Bandolero Opens in Georgetown in the former Hook Space on Thursday

3241 M St. NW, formerly Hook Restaurant

From a press release:

On May 24, Chef Mike Isabella will open Bandolero in the heart of Georgetown (3241 M St. NW). The modern Mexican small-plates concept, a loud, dark, Day of the Dead-inspired retreat, is Chef Isabella’s second restaurant in the District of Columbia.

“When I go out for Mexican food, I want lots of tacos and strong margaritas. Bandolero will have a wide selection of both,” said Chef/Partner, Mike Isabella. “We call it modern Mexican cuisine because we take classic dishes and spin the flavor profiles. You will find tacos filled with octopus, crab meat or raw tuna, nachos topped with goat and salsa made with pumpkin seeds and garnished with fresh fruit.”

The Menu
Like Chef Isabella’s first restaurant, Graffiato, Bandolero is a small-plates concept where dishes are meant to be shared. A few dishes not to be missed include the suckling pig taco with apple and habanero mustard, lamb sopes, the “fish stick taco” made from mahi mahi crusted in crushed tortilla chips, and a Mayan pumpkin seed dip called sikil pak. The menu features dips served with housemade chicharones and masa crisps, tacos, taquitos, enchiladas, empanadas, and albondigas.

While most of the menu is centered around small plates, a section of carbons – Bandolero’s spin on a fajita – offers a choice of Kobe beef, chicken or Yucatan-style shrimp, served with vegetables, toppings, and tortillas for the table to assemble and share.

The Bandolero cocktail list is heavy on tequila and mezcal. In addition to margaritas of all flavors, frozen and on the rocks, head mixologist Sam Babcock remakes classic cocktails with these native-Mexican spirits. For example, the Anejo Manhattan replaces bourbon with anejo tequila and the Mexican Sling substitutes blanco tequila for gin. El Bandolero, the restaurant’s signature margarita on tap, and Frozen, the bright prickly pear margarita are soon to be Bandolero classics.

The beverage list will also feature canned, bottled and draft beer, as well as wines and Prosecco on tap, made popular by Graffiato in 2011.

The Space
The two-level, 5,000 square foot space features myriad antique fixtures, rich copper, and warm wood accents. Bethesda architecture and design firm, Streetsense, built on Chef Isabella’s creative vision, drawing inspiration from the Mexican holiday, “Day of the Dead” and using a combination of loud, dark and cold elements to create a distinctive atmosphere.

The backdrop of the bar is LED-illuminated with yellow tile and mounted crates to hold bottles of spirits. Original copper, uncovered below layers of millwork during renovations, was reclaimed and now adorns the front of the expansive bar. Reclaimed metal gates and animal skulls bring the dark motif to life, and painted black walls are accented by mismatched tables, chairs and sofas. As in Graffiato, the wooden tables were handcrafted in Pennsylvania by Chef Isabella’s father-in-law, Charlie Nemeth.

Bandolero is comprised of two diverse levels. The first floor seats more than 100, including a loud, edgy 18-seat bar front, 20 seats for bar dining, and 10 seats at a cozy chef’s table adjacent to the open kitchen. The second floor seats 68, including a large communal table facing a picture window that overlooks M Street.

You can see the full menu here. Anyone try Bandalero when they were open temporarily in Cleveland Park?

23 Comment

  • Pure marketing genius:
    “The modern Mexican small-plates concept, a loud, dark, Day of the Dead-inspired retreat”

    • Are you being sarcastic? Oh yes, small plates/tapas – original and ingenious. And won’t Mr. Isabella miss out on the Georgetown “power lunch” crowd if the environment is “dark and loud”? Half baked idea.

    • Also marketing “genius” – trying to sell a cookbook entitled “Crazy Good Italian” on the website for a Mexican restaurant. Leaves the impression that he’s a jack of all trades, master of none.

  • Not at all excited about this. Not that anyone cares, just saying….

  • I’ve only eaten at Graffiato once but I remember the prices being a bit more reasonable compared to this. Seems a bit expensive.

  • Two things I am tired of in the DC food scene: small plates and theme restaurants. Why doesn’t DC have restaurants that just serve good, regular sized food like other cities? There are so many now that if a restaurant serves small plates, I’m not going.

    • I hope this is just a phase DC is going through en route to better overall restaurants. People around most of the city are so happy to have any decent restaurants nearby that they support over-priced, mediocre places. Someday, though, that will wear thin and quality at a reasonable price will become a more common concept.

    • I like small plates. I think it’s fun to taste several things, and share with my friends and family. So I guess it’s partially my fault.

      That said, there’s zero chance I’m going to trek up to Georgetown to buy overpriced tacos from this guy.

  • This menu is absolutely riddled with spelling mistakes. Come on, Isabella. At least act like you care.

  • Glad it’s in Georgetown so I don’t have to come up with excuses not to go.

  • so will tourists go to this before or after they hit DC Cupcakes?

  • We ate at Graffiato once and will never go back. Everything about it was extremely disappointing…expensive, mediocre food, loud, etc. But the worst was when we ordered the “salted caramel gelato” for dessert and they brought us a scoop of what tasted like store-bought packaged ice cream! For the same $6 we could have bought a gallon of the stuff at Safeway. I will NOT be trying the new place.

    • shipsa01

      I agree – though very disappointed by that (since I live a few blocks away). Went once and thought it was very good; went back and thought mediocre at best; tried it a third time and thought it was so bad – from food to service to crowd that I vowed never to go back; went a fourth (in a group with friends who wanted to try it) and we all left confirmed that the place was terrible.

  • We went to the preview tasting dinner in Cleveland Park and it’s the real deal. Bandolero is the definitely on par with West Coast Mexican, and is hands down the best DC has ever seen.

    Complaining about prices at restaurants is getting pretty old. Get a better job or move to Cleveland if you can’t afford a burrito.

    • Mike Isabella > Jose Andres? That’s unlikely but I’ll reserve judgment until I try.

    • Even if the food compares favorably to West Coast Mexican food, the prices are ridiculous. In Southern California you can get a fantastic burrito for $5.00. 3 Tacos are about the same price. So that’s great that it might be the best in DC (a pitifully low bar), but even the best entrees at relatively upscale Mexican restaurants in CA are much cheaper and, probably, better.

  • was there for friends and family night and for Mexican tapas the menu is overpriced. $13 for a tiny plate of nachoes, no meat included. not really worth it. Drink prices are comparable to other mixology type places.

  • He has to be able to pay for the space- that is why the prices are high.
    But, if he scaled the menu down in half and lowered his prices he would make a killing and be open for a long time. Better to have people lining up outside the door…a la Gtown CC…the product is mediocre but people still line up bc the see all of the other lambs…
    He is trying to make mexican food fancy and the best part of AUTHENTIC mexican food is that it is NOT fancy.

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