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Tasting is believing

Dos Bandidos is downtown’s newest Mexican spot

Tia Nene’s poblano cream spaghettis

Greg Bollinger

Downtown’s Rusty Crane seemed to shutter as soon as it said it would, and Dos Bandidos seemed to fill its void just as quickly. One day there was a massive empty space on North Detroit Avenue, and the next there was a sign on the patio with two Mexican caricatures.

I hope my early doubts about the restaurant can be forgiven, that the taco gods will pardon my initial indifference regarding Dos Bandidos.

Judging a book by its cover is a rookie mistake that leads many people to turn away from the barred windows of excellent places like El Burrito. I made the inverse mistake of casting eye-rolls at the Bandidos sign (one of its two titular caricatures resembles the Pringles man).

I imagined a place similar to South Tulsa’s Ricardo’s Mexican Restaurant, which is so famously unflavorful you’d swear John McCain was working the grill.

But Dos Bandidos is legit—authentic and unique.

The restaurant is an expansion of the wildly popular Bixby joint and flies in the face of the IDL’s “Tex Mex is Best Mex” commandment adhered to by the chips-and-marg crowd. Venezuelan-American brothers Carlos and Luis Lopez have built an excellent California-style Mexican food menu.

There is no ground beef. There are no chimichangas. But there is queso, because this is Oklahoma and the brothers Lopez are businessmen.

“I grew up on the West Coast, and when I moved here I couldn’t find the food I loved,” Carlos said.

The food he missed included Mexican street corn, Sinaloa traditional dishes, and tacos cooked on the grill until the cheese melts.

All these items made it onto the Bandidos menu, and many of the traditional dishes have been customized to the brothers’ tastes. There is an emphasis on árbol chiles for extra spiciness, as well as an abundance of seafood dishes. Carlos is constantly in the kitchen and is currently experimenting with a brunch menu that will include horchata pancakes.

The Bandidos tacos are advertised as a best-seller, and it’s easy to see why. The tacos are loaded with carne asada, shrimp, and cheese and left on the grill until subtly crunchy. The camarones culichi is another chef (and crowd) favorite: 12 shrimp cooked inside a poblano pepper and covered in a cream cheese sauce.

My friend ordered the pollo Pancho Villa, for which chicken is cooked with bacon and chorizo, drizzled with queso, and served fajita-style with rice, beans, and tortillas. His girlfriend, who weighs about 40 pounds, nearly had a stroke when she saw the size of the nacho plate she ordered.

Even the margaritas were special, made with mango purée and garnished with a chamoy and Tajín rim and a Mexican lollipop.

The menu at Dos Bandidos is enough to distinguish it from any other Tulsa Mexican place, and word of mouth is sure to spread quickly about downtown’s newest Mexican food contender.

Dos Bandidos Downtown
109 N. Detroit Ave. | 918-340-5533
11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun.–Thurs
11 am–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat.

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