There’s an unassuming Mexican restaurant at the corner of East Twelfth Avenue and Commercial Drive that produces anything but unassuming food. Bandidas Taqueria loads your morning plate with colour, freshness, and a whole lot of flavour; all that and not an ounce of meat in the place.
I’ve eaten many times at Bandidas; brunch, lunch or dinner, no matter what time of day, the food has always been fresh. How fresh? If you’re there early enough you’ll see the ingredients delivered yourself. That might be the number one reason I love coming for breakfast or brunch when I’ve had a late night. It just feels so good to start the day with something healthy in your body.
What makes Bandidas Taqueria special is that you never miss the meat in your meal. Whether it’s the Enchiladas made with butternut squash, or the tortilla soup minus the chicken; everything is just so gosh darn tasty you don’t even notice that there isn’t an ounce of meat protein in the dish.
Brunch is no different. Yes, there are eggs, but that’s the extent of an animal’s involvement in your meal. If you’re concerned about options, and feeling full, don’t be. They will adapt the meal for vegans and I always feel like I couldn’t possibly eat more when I leave.
There were three of us for brunch on this day, and we were lucky to only wait fifteen minutes for a table. This is the norm on weekends. This place is always busy, so if you don’t want to line up, get there early. The staff are always friendly and patient with demands for tables and group settings so don’t stress, because they aren’t. You’ll get a seat, and the food will be worth it.
As soon as we sat we received our menus and ordered our coffee. Here’s what’s great about the service; they are fast and friendly but they don’t force you to be. If you’re having a great conversation, then no one will kick you out. You waited to get in, but you won’t feel rushed to leave.
On this day, my brunch companions and I had very similar dishes. The table orders were as follows:
1. The Huevos Rancheros: Free range eggs on hand-made corn tortillas with ranchera sauce, sour cream, pinto beans, roasted yams and potatoes, and purple cabbage.
2. The Breakfast: Free range eggs, pinto beans, roasted yams and potatoes, purple cabbage, and fresh salsa, served with cornbread with honey butter.
3. The Mexican Breakfast: Two free-range eggs, 2 corn tortillas, pinto beans, fresh salsa, purple cabbage salad, and guacamole. (My companion substituted Poached Eggs)
Let me start with the roasted yams and potatoes. I love the combination, and the fact they are not deep fried like most places in town. They have a beautiful roast on them and the yam flavour jumps off the plate. Combine the potatoes with the crunchy purple cabbage slaw (another favourite of mine) and brunch is already a huge success.
All the sauces at Bandidas Taqueria are house made, and if the ranchero sauce isn’t hot enough, use some of the house hot sauce that’s on every table. It’s a serious hit of smoky heat and it’s addictive!
One of my companions had the house-made corn tortillas with The Mexican Breakfast. They were moist and easy to load with egg, cabbage and guacamole. The corn bread muffin tops are outstanding, and the hint of honey in the butter is a nice touch.
We all loved our meals, but if we had to be picky, our one minor complaint was the pinto beans. They are well cooked but a little bland if you eat them on their own. They work best in combination with a corn tortilla combined with all the other wonderful items on your plate.
You’re probably surprised that I haven’t mentioned the eggs. We were asked how we wanted them, and that’s how they were delivered. I think it’s quite evident that the customer comes first at Bandidas Taqueria.
The owners of Bandidas are committed to low environmental impact, using fresh organic produce and free range eggs. This is a restaurant with a heart of gold. They back up their beliefs every day they open their doors. Isn’t it nice to know that when you’re doing something good for yourself, you’re also being good to the environment?
Make the trip to Commercial and Twelfth. The food is worth it and Bandidas Taqueria is what supporting local is all about.
Movie Recommendation: What else, but Bandidas (2006) with Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz. At its best the movie is campy goodness. At its worst, well, I’ll leave that up to you.
2781 Commercial Drive
Open for brunch: 9 am to 3 pm daily
Michelle Muldoon is a writer, filmmaker, and avid foodie. You can find her on twitter @chat2michelle.