Lunch under $10 at Chino Bandido

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Fusion food done right is often a rarity. If you're not careful, you'll end up with some horrible interbreeding of confused flavors and poorly masked-Americanization, along with an unjustified price tag. Fortunately, Chino Bandido does Mexican/Chinese fusion cuisine oh-so-deliciously right - and for under $10.

The restaurant, largely known for its giant sombrero-and-moustache-toting panda mascot, entices lunchtime patrons with tasty twists on your typical Asian and Mexican fare. Craving Chinese BBQ Pork without the rice? Try it in a burrito. How about some Pork Fried Rice with your Carnitas? Also be sure to try out the Egg Foo Young, Machaca and Jerk Chicken.

The prices at Chino Bandido are low across the board, with everything on the menu under $8. However, we were immediately attracted to the 2 Item Special, which comes with any 2 of the 14 main entrees, your choice of rice (steamed or fried with chicken or pork), beans (refried or black), and a snickerdoodle (sadly, no fortune inside) all for $7.25.

In the mood for some spice, we ordered the Jen Red Pork and Pollo Diablo chicken, along with Chicken Fried Rice and a Chinese BBQ Pork Quesadilla ($3.50).

The tender Jen Red Pork was sweet and savory, with just the right amount of kick. The Pollo Diablo was as spicy as advertised, with the kind of heat that deceptively ramps up. The chicken was breaded and deep-fried, creating a satisfying crunch, though the dish was a bit too heavily salted.

The Chicken Fried Rice was moist and flavorful, a great complement to both entrees. As for the Chinese BBQ Pork Quesadilla? The taste of the cheese and the sweetness of the pork was an odd mix, but it was something I'd definitely try again.

As for the snickerdoodle - well, it was a snickerdoodle. Just enjoy it.

Chino Bandido is located in Phoenix (15414 N.19th Ave) and Chandler (1825 W. Chandler Blvd).

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