Vancouver's Bandidas Taqueria takes a decidedly delicious approach to the neighbourhood watering hole concept
Finding a good neighbourhood watering hole, where the food’s good, the service friendly and the patrons at ease, doesn’t always come easy. First you have to like what’s on tap, then there’s food quality to consider; and of course you have to jive with the culture of the place. You also hope they serve a brunch.
However, in a part of town like Commercial Drive, with its café bistros galore, the tricky part is choosing just one—and sticking with it before you forget to go back.
VIDEO: Car-free restaurant uses cargo bike
But since Bandidas Taqueria moved into its Commercial and 12th Ave location a year ago—renovating the old cave-like Pondok Indonesian restaurant space into an open, airy casual dining room—locals are proving they’ve found their one.
Food, folks and fun
Bandidas Taqueria is a vegetarian Mexican eatery that’s both delicious and environmentally friendly—and after a year in business, it continues to bring new life and vitality to this once darkened block of the Drive.
The Ronny Russell is a customer favourite:
roasted yam, guacamole, black beans,
pumpkin seeds, red cabbage and salsa atop
a pillowy handmade taco. (Photo by
Owners Jackie Rae Avery and Aiyana Kane built and created the restaurant with the help of their friends and family. And the proof is in the menu, with most items named after family members, friends and staff members. One of the nacho platters is even named after a dishwasher.
Serving up fresh tacos, soups, salads and more, plus an addictively delicious daily brunch, they don’t forget happy hour, offering up excellent local beer, Mexican-inspired cocktails (like orchid tequila lemonade), house-made sangria and plenty of virgin options as well. (This is an all-ages, family-friendly restaurant after all.) All complemented by a good mix of indie rock, classic rock, glam, folk and everything in between streaming from the speakers.
Owners Jackie Rae Avery and Aiyana Kane
run Bandidas as sustainably as possible
in keeping with their values.
Staffers say the most popular dishes include the Ronny Russell tacos, with roasted yams, guacamole, black beans, pumpkin seeds and salsa. Other favourites include the Estelle tacos filled with pineapple, black beans, cheese, salsa and sour cream, and Dani’s Enchiladas, stuffed with cheese and roasted butternut squash. These dishes all include the incredible house made corn tortillas, made daily in the open kitchen.
Additional items I tried:
> Big plates of crispy nachos. I dug into the excellent Los GLD nachos topped with cheese, pineapple and black beans.
> A hearty tortilla soup, with a deep tomato flavour, a spike of chipotle and ripe avocado slices.
> Camillo tacos, with crunchy spiced walnuts, pinto beans, red cabbage and salsa.
2781 Commercial Dr (at 12th Ave), Vancouver
All entrees come with your choice of Mexican rice and beans or a lovely chopped salad topped with pumpkin seeds and cheese.
While the menu is vegetarian, the food and servings are substantial—I didn’t miss the meat at all here. And all menu items can be made vegan, if they aren’t already. They even culture their own vegan sour cream!
Sustainability a core value: bikes, composting
What’s more, the restaurant prides itself on being as sustainable as possible. For example, as a car-free business, Bandidas opts to truck their restaurant supplies via cargo cult messenger, a bike pulling a large blue cargo trailer. As well, the restaurant uses compostable packaging and also keeps a compost in the back of the restaurant.
In an industry known for extreme waste and unsustainable packaging, Bandidas is a great example on how to run a business sustainably—and successfully, as the tables continue to be filled with happy returning customers.
Open daily for brunch and dinner, Bandidas Taqueria is a fantastic stop. Not only will you enjoy the food, you’ll be supporting a sustainably run, local business.
Vancouver blogger Angie Schick spends all her spare time eating, shopping and spa-ing her way through the city. She writes primarily about independent restaurants that offer experiences unique to Vancouver. She expects a lot (just ask her friends!) and will always post honest thoughts and recommend places where she would actually go herself. Blog / Twitter