By Wynter Holden
Yes, you read the title right. If you haven't already heard of Chino Bandido -- or seen their mustachioed, sombrero-wearing panda mascot -- you might be a bit shocked, even offended. In this age of political correctness it's a miracle that such a place exists.
That being said, Chino Bandido is one of the coolest little hole-in-the wall eateries I've ever visited.
It's no wonder that Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives host Guy Fieri said he'd eat here all the time if he lived nearby. It's just plain quirky. Their cavernous Chandler location is like a giant school cafeteria, with polished concrete floors, plastic folding tables that seat at least six adults and an ordering counter in the center. Good luck choosing just one meal. The menu combines Mexican and Chinese staples any way you'll have 'em, from jade chicken enchiladas to chile relleno rice bowls.
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I'd perused the panda's online menu before my visit, and I was confident I could stick to my diet with small portions of grilled meats, beans and rice. That was, until the "helpful" cashier pulled my attention to the sample bar [insert scary horror movie sound here]. This is the bane of every serious dieter's existence. Soon I was downing a dozen little cups of meat and carbs. Cuban black beans. Emerald chicken with green onions and ginger. Fried rice. I was feeling the strain against my waistband before I even ordered!
It only got worse. And by worse, I mean so scrumptious that I polished off an entire massive bowl of black beans, rice and pork carnitas in five minutes flat. I didn't even notice how fast I was shoveling the delicious Mexi-Chino grub into my piehole until a nearby conversation about the new X-Files movie pulled me out of my daze. As I reached for the brownie-like volcano cookie that came free with my meal (and tasted like a chewy chocolate orgasm), I swore Chino's giant panda, Pancho, was smirking at me. Snickering at my failure.
I have no excuse for the fact I finally blew my diet writing this blog, except that damn panda with his beady little eyes and Pancho Villa 'stache. I see him in my nightmares, pleading with me to try his chicken. And pork. And beans. And rice. And chocolate cookies so addicting I swear they're loaded with smack. I don't know whether to punch him in the face or drop to my knees and praise Quetzalcoatl-Buddha.
For now, I'll just put Chino Bandido Takee Outee in the "places to visit when I'm really, really thin" file. But I swear when I'm back at my college graduation weight, I'm going back and polishing off one of everything. That should wipe the smirk right off Pancho's face.