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Bandera: Our “Sure Thing”

If you see this photo and instantly recognize where it was taken and can instantly taste the French dip, Macho Salad and their famous banana cream pie, then you’re a Bandera addict too. It’s our old standby, our “sure thing,” our family favorite.

A Grey Goose martini with bleu cheese olives and a Cosmo.

I first tried Bandera in Napa at Rutherford Grill, although I didn’t know there was a sister restaurant in Sacramento at that time called Bandera. I loved Rutherford Grill, especially the ribs, grilled artichoke and the cornbread. We first ate there with the owner of Tower Café when Jon was the executive chef there and the owner was wooing me to become the GM. I’d like to blame Rutherford Grill for my decision to leave the comfort and familiarity of the Fat family restaurants I was managing at the time in Old Sac – the big fat pay increase didn’t hurt either.

Then a year or so later, my Dad said that I had to try this great restaurant. He took me to Bandera. I instantly loved the ambiance – big, deep red leather booths, low lighting, a horseshoe bar in the middle and a square open

The Ahi Poke'.

kitchen in the back, accessible for all to view. As soon as I saw the menu, I knew it was related to Rutherford Grill. They offered the same great choices and I was thrilled that I no longer had to drive to Napa to enjoy all of my favorites.

Since then, Bandera has become the place we go when we’re just craving great food. The bonus is that the ambiance, service and drinks match the fantastic menu. You’re not giving up anything when you come here. You know what I mean, right? Usually you’re lucky to find great food and service, but to find a full bar with great drinks and great ambiance as well? That doesn’t happen often.

Our kids love Bandera too, and it’s frequently the birthday dinner pick. It’s a date place for sure, filled with the hipsters dining out, but in the early hours you can usually see a few tables filled with well-dressed kids enjoying the place just as much as their parents.

The French Dip.

There are many favorites on the menu, but these are the dishes and drinks not to miss: Grey Goose martini served with bleu cheese olives; the Cosmo made with cranberry juice and freshly squeezed orange and lime juices; the skillet cornbread; the Ahi Poke’ that besides Ahi is made with poached prawns, macadamia nuts, avocado, mango, sesame seeds and teriyaki sauce; the smoked salmon; the grilled artichoke; the Mac n Cheese;  the Macho Salad which is a huge bowl full of chicken, lettuces, dates, chevre’ cheese, grilled corn, avocado and cornbread croutons; the French dip sandwich; the Hawaiian rib eye steak (a special only on certain nights; the swordfish (a special only on certain nights); the banana cream pie made with a Graham Cracker and Ghirardelli chocolate crust; and the Oreo cookie ice cream sandwiches served on a layer of chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream.

Other tips to know:

1. If there’s a wait and there aren’t any seats at the bar, go to the back of the restaurant near the kitchen. You can eat or just get drinks at one of the three bar seating areas, one which overlooks the kitchen (some consider these the best seats in the house).

2. Order your food as you want it to come out, otherwise it might start to pile-up on you. The food comes out quickly.

3. All of the side dishes are great and can be substituted for another. So, if your entree comes with mashed potatoes and you’d rather have the cucumber salad, then just ask. You can substitute any side dishes, anytime, so make sure you get what you want.

The banana cream pie (or pile as we call it).

If the restaurant fairy visited me today and asked me which restaurant I would like to see open up in Davis next, it would be Bandera, hands-down. There’s enough selection that we could eat there several times a week without running out of choices by month’s end, and the prices are reasonable enough that it’s not just a special occasion restaurant. So please restaurant fairy… if you’re listening to me now – Bandera in Davis.

In the meantime you can visit Bandera in Sacramento at 2232 Fair Oaks Blvd. 916.922.3524. http://www.hillstone.com/#/restaurants/bandera/

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