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Bandera’s Southwest Flair Perfects Date Night

The intimate setting inside Bandera is ideal for date night, located at 11700 Wilshire Blvd.
The intimate setting inside Bandera is ideal for date night, located at 11700 Wilshire Blvd.

The Hillstone Group can’t make a bad restaurant. Their signature style of Americana has become synonymous in L.A. – where they are based in – and across the country with a fine-dining experience with equally fine food to match. Perhaps the most unexplored of the restaurant group’s cache on the Westside is Bandera, Hillstone’s take on the Southwestern and Nuevo-American.

After strolling into the front entrance under the neon-red “BANDERA” sign, leather and a jazz trio are the first to catch your eye. But it’s dark inside, so more quirks catch your senses as you wait to be seated.

But first, drinks. Like any Hillstone restaurant, their specialty cocktails are the choice of drink. About half of the guests are baby-sitting a Vesper, a classic martini with Botanist gin, Grey Goose vodka and Kina l’Avion d’Or. The Vesper’s saccharine cousin is the Paloma, equally as delicious, made of Corzo reposado tequila, fresh grapefruit and lime juice and pink peppercorns.

For the summer nights upon us, opt for the Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s with ginger ale, fresh-cut cucumber and mint) or the Dark ‘N Stormy (Gosling’s Black Seal rum, Bundaberg ginger beer and fresh lime). Both are crisp and easy to guzzle down before your meal.

Do not skip on the grilled artichokes with house remoulade sauce at Bandera.
Do not skip on the grilled artichokes with house remoulade sauce at Bandera.

For a more intimate experience, the leather booths are always the ideal choice. But for a more lively and social time (including people watching), sit at the bar, which gets the best of both worlds with the live music playing behind you and the game on flat screen TV’s ahead of you.

Onto the food, which is the real reason you come to Bandera. The starters are arguably the stars of the show. Begin with the tuna and shrimp poke with mango and avocado, then move your way to the grilled artichoke with remoulade sauce and end with the iron-skillet cornbread, made from their signature recipe, including jalapenos and found only at Bandera.

The house specialties only get more indulgent. Meat and seafood adorn the menu, but if you want a classic Hillstone experience, go with the cheeseburger (said to be the best in the city) or their Famous French Dip Au Jus, with thinly sliced prime rib on a toasted French roll and their unlike-anywhere-else fries.

For something more refined, decide between the rotisserie chicken (a wood-fire free-range roasted chicken with pommes puree) and the True Dover Sole (flown directly from the North Atlantic for the restaurant and only available Thursday through Saturday).

Meatier recourses include fan favorites such as the Kobe tri-tip and enchilada platter with cucumber salad, barbecue beef back ribs with coleslaw and hand-cut fries, grilled lamb sirloin with pommes puree and seasonal vegetables or the Rutherford Rib-Eye.

Tuna Poke at Bandera.
Tuna Poke at Bandera.

But for a lighter meal but just as filling, opt for one of their kitchen sink salads. No need to get the cornbread if you get a salad – they throw in massive cornbread croutons. The Macho Salad combines shredded roasted chicken with avocado, dates, feta cheese and almonds, and the wedge salad uses a heaping iceberg wedge, Campari tomatoes, bacon and topped with crumbled blue cheese. Both are marvelous to look at, and each bite is different than the last.

Finish with at least one dessert. At $10 each, you have your choice of Banana Cream Pie with caramel and chocolate, Hot Fudge Sundae with sugar-roasted pecans and the House-Made Oreo Ice Cream Sandwiches, smothered in whipped cream.

Make a reservation a day or two in advance if you mind waiting for a table or spot at the bar. Proper attire is required at this location. Parking is scarce, with meters on Wilshire Blvd. and an unlikely spot available on Barrington Ave., so bring $7 for valet.

Bandera is located at 11700 Wilshire Blvd. They are open Sunday through Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday until 11 p.m.

For more information or to make a reservation call 310-477-3524 or visit hillstone.com/bandera.

 

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