Bandito Bodega’s brick-and-mortar exceeds expectations
By: Jennifer Zeleski
When I first drove by Bandito Bodega, I almost missed it. Their sign was hardly indicative of what was inside, but the line of customers flowing into the parking lot made it clear that it was something I needed to try.
After doing some research, I found out Bandito Bodega was a brick-and-mortar location (1609 W. Friendly Ave.) for “one of Greensboro’s favorite food trucks” according to their website, and not one of the small-grocery stores I have found on the corners of New York City.
I decided to recruit my Dad to try it with me, considering he’s a sucker for a good local restaurant if it means he gets to order something spicy. It didn’t take much convincing after I rambled on about how their Asian and Mexican combination style made them unique, with a menu that placed gyoza and steak cold noodles next to the affectionately named “big ass burrito” and a twist on a Southern-classic, the bacon-collard quesadilla.
The interior was surprisingly simple and casual, and the view into the kitchen upon entering made it feel eerily similar to ordering from a food truck. The teal walls and tattoo-inspired art made me reminiscent of summer. But aside from the decor, the smell was tantalizing, and I was overwhelmed by the variety of options that crossed food cultures seamlessly. I decided on two tacos — even though it wasn’t a Tuesday — one Baja and one Asian, both with chicken.
The Baja taco featured more traditional taco toppings like pico de gallo, black beans and corn, radish, cilantro and chipotle crema. In contrast, the Asian taco featured a Korean soy glaze, red cabbage, bean sprouts, radish, jalapeño and a Thai peanut sauce.
It was the easiest order I could get that satisfied my craving for Asian and Mexican cuisine, and I was thrilled that there was finally a place that could do both
My dad ordered one of the daily specials, the crispy pork bowl filled with braised pork, sticky rice, five-pepper cream sauce, cucumber salsa and sautéed cabbage.
For good measure, we decided to share their chips, salsa and guacamole.
Despite being cradled in white parchment paper when they arrived at the table, I knew the tacos were going to get messy. I decided to try the Baja taco first, hoping that a fork wouldn’t be necessary. The chicken was tender and flavorful with a slight spice, and for someone who doesn’t care for black beans, I didn’t mind them. Sadly, I didn’t taste much of the chipotle crema, but the taco was decent overall.
To be honest, I was more excited to try the Asian taco and was not disappointed. The combination of the soy glaze and tender chicken was addicting. The bean sprouts gave it a crunch and balanced out the spice of the fresh jalapeños. I didn’t taste much of the peanut sauce on the Asian taco either, but I knew I would be craving another one once I left.
My dad was nice enough to share a bite of his pork bowl, and I was instantly jealous. The pork was spicy and melted in your mouth, but the rice and cucumber salsa added another flavor dimension that toned down the overwhelming spice. And the bowl was a big enough portion to leave you feeling stuffed, but still willing to eat your fair share of tortilla chips.
Speaking of which, the chips themselves were a little on the greasy side for my liking, and the salsa and guacamole lacked the texture and flavors I normally crave. The tray also featured a mild green salsa, but the consistency and taste left it mostly untouched by Dad and I. Although I cut them some slack considering they specialize in kimchi, furikake french fries and fried eggs.
The great thing is that the menu doesn’t stop there, and I feel like I only dipped my toe in the water of what they have to offer. The burritos look big enough to feed someone my size for two days, and I am always down to try a new take on a Bahn Mi sandwich or fried gyoza.
If you’re near downtown Greensboro and looking to try something different than your typical lunch or casual dinner, it’s worth a shot. Despite being a brick-and-mortar store, they still have food truck prices. But if you get one of the “big” options on the menu rather than the “little,” you will leave full for the rest of the day. Bandito Bodega may just be the only restaurant in Greensboro where you can get spicy pimento cheese, soy mayo, and miso spinach all in one place, while banking on it all tasting good.
Jennifer Zeleski is a student contributor to YES! Weekly. She is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communications at High Point University.