in every state.